AUSTIN, Texas -- Thursday is senior night for Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. He’s looking forward to being surrounded by his family and walking his 9-month-old son, Kenny Dwayne Vaccaro III, onto the DKR-Texas Memerial Stadium field one final home game.
But someone else -- someone as close as family -- will be noticeably absent: Casey Pachall.
TCU is coming to town on Thanksgiving, but the team won’t be led by one of Vaccaro’s closest friends. The troubled Horned Frogs quarterback left the program on Oct. 9 to enter rehab following a DWI arrest.
Pachall and Vaccaro went to Brownwood (Texas) High School together and were both members of the Class of 2009. In fact, their friendship started long before high school.
They talked all summer about this Thanksgiving Day matchup, about finally going head-to-head in TCU’s first year in the Big 12.
“It would’ve meant a lot, man,” Vaccaro said Monday. “We grew up together, played football all our lives together, we’re the best of friends. It’s sad that we can’t play. I mean, we wear the same number. It’s weird.”
Before Pachall was given his season-long suspension, Vaccaro reached out to the junior quarterback and urged him to get his life back on track.
"I told him after a couple of times of getting in trouble, 'You've got to stop. You're a quarterback. You represent your program. You represent yourself. You represent Brownwood,' ” Vaccaro said last month. “And now it's just like, 'Man, you've got to make better decisions.' He's like, 'I know. I know.’
“I think Casey can get it turned around because in high school, he was a different kid. I think he just got to the big city ... kind of like me. I haven't been perfect since I got here. But I think I've progressed and matured. I told Casey the same thing.”
Vaccaro is glad Pachall is taking time away from football to sort through his issues and is confident his old teammate will be just fine. TCU has left the door open for Pachall to return next season, but he and Vaccaro won’t be able to make this game up.
Texas coach Mack Brown said he’s always admired the job coach Gary Patterson has done at TCU and the fact that he’s stuck with the program despite annual job offers. What the 12th-year coach has done this year in surviving the loss of Pachall impressed Brown even more.
“The fact that you get a call on a Thursday morning at 2 o’clock in the morning and you lose your quarterback who’s one of the better around -- and you’re starting a redshirt freshman that weekend who you were practicing some at tailback -- and that he’s been able to turn it around, hang in there and win some really tough ballgames is a true credit to him,” Brown said.
The freshman who took over TCU’s offense, Trevone Boykin, has been solid in six starts with 1,540 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
He may be young, and he might not be his predecessor, but the Longhorns aren’t taking Boykin lightly this week. It didn’t surprise Vaccaro one bit that the Horned Frogs’ offense has been able to move on and keep moving the ball without Pachall.
“Their quarterback is really athletic and they have a lot of good players, and I know a lot of them personally,” Vaccaro said. “They have a lot of great players. I didn’t expect anything less.”