Padecky: Casa Grande High School’s jilted football recruit

Casa Grande senior football player Peter Parrick, 17, looks on as four of his teammates sign their National Letters of Intent at Casa Grande High School on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

Casa Grande senior football player Peter Parrick, 17, looks on as four of his teammates sign their National Letters of Intent at Casa Grande High School on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

By BOB PADECKY

FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA — Look at my cell phone, Rocky Parrick said to me Wednesday morning. Look at all the photos from a week ago. See, there’s my son Peter, signing the letter of intent with Menlo College. There’s Peter standing in his Menlo jersey, No. 75. There’s Peter smiling, laughing, beaming. There’s Peter, so trusting, so unaware of what’s about to happen.

Wednesday morning Parrick watched four of his Casa Grande football teammates from last fall stand in front of friends, family and cameras. Casey Longaker, Greg Poteracke, Brendon Jackson and Matt Abramo all signed their NCAA letters of intent. There were four. Until Sunday, there were five.

Parrick was watching the Super Bowl at home. It was the third quarter. His parents, Bret and Rocky, came through the front door. Huh? This didn’t make sense. They were at a Super Bowl party. The game was just getting interesting. Why did they come home?

Son, they said, Menlo College announced this morning they were dropping football. Casa coach Trent Herzog just called to let us know.

“Peter put his head in his hands,” Rocky said.

Peter went silent and stayed silent. It was like Peter just found out Big Foot was living next door and wanted to come over to borrow a cookie. What do you say to something like that? You don’t. “I was in shock,” he said. Just four days before, Parrick was in Atherton at the Menlo campus with his parents and girlfriend, Ashley Bell. Parrick was feted, treated like royalty, signed with Menlo. Menlo is an NAIA school. It didn’t have to wait until Feb. 4 to sign players.

“We put a lot of time into making this decision,” Rocky said. Indeed. Her son was going to receive a $25,000-a-year scholarship, a huge amount for a school with only a 750-student population. Parrick was going to major in sports management. He was impressed with Menlo’s business school.

“I was at a loss for words,” Parrick said. But not at a loss for questions. He signed Wednesday at a ceremony, so did it seem reasonable the Menlo board of trustees woke up Thursday morning to say, “Maybe we should consider discontinuing football in four days”? Of course not. So how could the school put on the smiley face, project earnestness?

Why couldn’t they have made this decision weeks earlier to give the kids options? Didn’t they think this would be embarrassing to the school and heartbreaking to the recruits? Did they not have a soul, a conscience?

(See more photos from Casa Grande’s signing day)

“This is something you would see in a horror film,” said Brendan Jackson, who’s going to Western Oregon. He’s one of Parrick’s closest friends and he texted Parrick immediately when the news spread. Jackson’s statement might seem a bit florid and overreaching, but consider this: Going to college is one of the very few seminal moments in a person’s life and to be thought of as skilled enough for a scholarship makes the moment even more memorable. Especially for the parents.

“We went to the campus store that Wednesday and bought $325 worth of Menlo stuff,” Rocky said. Too distraught, the wound too fresh, mom will have her parents drive to Menlo to return the merchandise, except the Parricks will keep a stuffed owl, the bird being the school mascot.

“We gave the owl to Stella to chew,” Rocky said. She opened up her phone again to reveal her yellow Labrador retriever having a toothy ball with the stuffed animal. As revenge goes, it is among the classiest, creative and hilarious acts ever to vent frustration at being deceived.

Yes, quite obviously, Peter Parrick was deceived. Even bad romantic breakups are handled with more class than Menlo dropping football. He said it took a full day to wrap his mind around it. Wednesday, Parrick clearly was still upset, his eyes at times filling with moisture. He was sucker-punched. He could have stayed away from the ceremony, the pain too fresh.

Instead Parrick, 17, kept it together Wednesday. It had to take a bit of spine for him to do it, in fact, to stand there with his buds, arms interlocking around shoulders, a smile on his face for the group photos. The disbelief, the disgust, the anger, all that emotion churning on the inside, Parrick nonetheless stuffed them so deep no one could see. Let it be said that, contrary to popular belief, teenagers can exhibit a maturity beyond their years.

“My mother has sent me a saying that has helped me,” said Parrick, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive guard.

“Disappointments are inevitable. Misery is optional.”

One door has closed (OK, maybe it was slammed shut). But another door will open. Parrick has spoken to coaches at American River College, Southern Oregon and College of Idaho. That quite possibly the most attractive place to land, at Santa Rosa JC under Lenny Wagner, has not been lost on Parrick or his family.

However his immediate future plays out, Parrick already has begun his college education, however dramatic and impersonal.

“Sports is a business,” said the business major.

To contact Bob Padecky email him at bobpadecky@gmail.com.