September 7, 2013

Perseverance Prevails

By Nate Bertrand
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Injury is a common term associated with all sports that nobody ever wants to hear. Injuries and football go hand in hand, as it one of the most grueling and toughest contact sports to play. Injury in football is inevitable, you have to have the right mind set and passion for the game in order to overcome injuries and follow your dreams of being on the field. Holy Cross fifth-year senior offensive linemen Casey Bessemer and Kyle Pedretty possess this passion for the game which has allowed them to persevere through their injuries and continue their careers as Crusaders.

Grinding it out in the trenches day in and day out takes a toll on the body and can lead to injury. Injuries kept Bessemer and Pedretty sidelined during their freshman year, resulting in each player receiving a medical redshirt. Both linemen hail from the sunshine state and have used their friendship and determination combined with the support of friends, family, teammates and coaches to get to where they are today.

Having the drive to compete and play at a high level of football is developed early in a player's career. For Pedretty, he knew he wanted to play college football after only one year of competing at the high school level. "After a year of varsity football in high school, I knew that only two more years would not be enough," said Pedretty. After suffering a knee injury during his freshman year at Holy Cross, he came back strong for his redshirt freshman season and appeared in all 11 games for a Crusader team that finished 6-5. Overcoming injury is tough, but for Pedretty, he knew what had to be done to get himself back on the field. "It was not as hard as you might think. I was young and really excited, so I was able to come back very strong." Unfortunately for Pedretty, injuries plagued him in his sophomore and junior years as well. An anterior cruciate ligament tear during week six of his sophomore season sidelined him until the beginning of the following season's training camp. During camp, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament for a second time, suffered an 80 percent tear in his meniscus and fractured a part of his femur, sidelining him for the first four weeks of the season. Amazingly enough, Pedretty was able to play in six games his junior year once the fracture in his leg fully healed. One thing Pedretty has learned has stuck with him to help get him back on the field. "Perseverance is key," he said. "Never give up."

The road to college football started a bit earlier for Bessemer, as he began playing football in sixth grade. However, his aspirations to play beyond high school did not develop until his senior year of high school. With the help of his high school coaches, Bessemer was able to get recruited by a number of colleges including Holy Cross. Although Holy Cross is far away from his home in Florida, Bessemer saw resemblances in Holy Cross to his high school which influenced his decision to become a Crusader. "I really liked how Holy Cross closely resembled my old high school in size, athletic population and academic standards," Bessemer said. And in addition to football, he really enjoys being in the classroom at Holy Cross. "My favorite part about school has been the opportunity to work with some of the greatest minds in the respective fields of philosophy and physics," said Bessemer.

A torn deltoid ligament and a broken fibula in his left ankle kept Bessemer off the field for his freshman year. Despite these unfortunate injuries, he always kept the right mind set to get himself back in shape to playing competitive football, as well as soaking up as much information as he could while injured. "Luckily I was younger then, so my body healed a bit faster than it would now," Bessemer said. "I used the time I was not playing to learn the offensive playbook and get mentally ready for the upcoming spring." During his redshirt freshman season, Bessemer was able to come back and see action in all 11 of the team's games. He blossomed into an integral player for the Crusaders up front as he started all 11 games his sophomore and junior years and he looks to continue this success into his senior season.

Bessemer and Pedretty spent the summer of 2013 in Worcester working out with the team striving to exceed team and personal goals for this season. "I want to make the All-Patriot League team or better," said Pedretty. "And I want to win every game we play in. My goal is always to win, as well as never give up sacks or pressures on the quarterback." Pedretty thinks that being a fifth-year senior will be beneficial in helping to achieve these lofty goals for his final season. "There are some advantages," said Pedretty. "I am older and wiser. I have been around a long time, which helps with understanding football. Knowing my teammates and coaches so well is also a big help." Bessemer echoed what Pedretty had to say about the upcoming season. "I would like to have a good season, but more importantly, I want the team to win and I want to win another championship," said Bessemer. Fifth-year seniors are a rarity at Holy Cross, and having experienced leaders such as Bessemer and Pedretty up front this year is going to really solidify the offensive line.

Bessemer and Pedretty have developed a close relationship since their freshman year which has benefited each of them on and off the field. "Casey and I have been roommates since freshmen year," said Pedretty. "We push each other to make each other better. We are best friends, but we are still able to get after each other and help one another become the best player and person we can be." Added Bessemer, "We always push each other to get better and call each other out when we think the other is slacking."

Both men have been through a great deal of adversity to get to where they are today and offer solid advice for athletes experiencing tough injuries. "You can either beat injury, or you can let it beat you," said Bessemer. "It depends on whether you want to accept the challenge, or be a victim." Added Pedretty, "You have to just keep pushing. I am someone who suffered two ACL tears and played six games on a torn ACL and meniscus, which most people will tell you is impossible. You just have to believe that you are able to get your job done and play through the pain."

Both players have matured on and off the field during their time at Holy Cross. They have helped each other to overcome giant obstacles in their football careers and are excited to see what their senior campaign has in store for them. Bessemer and Pedretty will not let anything stand in their way as they try and make their fifth and final season as Crusaders a memorable one with a Patriot League title.

This story originally appeared in the September 7 edition of the Holy Cross Game Day Program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Towson. To order a copy of the program, click here.