Young QB knows both joy and pain
PARACHUTE – Matt Cain has two different colored shoelaces in his football cleats.The black lace in his left shoe isn’t his.It belongs to his brother Joe.Matt made his first-ever start at quarterback for the Grand Valley Cardinals last week.He was nervous. The slender high school senior had a lot on his mind. When he tugged on the black shoelace he thought about his brother Joe – an eight-grade wide receiver who loved sports and idolized his big brother.Joe died on Oct. 5, 2005, after getting hurt on the football field. He died after emergency stomach surgery. He was just 14 years old.For parents Deb and Mike Cain and their other kids, Matt and Ali, it’s been a long two years.Deb and Mike were all smiles when they arrived at the game last Friday. This was Matt’s big night. Two week’s earlier it was Joe’s night.On Aug. 16, Joe would have been 16, and the Cains had a party celebrating his birthday.”He lived such a rich life. It was a short life but one full of love,” Deb says.Back at their Rulison home, Deb says they haven’t changed Joe’s room. It’s exactly like it was on Oct. 5, 2005.As Matt warmed up for the game, Deb and Mike confessed they were nervous. Not scared, just nervous about how he would play.”He hasn’t played quarterback before, but I think he’ll do great,” Deb says. “I think he likes defense better.”In the first half, Matt’s nerves were as unfriendly as the other team. Four fumbled snaps. But on defense he grabbed two interceptions. He likes defense.By the end of the game, Matt had shoved his nerves to the sidelines and led the Cardinals to a 28-14 victory over the Aspen Skiers.He was happy talking about the game. He had impressive stats: 8 of 10 passing for 124 yards and 1 TD. And the two interceptions on defense.As a good leader does, he gave credit where credit was due – the line, the backs, the receivers, the defense, the coaches. He gave them all credit for helping get the Cardinals the win.Then the tears took over as he talked about Joe.”I’ll never forget him. Never,” Matt says, hanging his head, trying to hide the tears.”I’ve really matured a lot,” he adds.Matt talks about the special relationship he had with his brother and how rough it’s been on their family.”The whole family has matured a lot,” Matt says. “It wasn’t easy to go through something like that.”Matt glances at the black shoelace as he talks about Joe. He wipes the tears away as he talks, as he remembers.He now wears No. 2. Partly because he needed a quarterback number, and partly because, just like the black lace, half belongs to Joe.Joe wore number 82.”Matt was a great big brother,” Deb says. The brothers loved sports. Mike says they never forced sports on the boys and after Joe died from a sports-related injury, they never thought about talking Matt out of playing football.Mike laughs when he talks about how the brothers would play in the backyard. “They would be out there playing and their mom would be yelling at them to come in for dinner,” the 25-year woodshop teacher says. He will retire this year from Grand Valley High.”It’s a rough thing to go through,” Deb says trying unsuccessfully to keep the tears from leaking out. “It happened two years ago but everyday is still hard.”Deb and Mike knew they had to be strong. Matt and Ali, 11, looked to them for strength.Matt and Ali had to grow up quicker than kids should.For Matt, it was a rough year. First Joe died, then his girlfriend was killed in a car accident.A very rough year.But now, Matt is the starting QB and has grown into a leader.A lot of that maturity has come from Joe and his death.”He’s grown up a lot this summer,” Deb says. “He used (Joe’s death) as a motivation, I think.”Mom says that the two brothers were different. Joe was more outgoing and boisterous, while Matt was the quiet one.Mike says Matt was a powerful but quiet influence on Joe. “He’d always help him out in sports. He wouldn’t say much but he would always help.”For Deb and Mike, it’s hard to see all of Joe’s friends, who are now sophomores and playing football.Mike said Joe played only one game on the high school field.They give a lot of credit to Matt’s friends for helping him through the tough times. A group that’s been together and played sports together since they were youngsters. After the game, Matt trotted away to join his teammates in the jubilant locker room. He was now a proven high school quarterback. A quarterback who wears No. 2 and has a black shoelace in his left cleat.And a big brother who will never forget a little brother who was anything but an average Joe.
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