Last November, Josh Deer’s life changed, first for the worse and then for the better.
Deer, a freshman defensive end for the Hutchinson Community College football team, wasn’t sure he would ever attend college. He had an offer out of Marmaton Valley High School in Moran to play basketball at Allen County starting in the fall of 2008. Deer didn’t take it and ended up working in southeast Kansas oil and gas fields.
The next year, Deer nearly went to Fort Scott to play basketball. This time, Deer said, “It just didn’t work out with the coach.”
Deer returned to work. Then on Nov. 28, Deer’s life began going down a different path.
“My best friend died in a car wreck,” Deer said. “He was (working) as I was, and it was a good job, but I realized that you’re only young once. That gave me the motivation to better myself and my life.”
Deer stresses he wasn’t unhappy with his life. He enjoyed his job, and spending time with his buddies, Andrew Schibi in particular. Schibi, a Parsons native, died in a single-car accident in southern Neosho County.
Deer memorialized his friend with a tattoo on his left side, just above his waist.
“It’s been hell,” Deer said. “I had another best friend die four months ago. It’s been a pretty tough year.”
About nine weeks after Schibi’s death, Deer was watching the Super Bowl when he realized he wanted to play football again. The next day, he texted Hutchinson High assistant football coach Chad McKinnis, who then was at HCC.
Deer had known McKinnis from McKinnis’ days at Uniontown prior to his move to Hutchinson in 2007, and Deer just wanted to catch up.
“He said that I needed to come play tight end for (Hutchinson),” Deer said. “I signed my letter of intent after that.”
Even though it had been two years since Deer played football — Marmaton Valley plays eight-man — he has never looked like he was ever away. He has started eight games for the 8-1 and seventh-ranked Blue Dragons, who played Independence Sunday at Gowns Stadium in the Region 6 semifinals.
The only game Deer didn’t start was last week against Coffeyville. The week before against Butler, Deer suffered a mild concussion.
Deer — who looks nothing like a basketball player but rather a menacing football player without one of his front teeth that he lost in an accident while working last year — has 31 tackles, six-and-a-half tackles for loss and two quarterback sacks.
“He’s a good player, a hard worker and someone who’s been solid for us” HCC coach Rion Rhoades said. “With that being said, I’m looking forward to next year. With his work ethic, I really feel like he could have a good sophomore year.”
Deer continues to adjust to his new life. At times, he admits it’s been difficult. But being in college and playing for one of the top junior college teams in the nation have helped him handle some of life’s biggest challenges and changes.
“School is hard to get used to again, but I love football,” Deer said. “I love fighting on the field, and of course it’s always good to win. No one likes to lose, and it’s been exciting because every game is a big game.”
This story was reprinted in the Register with permission of The Hutchinson News.
Deer and the Blue Dragons defeated Independence Sunday 24-17 to reach the Region VI championship game this Sunday at El Dorado.
The NJCAA fifth-ranked Bue Dragons (9-1) take on top-ranked and undefeated Butler Community College. The game is at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Deer helped lead the Marmaton Valley High Wildcats to a regional eight-man playoff game in 2007.