COPPELL, Texas - The Coppell High School football team is pretty successfully at winning games with the help of a senior. He moved off the field this year to the sidelines, thanks in part to his amazing attitude.
FOX 4’s Mike Doocy traveled to Coppell to find out more about Rowdy Paschall.
He sounds pretty much like any other coach for the Coppell Cowboys but some things make him stand out. First, he’s still in high school and he has cerebral palsy.
Rowdy was about 16 months old when he was officially diagnosed with cerebral palsy. His mom thought she was ready for the news.
“It wasn’t until we walked out of the room and got on the elevator that his dad and I feel apart, of course both crying and probably cried all the way home. But we both have very strong personalities and knew it doesn’t matter what it takes. We’re going to do what’s best for our son,” said Brandi Paschall, Rowdy’s mother.
“You’re getting a little bit older kids get curious so I would have kids come up to me and ask me, ‘Why are you walking like that? What’s wrong with your legs?’” Rowdy said. “I didn’t know. My parents kind of told me, ‘You have cerebral palsy.’”
By the time he reached middle school, Rowdy had fallen in love with sports, especially football. When his mom remarried and moved away from the small towns of Oklahoma to the big cities of North Texas, Rowdy’s big dreams stayed alive.
Before his junior year, he met with the athletic director and the head coach at Coppell High School.
“I got to go sit down with Coach DeWitt and Joe McBride and I’ll tell you what, that was intimidating,” he said. “You sit in an office with some big names in high school football and I said, ‘Coach, I want to play.’”
He didn’t know if they’d ever put him in a game but he told them he’d do whatever he needed to do to suit up and play. Coach Mike DeWitt agreed and put him on the team.
Rowdy finished his junior year with the Coppell Cowboys never dreaming he’d actually get into a game. But that changed in early October 2016. Late in a big win against Lake Highlands High School, Rowdy got his chance.
“Coach hollered at me and said, ‘Rowdy, come here.’ And I got up and got over there and he said, ‘You’re going in at wide receiver,’” he said. “First thing I did was turned and looked at mom and said, ‘I’m going in.’ And she was able to read my lips and I remember her face. It’s something I won’t ever forget. It was… she was so excited but she was nervous at the same time.”
“When he looked up at me, he said it perfectly. I was so excited but a little nervous. He’s going out there regardless of whether people saw that he had a disability and that they might, you know, be a little softer on him. You don’t know as a mom if those kids are going to take him out,” his mom said.
“The cool thing was, you know, not just being on the field but coming back onto the sideline and having people celebrate with you, celebrate your victory. For me it was a victory because I had worked for so many years to be able to get that opportunity,” Rowdy said.
He was on the field for just a couple plays at wide receiver. He mixed it up a little and even talked some trash.
“I’m passionate. I’ll tell you that. I am passionate about the game whether I talk crap to that kid I will leave that up to the viewer to decide,” he laughed.
But that brief time on the field and a chance to throw a block, maybe even a slightly illegal block, was something he will always cherish.
“I think about that a lot. I probably could have gotten a flag on that for a block in the back and the funny thing is I ended up falling on my face right after that. But yes I did get a few plays and I probably should have gotten a little more -- cough, cough, Coach DeWitt. But I did get a few plays and, you know, when I was done I was at peace with everything. You know, we really sat down and thought about everything and I said, ‘You know what, mom? We did it,’” Rowdy said.
But playing took a toll on a body that was dealing with so much. So for his senior year, Rowdy joined the coaching staff as a defensive line assistant.
“It’s 100 percent impressive because you have a kid that, you know, sometimes he’ll talk to you and tell you that his legs are 100 percent on fire and he feels like he is in such pain. And you can see that he’s in pain but he’s still going through everything and carrying on. So it’s a great motivator,” said Braxton Sherrill, a Coppell High School assistant football coach.
“He’s a great reminder, you know, that there’s never a bad day,” said Coach DeWitt. “His attitude is, ‘Hey, I can do anything I put my mind to. And so it was always good for the kids and coaches to be able to see him each day. Day in and day out, knowing how hard it would be for him to get up and come to school, come to work and he’s got a great attitude and smile on his face.”
Rowdy said a very large starter on the team once came up to him and told him he made a huge impact on his life.
“It kind of makes me tear up to think those guys know what I would give anything to suit up and play,” he said.
Rowdy motivates his teammates but there are some other kids who really motivate him.
“We went to the OU Children’s Medical Center a few months ago to get casts on my legs again and I saw a young man in a wheelchair. You know, there’s times I do kinda feel sorry for myself but you need a reality check sometimes in life. And it makes you realize. You know what? You got it good. You have no reason to get up in the morning and complain about your circumstances when one of these days those parents are going to have to explain to that young man that he won’t get to do some of the things that kids around him do,” he said.
Visits like that help keep Rowdy’s perspective as he puts braces on his legs and braces himself for a future that’s somewhat uncertain. He’s not sure how long his legs will hold him. But he and his mom are confident that a higher power will always lift him up.
“I have scripture on this necklace. This started when Rowdy was an infant. Philippians 4:13… ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Don’t give up on them and don’t feel sorry for them. Push them as hard as they are capable of being pushed and encourage them to be the best that they can be because they were created for a purpose,” his mom said.
“You can’t tell me there isn’t a God when you see a 5 foot 6 inch, 115 pound handicapped kid walking out to a Texas football stadium padded up. I don’t know where I would be without God because… I really don’t know. I’m kind of at a loss for once in my life. But I know that God has huge plans for me. He put me in Coppell, Texas for a reason. He made me disabled for a reason. I’m going to be alright,” he said.
Rowdy said after college maybe he’d like to be a coach.