Sports

Former MU football player pushes forward for 'her'

Former MU football player pushes...

DENVER, CO - You won't find former Mizzou football player Adam Casey's name in the Tiger record books. In fact, he never recorded a single catch in his five years at MU. Casey admits he's failed at times, but he's also accomplished more in his 31 years than most people do in a lifetime.

Adam Casey has something to prove: to himself, to others and to her.

"He perseveres. He will not quit. He will push through," Casey's mother Kerry said.

Casey's story is complex, like the Gaelic writing tattooed on his body.

"It's just who I am," Casey said. 

It wasn't surprising when he signed up for 'Chase the Moon.' It was a 12-hour ultra-marathon in Denver, Colorado, starting July 7, 2017. The race began at 7 p.m. and ended at 7 a.m. the following day.

It sounds like a lot, but trust me, Adam Casey was ready.

"I still look at my body as something that turned against me, and I still have a bone to pick with it," Casey said. "Do you know who I am?"

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Photo courtesy of Kerry Casey

CHAPTER 1 - MIZZOU FOOTBALL

"I remember the day he told me, and at first I thought, you are going to get crushed," Kerry Casey said.

In 2004, Adam Casey walked on to the Mizzou football team.

"At that point in my life, that was the biggest hurdle," Casey said. "I remember my parents called me and told me, 'hey, you're in the paper.'"

"It was posted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, walk-ons that were on the team," Casey's father Michael said.

"You don't have to be a great player to make the team better, and with Adam Casey in the locker room, you were a better football team," former Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel said.

Fast forward to 2006 - Mizzou was playing Oregon State in the Sun Bowl.

"There's no other reason to be in El Paso, Texas," Casey said jokingly.

Mizzou lost the game, 39-38, but redshirt sophomore Adam Casey still came out a winner. 

"I fell in love," Casey said. "She was a Sun Court Princess. It was this great catalyst for me to achieve an understanding of who I actually was as a person."

"She changed his life," Kerry Casey said.

Two years later, their relationship was falling apart and Casey's football career was in question. In August 2008, Casey blew out his knee during a two-a-day practice.

"I didn't even get the gladiators glory of going out on Faurot Field and getting my knee blown out by some dirty shot by Kansas or something," Casey joked.

Despite the injury, Coach Pinkel surprised Casey a few weeks later by putting him on scholarship.

"Well there's nobody more deserving than him," Pinkel said. "All the players see it. All the players knew that he worked so hard, and it was neat to see him earn that."

Eight weeks after blowing out his knee, Adam was coming back onto the football field in dress.


Photo courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

Casey's football career ended after the 2008 season. His relationship also came to an end. The two last spoke in November of 2008. Since then, he's kept her identity a secret.

"Out of sight. Out of mind," Casey said.

He says their last conversation continues to motivate him.

"She had a profound impact on him whether she knows it or not," Kerry Casey said.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about her," Casey said. 


Photo courtesy of Adam Casey

In 2012, Casey started a foundation called, "I do it for Her."

"The whole point of it is basically stop thinking about yourself," Casey said.

"He's trying to make a difference in the lives of children from St. Louis by providing scholarships to give them an education," Kerry Casey said.

"There's someone else out there who's hurting 10 times worse," Casey said.

"Little did we know what was going to happen," Pinkel said.

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Photo courtesy of Adam Casey

CHAPTER 2  - NAVY SEALS

March 2012.

"Adam has always wanted to go into the military," Kerry Casey said.

"I definitely looked at the most selective, the most challenging route possible, and that was Navy SEAL training," Casey said.

Adam made it through Officer Candidate School, but then came the setbacks when he returned home to St. Louis before SEAL Training.

"When the doctor told me I had colitis, and he recommended surgery and all that stuff - there was no hesitation of just like no that's not happening," Casey said.

Instead, he hid his illness from the military and left for Navy SEAL training in Coronado, California.

"I was still losing a significant amount of blood every time I went to the bathroom," Casey said. "I wasn't able to eat."

As training went on, he also dealt with bronchitis, pneumonia and two herniated discs in his neck.

"He couldn't lift his head off his chin," Kerry Casey said.

At one point, Casey was so exhausted that he fell roughly 20 feet off the top of a ropes course.

"He fainted when he was starting to come down," Kerry Casey said.

"I remember being up there and being just exhausted," Casey said. "I don't have anything else in my body to give anymore."

Then came hell week.

"He called me on his way, and he said, 'mom this is it,'" Kerry Casey said.

On the first night, Adam Casey quit. He rang the bell.

"Every day that you got up for is now gone, and it's not going to come back," Michael Casey said.

"When I rang the bell - hearing those three dings didn't affect me," Casey said. "It only took a few nights to where the sounds of that bell starting becoming nightmares."

In the coming weeks, Casey became the villain to his own story. He let himself down. He let others down and he let her down.

"If I could just go to sleep one night and never wake up, I would feel so much better," Casey said. "I was desperately searching for any trace of happiness in my life."

"He started running marathons, and literally, would run a marathon just about every single weekend," Kerry Casey said.

This included a 50-mile ultra-marathon in Las Vegas, Nevada, called 'Running with the Devil.'

Photo courtesy of Adam Casey

Temperatures exceeded 120 degrees the day of the race, so it was cancelled. Adam ran it anyway.

"I ran that race because I hated who I was," Casey said.

"He wrote do not resuscitate across his chest," Kerry Casey said. "It told me the depth of his pain."

"When I finished that race, it was no longer running with the devil - the devil was running from me." Casey said.

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Photo courtesy of Adam Casey

CHAPTER 3 - THE MARINES

In Sept. 2013, Adam Casey joined the Marines.

"A Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, that's pretty good," Pinkel said.

"The Marines took me in and I'm damn proud to be a Marine," Casey said.

Little did he know the terror growing inside him.

On Nov. 17, 2014, doctors diagnosed Casey with advanced stage four cancer. It was Burkitt's' Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

"Probably 24 hours later he would've been dead," Kerry Casey said.

"Did you ever get smacked in the chest and everything goes out of you? That's it," Michael Casey said.


Photo courtesy of Adam Casey

Casey went through six months of chemotherapy. 

"They were his hell week," Kerry Casey said.

"It wasn't just cancer. Every day was one step further into a very serious drug addiction," Casey said. "I was living my life three hours at a time because every three hours I would get my pain medicine."

The chemo took away Adam's ability to think.

"The doctors told me then - we take him to the brink of death, and then we slowly walk him back," Kerry Casey said. "That's how strong the chemicals are."

Adam was stronger.

"I found a reason to fight," Casey said. "Not for myself, but for others." 

"So his hell week, he passed with flying colors," Kerry Casey said.

Adam Casey was declared cancer free May 18, 2015. He now calls this day his birthday. He said it's not a celebration, but instead, "a stoic thought process that fits the belief that the old [him] was burned away from the chemotherapy."

"When he was declared cancer free, he rang the bell," Kerry Casey said, "This time he rang the bell for good."

Photo courtesy of Kerry Casey

Adam Casey left the hospital with a new perspective on life.

"I embraced the fact that I'm going to die," Casey said.

But he was still battling a serious drug addiction.

"I was supposed to have enough supplies to last me 30 days," Casey said. "It took four days to go through it."

Casey finally had a breakthrough about a month after going into remission. He was in the lobby of an emergency room off the side of the highway. Adam was there to manipulate his way into getting more drugs.

"This is it, this is that defining moment," Casey said. "I just got up, tore off the bracelet and walked right out."

He's been sober ever since. 

"Instead of being a quitter, he was a winner," Kerry Casey said. "And he'll always be a winner." 

It was time for Adam to start living up to his foundation's message. In the fall of 2015, Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel announced he had cancer and would retire at the end of the season.

"The roles were reversed," Pinkel said. "All of a sudden he was the coach and I was the player."

The two met up before Pinkel's final home game against Tennessee on Nov. 21, 2015.

"I gave him a hug and I told him 'I feel your pain brother,'" Casey said.

"That's just being a part of the family," Pinkel said.

Like Casey, Coach Pinkel's cancer is in remission.

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Photo courtesy of Adam Casey

CHAPTER 4 - MONGOLIAN SUMMER

Adam's story takes off from here.

"You think the guy's in remission, and he might take it easy for you know a couple of years," Pinkel said. "Not that guy."

It was the summer of 2016. First, he and his father Michael entered the Mongol Rally, a six thousand mile rally car race from Europe to Asia. 

"Just an overall bizarre experience is the best way to describe it," Michael Casey said.

Then, Casey started the Mongol Derby, a 600 mile horse race through the Mongolian desert.

"I signed up for the race and then I learned how to ride a horse," Casey said. "I was 100 percent scared."

Casey was thrown off more than 20 times and cracked multiple ribs.

"I chose to keep going," Casey said. "I'm not going to go to Mongolia and try to ride a horse across the country and then get thrown off you know and maybe get a boo boo and let that stop me. Do you know who I am?"

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CHAPTER 5 - CHASE THE MOON

"So it came out to a little more than 12 minute miles," Casey said. "You know I got my 50." 

Adam ran 53 miles in 12 hours.

"I don't think it's a wasted morning," Casey said.

It's just another addition to his story. Each of his tattoos represents a different chapter of his life.

"There's more than meets the eye," Casey said.


"He's a remarkably determined young man," Pinkel said.

His drive. His passion. His obsession. They all led him here.

"It's just who I am," Casey said. " Just take the risk however small or however big. You never know how much it may pay off and how life changing even the smallest thing could be if you simply say yes."

Adam Casey belongs with the best, and he continues to prove it: to himself, to others and to her.

"Don't think my mom isn't also the 'her,'" Casey said.

"He is my inspiration in life," Kerry Casey said. "And he will always be my hero."


Photo courtesy of Adam Casey


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