This story, about last year’s standout football player from Grace Brethren High in Simi Valley, California, appeared this weekend in the Ventura (CA) County Star. Brethren High is affiliated with the Grace Brethren Church of Simi Valley, John McIntosh, pastor.
Blessing in disguise
Chad Kackert feels fortunate he will get a chance to play in college after an injury in high school led to the discovery of a tumor in his leg
By Rhiannon Potkey
September 26, 2005
In Chad Kackert’s mind, there is only one explanation — divine intervention.
Unknowingly playing with a small tumor in his lower leg last season, the former Grace Brethren High running back was potentially one direct hit away from ending his football career.
But before doctors discovered the non-malignant mass, Kackert finished his senior year with a CIF-Southern Section championship, 3,445 yards rushing and a joyous celebration among teammates.
To top it off, he found a college coach who believed in him enough to offer him a full scholarship despite the injury.
“I could feel God working throughout the entire process,” Kackert said. “Everything pretty much turned out perfectly. I got to play every game of my senior year and win a championship.”
The tumor in Kackert’s right tibia was discovered only by accident. During the third quarter of Grace Brethren’s Division XII title game, Kackert tore a ligament in his right ankle.
He went to the doctor a few days later to have the ankle examined, and an X-ray revealed the tumor.
“It could have been there for up to four years, and it was growing,” Kackert said. “It had eaten through about 50 percent of my bone, and the bone was really weak.”
After enduring so many tackles during high school, Kackert realizes how lucky he was to escape without a more serious blow to the leg.
“It’s possible I would have been done playing football for life because it would have shattered the bone,” he said.
Although thankful he would be on the field again, Kackert wondered how the injury would affect his collegiate hopes.
People had already told the 5-foot-8, 180-pounder he was too small to play Division I football, and that Grace Brethren’s schedule didn’t provide him with enough challenges.
The injury was yet another hurdle being placed in the path of his dreams.
But University of New Hampshire coach Scott McDonnell put Kackert’s worries to rest by offering him a scholarship.
“In our history we have taken some chances with kids we believe are the right chances to take,” said McDonnell, who has recruited six players with ACL injuries in the last seven years. “With Chad, I had a gut feeling that he would be able to come here, work hard and have a great career on and off the field.”
What McDonnell saw on Kackert’s recruiting tape didn’t hurt either.
“He scored a lot of touchdowns. That was pretty evident,” said McDonnell referring to Kackert’s 131 career touchdowns. “He was running by people and making great cuts with his great vision. He’s not the biggest guy, but we’ve had some great players here who haven’t been that big.”
Last February, Kackert had surgery performed in which bone from his hip was used to fill the hole in his tibia.
He is grayshirting at UNH this season — where a high school graduate delays enrollment — and won’t arrive on campus until January.
Kackert has been training at full speed since April, and is assisting at Grace Brethren to stay connected with football.
When UNH played at UC Davis three weeks ago, Kackert went to watch and McDonnell brought him into the locker room after the game.
Having his future teammates and coaches already sticking by him only reaffirmed Kackert’s decision to attend UNH.
“Going through this I found out which teams really wanted me or not,” he said. “It’s good to know people care about me out there. I can’t wait to start.”