Advertisement
  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 bputnam@tampabay.com. Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Pinellas Park sophomore Brianna Erickson (21), center, works to elude Clearwater Central Catholic High School's defense on Monday. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    With the return of a top scorer and a surprise transfer, the Patriots are finally winning. Could a district title be next?
  2. Tampa Catholic senior Kobe Knox dunks for two  of his 12 points in a 68-64 victory over Berkeley Prep on Friday night. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    Tampa Catholic stays in the top spot after rallying to beat another rival.
  3. Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Byron Pringle (13) makes a catch before a Dec. 29 game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Kansas City, Mo. [CHARLIE RIEDEL  |  Associated Press]
    The high school coaches of Azeez Al-Shaair, Matt Breida and Byron Pringle know the adversity the trio faced in making it big.
  4. Junior Jayla Murray and defending state champion Tampa Bay Tech continue to get battle tested as playoffs loom. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The final week of the regular season finds little change at the top.
  5. Former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers is on the opening-day 52-man roster for the XFL's Tampa Bay Vipers. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Plant High’s Aaron Murray and Wharton High’s Chase Litton join USF’s career total yardage leader in the quarterback room.
  6. Tampa Catholic's Kobe Knox dunks for two  of his 12 points in a 68-64 victory over Berkeley Prep on Friday night. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Crusaders don’t lead until the fourth quarter, but edge the Bucs 68-64.
  7. With seniors like Parker Conitz, pictured at left here with fellow Clearwater Shootout Player of the Game Joshua Celiscar of Winter Haven and Clearwater High coach Kris Foote, Seminole believes it can claim another district banner for the gym. [CUCK FRYE  |  Special to the Times]
    Classification and district realignment make the Warhawks’ path to a title not as daunting.
  8. Fivay girls basketball players, from left: Marielis Creque, Jania Jones and Savannah Shaffer. [RODNEY PAGE   |  Times]
    The Falcons are a postseason threat and there’s not a senior to be found on the roster.
  9. Junior Talon Bergantino is among Central's leading scorers this season. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    After taking their lumps vs. their older siblings, Talon and Caden Bergantino have emerged as fierce competitors for the Bears.
  10. Karim Nohra pulls no punches in getting his Carrollwood Day team ready for another playoff push. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Patriot girls notch another lopsided basketball victory with a senior-dominated team.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement