Even with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a pair of Plainville athletes have still been getting ready for college football in the fall. Jared Casey will be a preferred walk-on for the Kansas Jayhawks, while Jordan Finnesy received a scholarship from Washburn.
Casey’s schedule is pretty much like the movie "Groundhog Day," where he gets up each morning, works out, sees friends, maybe goes fishing, goes to bed, then repeat the next day. Before the pandemic canceled spring sports for Kansas high schools, Casey and Finnesy hoped to compete at the state track meet in Wichita the last weekend of May. Casey’s plan was to leave the next day for Lawrence. KU informed him he could start summer workouts there on June 15, but those workouts have now been halted after 12 KU players tested positive last week.
"It took away my senior track season," said Casey, who likely would have been a medal contender in both shot put and discus after taking third in the shot as a sophomore and second as a junior. "I thought I could be pretty successful at state. It was kind of confusing. Why the class of 2020? Why now?"
Finnesy, who was looking to make state track in the 300 hurdles, long jump and triple jump, has a little more football ahead of him before he reports to Washburn on Aug. 3. Originally a Shrine Bowl alternate, Finnesy replaced Casey on the West squad in February when his teammate told the Shrine committee he would not be playing, training at KU instead.
The Shrine Bowl, scheduled for July 18, is now set to be played at Topeka’s Hummer Sports Park after Washburn University bowed out due to its summer closure because of the virus. Finnesy is scheduled to report to the West camp July 11 in Salina.
"I’m just excited for that week, really looking forward to it," said Finnesy said.
Casey said KU gave him the choice of not going to the Shrine Bowl and arriving in Lawrence early to work out and take a class, or play in the game and report in August. As a preferred walk-on he will be on the team but does not have a scholarship. Casey thought he had a better chance of making an impression on the coaching staff by showing up this summer. If he waited until August, Casey would have just a month to show his stuff at fullback, where Jayhawk coach Les Miles has asked him to play.
Casey said Fort Hays offered him a scholarship about six months before KU entered the picture, and he was choosing between the Tigers and Butler Community College, where he would play two years before moving on.
"It just always was my Day One dream to go (NCAA) Division I, no matter what," Casey said. "I got that opportunity. I know it’s only a preferred walk-on right now, but the plan is to keep working my butt off, see where it takes me."
Casey is the youngest of seven children for Jerry and Karen Casey. He had a sister, Amanda, play basketball at Dodge City Community College. One brother, Justin, was a walk-on in football at Fort Hays for one year, and another brother, Andrew, played football at Dodge City for a year then walked on at KU.
Casey and Finnesy excelled in other sports, too. Casey was a full-time starter three years in basketball while Finnesy qualified for state in wrestling all four years, finishing runner-up as a sophomore and winning gold as a junior and senior.
Karen Casey said Jared was around sports all the time growing up.
"He was always at basketball games, football games," she said. "He picked it up pretty early."
Jared Casey said he was big for his age growing up and played all sports but gravitated toward football.
"I just liked hitting people, I liked hitting them hard," he said with a chuckle. "I always knew football was my number one sport."
Casey started all four years at middle linebacker for the Cardinals. On offense, he was a lineman his freshman year before moving to running back.
"He just really has good instincts," Plainville football coach Grant Stephenson said. "He’s just got a good knack for the ball on defense."
Stephenson said Casey and Finnesy provided inspiration for their teammates.
"Both of them were just good examples," he said. "Each of those kids will be greatly missed."
Finnesy started at quarterback and defensive back for the Cardinals and will be a safety for the Ichabods.
"It came down to Washburn and Fort Hays," Finnesy said. "I looked at where I saw myself playing the quickest. I also really liked my position coach at Washburn."
Stephenson liked what Finnesy brought to the Cardinals.
"His leadership, his work ethic; those two things stand out a lot," Stephenson said. "A real good desire to be good."
This is the fourth straight year Plainville will be represented in the Shrine Bowl. Casey was happy that Finnesy was named his replacement.
"It was a huge honor (to be selected for) that game, but I don’t know if I would have declined the offer if I didn’t know if somebody else in Plainville would get the chance to be able to play," said Casey, who recommended that his teammate be named his replacement. "I knew they would take Jordan Finnesy because he’s a great player and a friend of mine. That would be a special moment for us. I knew it would be a special moment for Plainville, too."
While Casey and Finnesy are looking ahead to fall football, they aren’t quite done with high school yet. Graduation is set for Saturday.
Stephenson laughed at the thought of having no more Caseys in the pipeline, but Justin is still around as an assistant coach and Andrew keeps statistics.
"It’s been a fun ride," Karen Casey said.