This injured Washington football player put on a uniform and inspired a team
WASHINGTON — Brock Skaggs found himself in a much more comfortable shirt.
The Washington senior wore his Panthers jersey for the first time last Friday against Metamora, suiting up following an ACL tear this past spring. Skaggs was not able to play — but he was able to celebrate with his teammates in full uniform following the 24-14 victory.
“It felt awesome,” the 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker said. “I enjoyed being out here — it was a special night — even for my parents, because I wanted to keep it a surprise for them. It felt good to put the uniform back on. Just a great win, also.
“Last year, it was a hard one. This meant a lot right here — beating Metamora, our biggest rival. Just a big team win overall, defense and offense played hard.”
Skaggs suffered his season-ending injury in the week leading up to the spring’s game against the Redbirds, who won 21-14. This season, Skaggs was on the forefront of his teammates’ minds, especially classmate Cade Biedscheid.
“Last year, it was really tragic how things happened,” Biedscheid said. “… We ended up losing and having to share (the Mid-Illini Conference title) with them. That made this game mean that much more that he was able to dress, and we were able to get the win for him.
“The fact we were able to get a win tonight — that was for him.”
Skaggs didn’t see action on the field, but he’s feeling better and has even started jogging. Skaggs won't play this season and says he "should be back to 100% just by like January-February."
This season, however, Skaggs had been wearing a Washington polo and doing his best impression of an assistant coach on the sidelines. His on-the-job training comes under one of the best coaches around in Darrell Crouch, who leads the Class 6A No. 10 Panthers (6-2, 5-1) into Friday's road game with East Peoria (0-8, 0-6). A win would give Washington at least a share of the Mid-Illini Conference title.
The 17-year coach said on the first day of practice that the all-Mid-Illini first-teamer would also be a part of the team’s film breakdown, helping him become more college ready.
“He’s a great leader for this team,” Skaggs said. “He’s been here for so many years. I wanted to learn from him — how he coaches, how he treats the players, all that kind of stuff.”
College is still very much in the picture for Skaggs, a Journal Star all-area defender last season. He has taken visits this fall to North Central, Lindenwood, St. Ambrose, Saint Xavier, Wisconsin-Platteville and Eureka College.
His ACL tear won’t slow down the pursuit of his goals.
“I still want to go play college ball,” Skaggs said. “That’s always been my dream. That’s not going to stop me from playing football. This injury is just a normal injury. It happens to everyone. I just want to tell everyone — injuries are just injuries; you’re going to come back.”
This is a testament to Skaggs’ character and how he carries himself on and off the field. The example he’s set throughout his prep career hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Skaggs as a junior had 22 tackles, one tackle for loss, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He remains a presence within the huddles, also working closely with defensive coordinator Todd Stevens.
“He’s been a leader these past three years — freshmen through junior year,” Biedscheid said, “mentally on the field and off the field and now unfortunately, he has to do it on the sideline, but he’s done it better than any man ever could. I could never do what he’s doing.
“He’s doing everything he can to help us win and seeing him suit up tonight it was special.”
Stevens was the one who had approached Skaggs about the possibility of donning his uniform a few weeks ago. He immediately jumped at the opportunity to put on No. 49 once again.
“I’m all in for that,” Skaggs told Stevens. "I’m all in.”
Coaching has made quite the impact on Skaggs. His dad, Troy Skaggs, coached him when he was younger. Now, learning from Crouch has fueled that fire for potentially coaching down the road.
"I’d like to coach some time," Skaggs said. "I’d follow in Coach Crouch and my dad in just coaching in future, maybe."
Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.