It’s a game.
But sometimes it’s more than that.
For Trey Crump, one sport – football – helped him overcome the difficulty of his parents’ health issues and the unexpected loss of his brother this fall. On Thursday, the Mason County senior will be recognized as a member of the tomleachky.com’s 2018 All-Resilient Team at the annual Kentucky High School Athletic Directors Association awards banquet in Louisville.
“Being around the teammates I had and around the coaches – it was always just a nice environment. It always put me in a better mood and I always had my mind focused on something else other than that, so I wouldn’t be upset all the time,” said Crump. “Just being out there with them – laughing with them, joking with them – it was all just a great time.”
Crump has had a passion for football since he was young, but was unable to play due to a health condition growing up. He didn’t begin playing until the spring of his sophomore year, when he and a friend decided to go out for spring practice.
“I had a hole in my heart,” said Crump. “Once that closed up, I had doctor’s approval that I could play, so I went out and played. I liked it because I like watching football, my brother played football and stuff like that.”
The 6-foot, 215 pound offensive lineman enjoyed spring practice enough to stick with the sport through the fall. The Royals, coming off of a one-win 2015 season, went 4-7 and lost to Ashland Blazer in the opening round of the Class 4A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl, 35-14. Crump didn’t play in a single game.
“I won’t pull punches – he wasn’t very good at the beginning. He was hard on himself. He wants to be very good. He wants to be praised and to know he can help his team,” said Mason County football coach Jonathan Thomas.
“He’s a kid who hasn’t lifted a lot of weights. He wasn’t very strong. It took him a long time to grasp the playbook,” added Thomas. “You don’t have but a split second when the ball is snapped. It was getting him all kinds of reps in practice. You only get so much practice time and it’s different in-game.”
After one season, Crump – who also works the grill and construct sandwiches part-time at the Wendy’s in Maysville – wasn’t sure he wanted to return to the team.
“I went through some things the summer before my senior year – just a few personal things. I didn’t know if I wanted to play,” said Crump. “Honestly, I didn’t really feel like doing much at all. I just wasn’t in the right mindset.”
He decided to continue playing after having a conversation with Thomas, who had several players returning from the 2016 team. Crump hit the weight room and worked harder to learn the playbook before the fall rolled around.
Crump’s father underwent surgery before the season and had a follow-up appointment in Lexington on August 8 – one day before Crump’s senior year of high school started. While in Lexington, his mother, Angela, got a call and was informed her son – Crump’s brother, Nate – had died of an overdose at the age of 30.
The Royals were practicing when she got the news and was forced to race back to Maysville to tell Crump before he found out from somebody else or from social media.
“I can remember his mom coming to practice and telling me what was going on,” said Thomas. “As a coach, it was the first time I’ve gone through that with a player that lost somebody that close.”
Despite the loss, Crump returned to school for his last first day at Mason County. He kept playing football, too, and was forced into a starting position after a preseason scrimmage due to an injury to a teammate.
Crump became the starting left tackle and the Royals got off to a 3-1 start, racking up 200 points over the first four games entering their Class 4A, District 7 slate.
“We told him to take as much time as he needed. He wanted to be there, wanted to be at practice. He knew we were counting on him. He had zero pressure to attend when going through that process with his family, but we couldn’t have been happier about having him,” said Thomas. “Maybe football took his mind off of some of the things he was going through at home.”
After a bye week, Mason County lost heartbreakers in their first two district games. The first came in overtime to Scott, 27-21, after overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit, and the second came to Bourbon County, 27-26, when a game-winning two point conversion attempt with 41.1 seconds left came up short of the goal line.
Crump didn’t play the following week in a thrilling 54-48 double overtime victory at Harrison County in which the Royals overcame a 19-point Thorobred lead entering the fourth quarter. His grandfather had open heart surgery and Crump missed the week of practice because he was with him in Pikeville.
In addition to everything with his father, grandfather and brother, Crump also says his mother was in the intensive care unit at the hospital for a few days around the same time.
“I went through a lot just over the past year and even more than my brother passing away,” said Crump. “It added onto it, which made it worse … It was just a bunch of stuff piled on that was really just stressful.”
But helping alleviate some of that stress was football.
The Royals won three more to close out the regular season following the game in Cynthiana, finishing third in the district and earning a date with Johnson Central, the No. 2 team in District 8 and the reigning Class 4A champion, in the first round of the playoffs.
“Whenever we win games everybody is always so hype about it and it’s always a good environment to be around. It’s nice being around all the players and all the coaches – everybody just gets hype about it. It was all just a fun time,” said Crump. “It wouldn’t really be on my mind as much as any other time. Like, say I wasn’t playing and I was at home or something – I’d just be sitting and thinking about it.”
Mason County had a 7-3 record at the end of the regular season and were the second-highest scoring offense in 4A with 385 points scored, second only to Johnson Central’s 420 points through 10 games.
The Golden Eagles were too much for the Royals in the opening round playoff game on November 3, however, and came away with a 43-0 victory on their way to a third straight state championship game.
Crump went from not playing a game his junior year to considering quitting football, then starting 10 games for a team that rushed for nearly 200 yards per game and passed for an additional 101 yards per game.
“If you ask him, he’ll probably tell you it’s one of his better decisions. He had some tough times. He had some family things going on. It’s been tough on him. I think having his coaches and teammates there for him – hopefully it was something he could lean on to get through those times,” said Thomas. “When one of us hurts, we all hurt.”
Crump plans on having his parents, grandparents and niece – his brother’s daughter who lives with them – in attendance for the All-Resilient Team recognition on Thursday. Thomas says he and his wife also plan on being there to support the Mason County senior.
And despite all that was thrown his way, Crump was able to get through it with the help of his coaches, his teammates and the game of football.
“It’ll definitely be bittersweet. I only played two years of football and I absolutely loved it. I wish I would have played all four years. I’m 100 percent going to miss it,” said Crump. “It’s just going to be nice knowing that people were there for me when everything happened.”