LAKEWOOD RANCH -- In 1983, Tony Pearcey, a promising Bayshore quarterback, saw his high school career end prematurely with a shoulder injury.
In the summer of 2013, a promising running back, Chris Pearcey, had his high school career cut short with a knee injury.
This is not a 30-year anniversary the Pearcey family wants to celebrate, but after Chris went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee several weeks ago, his father's experience has helped.
"I want to play in college, and he told me to stay strong," Chris said. "What he did is encouraging; it shows injuries can be overcome and you can achieve what you set out to do. I realize I have to work hard."
The shoulder injury forced Tony Pearcey to become a receiver, but it did not stop him. He walked on at Vanderbilt, earned a scholarship and later signed a free-agent contract with the New York Giants.
The elder Pearcey has a lot of experience coming back from injuries. In high school through college, he broke his wrist four times, had two shoulder surgeries and a broken ankle and then fractured his wrist at the Giants camp, which may have led to his release.
"Chris has his priorities right. He didn't dwell on his injury when he found out. He is staying strong and knows he can play in college," Tony Pearcey said.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Chris vows he will play again at the next level. Ivy League schools Dartmouth and Pennsylvania have told the young
er Pearcey he is still in their plans. There are other schools interested, but the 17-year-old like those two.
"The whole concept of playing in the Ivy League, where you get a world-class education and you can play football, is exciting. That is my preference," Chris Pearcey said.
The younger Pearcey didn't lament his injury, which came when he was doing some pass-catching drills.
"I caught a pass, made a cut and it just happened. There was no contact," Chris said. "I wasn't sure what happened because I strained my lateral cruciate ligament during the spring, and it healed. We went to the doctor the next day and he told me it was a torn ACL. I was upset for a couple of hours and told myself I have to focus on what I want to achieve, and that's playing college football."
Chris Pearcey was Lakewood Ranch's leading rusher last season with 887 yards, averaging more than 5 yards per carry, and established himself as a workhorse running back who was extremely tough running between the tackles.
Chris got a boost of confidence when he talked to former Manatee High running back Anthony Lauro, who missed nearly his entire senior season in 2012 with a torn ACL and signed with the University of Akron last winter.
"He offered me encouragement and told me about the specifics of his injury," Chris said. "I want to get all the supporting ligaments around the muscle stronger because there are certain stresses put on those muscles after surgery."
Chris has another reason to get well quickly. He has never missed a day of school in his life and doesn't want to see that streak end. His dad equates it to Cal Ripken's Major League Baseball record of playing in 2,632 consecutive games.
"Chris is the Cal Ripken of our family when it comes to school. Never missing a day of school means a lot to Chris. I told him to rely on his faith, and he will be fine," his dad said.
Chris Pearcey feels so strong about the streak that he is pushing to have his surgery on the weekend to keep it alive.
"We are trying to get it so I can have the surgery either Friday night or Saturday and recover over the weekend so I can get back to school on Monday. It's important because it shows I am dedicated to school and coaches see me as a dedicated person," Chris said.
McLeod to Miami (Ohio)
Wyatt McLeod, Lakewood Ranch's 6-2, 240-pound hybrid back, has played H back, tight end, fullback, receiver and even quarterback.
But it comes to college, he wants to keep it simple and recently made a verbal commitment to Mid-American Conference's Miami of Ohio.
"It seemed like a place that I would fit in at. The coaches were nice, and it has great facilities," McLeod said. "They were thinking of recruiting me at tight end. I had quite bit of interest (from other schools), but never visited any. I didn't want to wait because I really like the school (Miami) and thought it would be the perfect place for me."