Sept. 15, 2007
By Michelle Bradley
Special to GoHolyCross.com
He's been given another year. Fifth-year senior Casey Gough faced countless obstacles in his football career that would have made many players give up, but Gough is not one of those players. With years of pushing all limits of his ability to be a football player, the Holy Cross captain returns to lead this year's promising squad in the 2007 season with another challenge behind him, having been granted a fifth-year of eligibility.
Spending the majority of his senior year preparing to petition for a fifth year to play football, his efforts along side a group of lawyers paid off in February of 2007. Now, the two-year captain has the leadership experience needed to lead the Crusaders' into another successful season.
The event that led to his fifth-year of eligibility happened during his freshman year, when Gough broke his foot. Miserable on the sidelines, Gough watched the Crusaders post a disappointing 1-11 record. Just three seasons later, he was a part of last year's 7-4 team, which came up just short of advancing to the NCAA playoffs. One area where Gough would like to see the team succeed in 2007 is finishing in every game. Gough knows the Crusaders have the talent and experience to keep 11 players on the ball. However, he wants to see the defense gain complete and total focus to get the job done.
"Last season, we could not always finish in the fourth quarter," said Gough. "We need to develop an attitude that we are going to go out and win. We have the coaching and the players to finish in the end."
Gough knows even with his success up to this point, there is much he wants to see improve in his own skills and techniques. Prior to the start of the season, The Sports Network named Gough the third best cornerback in the nation. While humbled by the acknowledgement, Gough feels the preseason hype does not matter. After five years of college football, he sees his ranking based on assumptions he is good. Contrary to what Gough may be aware of, he is good. But as he sees it, only having success in the 2007 season will really prove that ranking.
Last year, Gough was named honorable mention All-America and second team All-Northeast Region by Don Hansen's National Weekly Football Gazette, in addition to being selected first team All-Patriot League. Starting all 11 regular season games, Gough led the team with three interceptions and seven pass breakups. He was ranked second on the team in total tackles with 54, including 48 solo stops and eight tackles for loss. Among the other statistics he recorded last season, Gough returned 30 kickoffs for 632 yards, and placed fourth in the Patriot League in interceptions and 25th in total tackles.
Some of Gough's top performances were also recognized that year. Following the 28-21 win over Fordham, Gough was awarded the Johnny Turco Memorial Trophy, after recording six solo tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. He also earned Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week honors following the Marist game, when he had five solo tackles, a forced fumble and an interception.
His expectations for himself as a second-year captain are also very high this season. With four year's of experience under his belt, Gough now holds himself to a higher standard than the rest of team when it comes to leadership and setting an example. After building bonds with the other players over the course of four seasons, the pressure increased as Gough was not only viewed as the captain, but one of the many seniors who were depended upon to make the football team succeed.
With hopes of continuing his playing career after this season, one of the top challenges Gough has set for himself is playing mistake-free football every game. Accomplishing this will make him stand out should professional football be in his future. As an added bonus of his fifth year, Gough will have one more season's worth of games in which he can impress the professional scouts.
There's no question that Gough's football career heading into college mirrored that of the young man in one of the most classic football movies ever, Rudy. From the age of four, Gough was surrounded Notre Dame Football. His father, an alumnus and track athlete at Notre Dame, watched his son spend his Saturdays watching Fighting Irish football games and his Sundays drawn to the recaps from the previous day's game.
One of the smaller players on his teams when he was younger, Gough's passion for the game and being a football player made him prepare himself physically and mentally for the game. Because of his father's background as a track athlete, by the time Gough was headed into the ninth grade, his father already had his son competing in both wrestling and track.
Playing in varsity games at the end of his sophomore year in high school, Gough's parents discussed with their son how football combined with his good grades could help him get into an excellent college.
"That's when everyone saw that I was serious about football," said Gough. "I started working a lot more on my speed."
Coming off a successful junior year and hoping to follow in his father's footsteps, Gough traveled to Notre Dame the following summer to take part in their football camps. Getting much attention for his performance at the camp, including receiving the Most Valuable Defensive Back title, Gough discussed with the head coach about giving him his play tapes. The coach declined.
Returning from Notre Dame, Gough was at a loss for which way his football career would end up. The Rudy dream had come to end, not only had the coach abruptly decline to see any more of Gough beyond the summer camp, he also did not get accepted into Notre Dame. Determined to continue his career, Gough self promoted himself to many schools, sending out tapes to give him hope that a school would see what he was, a great football player.
Holy Cross found Gough when former assistant coach Bob Bradley was viewing a tape of a defensive player from another school, and saw Gough on offense.
"He called the coach from that school and asked, `Who is this kid? We want to look into him,'" said Gough. "He recruited me, but it was almost by accident that he found me."
Immediately contacted by the coaching staff here at Holy Cross, Gough flew to Massachusetts and signed on the dotted line. The rest of the story, well, that's Crusader football history still in the making.