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Countryside senior is out, but not down

CLEARWATER — Jordan Rossi knows about loss.

When he was 4 years old, his mother died of breast cancer at the age of 41.

In 2007, he had to walk behind the casket of his 20-year-old brother, Pfc. Jonathan Michael Rossi, who was killed in Baghdad.

And last month, Rossi had to deal with another loss. After undergoing an emergency appendectomy, the senior slot receiver on Countryside High's football team will likely spend the remainder of the regular season on the sidelines.

"As soon as I was told 'surgery,' I knew I was going to be out," Rossi said. "Considering it's my senior year, it's unfortunate. But I'm glad I caught it early because my appendix could have ruptured and there would have been a lot more complications."

That Rossi, 18, found a positive in a tough situation isn't unusual. That's how he's always been, said his father Michael Rossi, who called his youngest son a quick healer.

Countryside Cougar head coach Jared Davis said "it's horrible" to see a player get hurt during the season, especially a senior. He said the players work hard over the course of 12 months with everything culminating in the fall football season.

"Then something completely out of your ability to control happens and all of a sudden it's (the season) taken away from you," Davis said. "It's a tough deal."

Davis said he's impressed with Rossi's ability to handle the circumstances that life has presented thus far.

"He's got every reason to say forget it and he doesn't," Davis said. "Jordan is really an inspiration because he is able to move forward with things and carry the memories but still be able to persevere through it. I don't know what I would do without my mom, or if my brother was to pass. It would be brutal on me and he's a lot younger than me and has to live that every day."

Rossi started feeling pain in his lower abdomen the Monday after the fifth game of the season. That Tuesday, while he was in his woodworking class, the pain became unbearable. His girlfriend convinced him to go to a doctor.

"I had to bend over to walk," Rossi said. "The pain was so bad that I couldn't stand up."

At 11:20 that night, Rossi was on an operating table having his appendix removed. He can't play football for at least a month, and when he does come back, he has to start slow.

He never considered that his appendix could knock him off the field.

"It's pretty funny, because who thinks about the appendix?" Rossi said, laughing.

The appendix is a 3 1/2-inch long tube of tissue that extends from the large intestine. While it is unclear what function the appendix serves, people can live without it. If the appendix bursts for lack of treatment, it can spill infectious materials into the abdominal cavity, and that can eventually be fatal.

"It was hard to hear," Rossi said of being told how long he was going to be out. "But I'm there for the team now. I give support by getting water or doing whatever I can to help while I'm out."

It was July 2007, the summer before Rossi's freshman year, when two uniformed men approached his family's Safety Harbor front door. They informed them that his brother had died in Iraq from injuries suffered during an insurgent attack.

Rossi was there when his oldest brother's body was brought back to Tampa. He was in the room with his family when the flag-draped casket was brought to a local funeral home. He heard the playing of Taps at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, where Pfc. Rossi is buried.

"That was very hard," Rossi said. "But the way I cope is whatever I do, I do for my mom and my brother, to make them proud. I pray about them and I tell them that I love them. I miss them. Not a day goes by that I don't think of them."

A wall in the Rossi home is dedicated to Pfc. Rossi, who graduated from Countryside High in 2005. Displayed on the wall are pictures as well as the young soldier's dog tags. His death created a new sense of military commitment in the family. Stepbrother Matthew Reif joined the Army immediately after the funeral. A short time later, brother Jason Rossi joined the Army and he is now in Afghanistan.

But the military is not in Jordan Rossi's future.

"I thought about it, but I don't think I'd be joining for the right reason," Rossi said. "My entire family has been in the military. I'll be the first one in my family to go to college."

Last in a series

This is the fourth and last story in the Beyond the Gridiron series. This week, reporter Demorris A. Lee speaks with a Countryside High School senior whose final season ended early because of a medical problem. But it wasn't the first loss Jordan Rossi has suffered.

If you go

The Countryside Cougars football squad hosts Wiregrass Ranch (Wesley Chapel) tonight for a 7:30 start.

Countryside senior is out, but not down 10/13/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 14, 2011 11:09am]
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