1. Sports
  2. /
  3. HomeTeam

HomeTeam 100 spotlight: No quit in CCC’s Jack del Rio

The Marauders linebacker, who had his ring finger amputated and played the day after his father died, defines mental toughness.
Clearwater Central Catholic's Jack Del Rio (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)
Clearwater Central Catholic's Jack Del Rio (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)
Published Jul. 17, 2019

Jack del Rio noticed a lump on his left ring finger two years ago. The pain would not go away.

His finger kept swelling, prompting a visit to the doctor.

The diagnosis: spindle cell sarcoma, an extremely rare form of bone cancer.

There were surgeries — four in all — to remove the cancerous tumor.

After exhausting nearly every option, del Rio’s doctor said there was only one way to ensure the cancer would not spread to the rest of his body.

The finger had to be amputated.

“I was so exhausted from all the surgeries and time with having to recover that I was relieved to just have it removed,” del Rio said. “It hasn’t changed my game or daily living at all.”

Related: RELATED: HomeTeam 100 spotlight: Days on the pitch are behind Haden Carlson

Dealing with cancer — and the loss of a finger — was tough enough.

Nearly a year later, the Clearwater Central Catholic linebacker endured more pain.

In October 2018, del Rio’s father, Oscar, died of a heart attack.

“Hardest time of my life,” he said.

His dad died the night before the Marauders’ game against rival Jesuit. Given the circumstances, it was understandable if del Rio decided not to play.

That was not an option. De Rio wanted to be there — for his teammates, his father, even himself.

“It just made me go harder for him,” del Rio said. “No doubt it was tough, but the way he raised me helped me endure and come out stronger than I was before.”

Related: RELATED: HomeTeam 100 football countdown: Players 71-80

In the face of sorrow, del Rio delivered a captivating performance. He had eight solo tackles to help lead CCC to a 14-6 win over the previously undefeated Tigers.

Marauders coach Chris Harvey went into detail about what happened to del Rio and the linebacker’s desire to play in the post-game huddle. Afterward, Harvey gave del Rio the game ball while teammates cheered.

Del Rio dedicated the rest of the season to his father. He finished with 78 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries.

Colleges took notice of those numbers. In the spring, several assistants from Division I-A schools started going through the vetting process. They wanted to know about del Rio’s makeup, about his character.

“The schools kept asking whether he is tough enough and how important football was to him,” Harvey said. “So I would just tell them Jack’s story. Here is a kid who kept playing despite having his finger cut off. Here is a kid who kept playing a day after his father died. That’s loving football. And that’s pretty tough to me.”

Related: RELATED: HomeTeam 100 spotlight: Nolan Troyer’s the center of attention

The offers kept coming. De l Rio now has 11, including several from Ivy League schools such as Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth and Penn. His top choice is Rutgers.

A decision could come before the start of the season.

For now, del Rio is focused on CCC’s season. Besides playing linebacker, del Rio will add tight end duties to help make up for the loss of Brett Seither, now at Georgia.

“I want to get more sacks and help out more in the run game,” del Rio said.

And he wants to get the most out of his senior season.

“The big thing my dad’s death taught me was not to take things and people for granted.”

Contact Bob Putnam at Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.


  1. Hillsborough senior forward Cantia Rahming, right, is among the nation's leaders in rebounds per game. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The senior has been a menace on the boards after missing out on significant playing time in last year’s run to the state final four.
  2. In his one season at Middleton, Mike Williams led the grieving Tigers to a 5-5 record. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The former Plant High player takes over for David Mitchell, who steps down to deal with health issues in his family.
  3. Florida receiver Josh Hammond (18) on the field during practice for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Plus Plant High product Jake Fruhmorgen’s journey from Clemson to UF to Baylor to the East-West Shrine Game.
  4. Justin Lucena has been with Sunlake since he was a freshman, enduring losing seasons before the recent turnaround. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Seahawks endured years of losses but confidence is high in this group that a playoff run, and possibly a district title, are in reach.
  5. Teammates watch as Lakewood's Elijah Jackson leaps from near the free-throw line as he goes up for a slam dunk during practice. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    No matter how tight a game, the green light is always on for the Spartans boys basketball team, a state title contender again, to rattle the rim.
  6. University of Florida commit Alexa Goldberg is a veteran presence for a St. Petesrburg team that hopes to return to the state final four. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The Green Devils’ roster may not be the same, but there is still that mix of youth and experience that served them well a year ago.
  7. Marcellus Crutchfield was just one Tampa Catholic player whose family recently hosted Australian players from a prominent Catholic school in Melbourne. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    The Crusaders are the perfect hosts for a Catholic school team from Australia that is enamored of the American game.
  8. Dionte Blanch, right, and East Lake remain on top of our rankings after running their unbeaten mark to 15-0. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    East Lake, the last remaining unbeaten team in the area, remains in the top spot for the second straight week.
  9. Tampa Prep's Kailyn Gilbert (2), center, charges past Wesley Chapel's Ameria Christopher (5) during a game earlier this season. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    When it comes to scoring and rebounding, these three girls and guys are among tops in the state. And word to the wise: Stay out of Kailyn Gilbert’s way.
  10. Riverview senior Jaden Ramos slams down a dunk to give the Sharks a 24-point second-half lead over visiting Wharton. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Sharks are far removed from the 2016-17 team that went 0-18.