Jerry Cassidy lives the memory of the day--almost 30 years ago--when he suffered a separated shoulder and devastating knee injury on the Wilson High football field. Cassidy, 49, promised himself that it would be different for his son, Rod.
So when Rod entered Glendale High three years ago standing 6-4 but weighing only 185 pounds, the elder Cassidy steered him toward the basketball court and away from the dangers of football.
Rod, now a 6-5, 210-pound senior, proved unimpressive as a basketball center. He averaged four points and five rebounds a game last season. But with his father's blessing and a weight gain of 25 pounds this season, he has become the football team's rookie tight end.
"This is something that I've always wanted to do," he said. "I wasn't big enough until this year. I'd get killed out there."
Now it's his turn to do some damage and Cassidy has made the most of his opportunity.
He is the team's leading receiver, with 28 receptions for 305 yards. There is more to being a tight end than catching the football, however. And having had no previous experience in organized football, his knowledge of running patterns and blocking assignments is limited.
"It was really tough at first," Cassidy said. "The coach would call the play and by the time I got to the line of scrimmage, I'd either forget the play or I didn't know where to go. I didn't know when to block low, high, inside or outside. Without my coaches and parents' support, I never would be able to make it."
He didn't, at first, feel that he was as well-received by his teammates.
"When I first got on the team they were kind of upset because I was doing so well," Cassidy said. "Now we're getting along fine. I would have felt the same way."
But because of his height and sure hands, Cassidy swiftly became quarterback Rick Callister's primary target.
"He's made some nice catches on passes that weren't perfect," Callister said. "He always fights for the ball and it's easier to hit him because he's a bigger target."
And as the season progresses, he also has become more noticeable to opposing coaches.
"He moves pretty well and he has very good hands," said Crescenta Valley Coach Jim Beckenhauer. "He blocked better than we thought he would. He's a load to handle."
Glendale co-Coach Tim Butler considers Cassidy's basketball experience helpful.
"He has an awful lot of natural talent," Butler said. "And his basketball ability has really paid off at tight end."
And perhaps that's where it's best applied.
"His main role in basketball is to rebound and guard the big people," Glendale basketball Coach Bob Davidson said. "He's not really a finesse player."
Whatever hope that Cassidy has for receiving a Division I football scholarship will have to wait until he improves his grade-point average. He plans to attend a community college next year in hopes of sharpening his athletic and scholastic skills. Rod's sister, Erin, attends Cal on a softball scholarship.
"He's capable enough but he never saw the need for school before," Jerry Cassidy said. "I think he has recognized how important it is now."
And Jerry Cassidy has learned how different things can--and probably will be--for his son.