Note: Under former Juneau-Douglas football coach Reilly Richey, the Crimson Bears football team adopted the motto: Respect Is Earned Not Given. As part of our dedication of this season to coach Richey, we have kept this saying as our slogan. RIENG Leader is not a misspelling, it is a highly revered title.
The Thursday night practice was winding down; the season opener was mere hours away and the Bears were pumped and ready.
And then it happened.
Everyone who was there on the Adair-Kennedy turf that dry August early evening will remember that moment - probably forever. Some will even come to remember that they heard the sound of Pat Kohan's fibula breaking; that's how memory works, growing with time. But with the exception of a pervasive and breathless silence, all we really heard was Pat's protest of pain, a protest that spoke not only to the agony of the moment but to the prospect of a season, a career, lost.
Pat is a senior. To an athlete, his senior year is at once the high point and, for most, the culmination of his love affair with his sport. Granted, some go on to play beyond high school, but for most their senior year is the realization of all their playing dreams. The realist part of Pat Kohan, as he lay on the turf grasping his ankle, was telling him that it was all over: playing football with a broken leg was probably not going to happen. But the competitor part of this remarkable young man simply would not let his dreams die.
That evening was Player Introduction Night at the High School Commons. A short hour after the freak situation that broke Pat's leg, he crutched his way to the school to silent, respectful admiration. Clearly the most remarkable part of that evening was that Pat never cried. Through all of the introductions, he gamely rose to take his position with the respective units, the pain and loss clearly etched on his face - but he never shed a tear.
It was then that everyone associated with the Bears knew that Pat Kohan was a champion. For the next six weeks, while his ankle healed, Patrick remained an essential part of the Crimson Bears championship season. Every practice he was there in the defensive backfield - coaching, inspiring, cheering and laughing. Between practices he swam, bicycled, walked, lifted weights, preparing for his return. Perhaps that return will happen this Friday against West Valley - we all pray that it does. But for all the coaches and players, Patrick has always been right on the field, having a winning impact as surely as if he were still calling exactly the right defense and executing those driving, game-turning tackles. Many factors have contributed to the Bears' winning season, but none more so than Pat Kohan's inspirational leadership.
Editor's note: Chalmers is the head coach of the Juneau-Douglas football team.