Sept. 8, 2005
by Jonathan Price
Visitors to the Paus household in New Lenox, Ill., know one thing for certain -- if the Paus boys are around, look out.
Whether it was footballs flying back and forth, or hockey pucks whizzing by at full speed, brothers Casey and Cory Paus always had some kind of ball in the air, some competition ongoing into the wee hours of the morning.
Separated in age by three years, the two brothers spent most of their childhood side by side, with Casey playing the role of the younger sibling emulating his older brother. Anywhere that Cory went, Casey was sure to follow.
"I was close to him and I was always the little brother who was tagging along," Casey says. "For a while there he was the big brother just trying to get rid of me. I used to just do whatever he did. I was his little shadow."
When Cory would meet with his friends to play sports, most would pass on picking the younger Paus because of his age. Not Cory -- he knew just how capable his little brother was.
"He would always pick me because he knew I would play real hard to try and impress the older guys," Casey says.
Cory insists there was more to it than just a desire to make sure his little brother felt included.
"Once we started getting older he was starting to grow a little more and I was pretty much done growing," Cory says. "It was good for him to compete against the older kids at a younger age. He is one of the most competitive players that I have ever seen and he has learned a lot by playing against myself and some of my older friends."
Despite their age difference and the occasional sibling rivalry, the two frequently found themselves in situations both on and off the field that required them to work together, rather than push to out-do one another.
Casey recalls one time when the two boys were sledding with friends, and Cory struck a tree and broke his leg.
"I was at the bottom of the hill trying to protect the tree and my brother was up top pushing my friend Josh down the hill on the sled," Casey says. "Josh came flying down the hill and was heading right at the tree. I dove out of the way and Josh dove out of the way, but my brother couldn't and he ended up hitting it. We had to carry him back to the house."
While Casey was doing the carrying this time, as the two grew older, Cory would be the one to help carry Casey along.
As a high school freshman, Casey started at quarterback for the junior varsity, while Cory, now a senior, ran the offense at the varsity level. The two played on separate teams throughout the season, but when playoffs rolled around, Casey received a call from the varsity coach.
"We were the No. 1 team in the state throughout the whole year," recalls Cory. "I had lost the state championship the year prior to that, so I was focused solely on winning it that year. Whenever I was tired in practice, I would tell Casey to throw some balls, and just like when we were younger, he would jump right in and start winging it. I could tell that he was a little nervous, but it was good for him to practice with the older guys. I could see in his eyes that he was going to be ready to take care of everything when it was his turn to step up and take over the team someday."
It would be the last time the Paus boys would play together. Cory headed off to UCLA the following year to start his career as a Bruin, while Casey took his perfect 18-0 junior varsity record to the next level as Lincoln Way High School`s starting varsity quarterback.
After leading Lincoln Way to 24 wins in two seasons, while throwing for 34 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards, the boy who once relied on his older brother to pick him for teams found no shortage of college suitors. After a lifetime of learning from his older brother and emulating his success, Casey decided it was finally time to begin making a name for himself.
"I had been in Cory's shadow all through high school," Casey says "I was always referred to as, `Cory's younger brother.' Looking back now, it doesn't bother me at all, but at the time it was kind of an ego thing because I just wanted to be my own person. My brother told me to do my thing. `Just get the job done,' he said."
The years to come would prove a good learning experience for Paus. Having led the team to a dramatic win over Oregon as a backup to record-setting Husky quarterback Cody Pickett in 2003, and endured a turbulent season in 2004, Casey has seen the highs and the lows of Washington football.
Throughout it all, though, Casey has always had an ally in his corner, someone who understands the difficulties of being a quarterback for a prestigious Division-I university. He may be out of Cory's shadow, but that doesn't mean Casey can't lean on his brother every now and then for advice.
"Cory is definitely the guy that I can go to," Casey says. "He has been through it all before. We are so similar; we can relate to each other. I feel like the older I get, the more comfortable I feel talking to him about everything."
When the two brothers talk, Cory tells Casey how proud he is of the way Casey has handled difficult situations over the past year, and reminds him to never lose perspective on football's place in life.
"I tell him to hang in there and try to do the things that you are coached to do," Cory says. "I told him to take the leadership role; that is his greatest attribute and he has such a good head on his shoulders. He is not the kind of kid who you will ever see point a finger at anyone, and that is the kind of quarterback that you need. I tell him that the way that you handle yourself now in pressure situations like these is going to be far more important over the course of your life than whether or not you play professional football."
Casey has taken his brother's advice to heart, establishing himself as a leader in the locker room while continuing to battle for reps at the crowded quarterback position.
"When I first came in I was a very emotional player, and I would let my emotions get the best of me," he says. "Now that I am older, I feel like I have gained a lot of experience through all that we have been through. You have to have fun because you can only play for so long. Four or five years ago I thought that I would play for the rest of my life, but time goes fast. Now I am just having fun and making the most of it."
Still, though, the competitive fire burns in Paus, who wants one more chance to be a leader on the field, as well as off of it.
"I have gone through it all. This is my fifth year in this program and I have seen the upsides and the downs," Paus says. "I feel like the guys respect me on this team and that is one of those things that I take pride in. But I still want to make a name for myself. I want to show everyone that I can play the game of football. I have been playing it for a long time and there is a reason for that. I want to go out on a positive note and make the most of it with some good memories."
Husky fans couldn't ask for anything more.