Leader by example
His No. 3 jersey slowly rose up from the 17-yard line with little black turf pellets jumping off the blue and white.
No one helped him up this time; they didn’t have to. Senior Micah Passmore had been tackled after a 5-yard reception. After the scoreboard lights flashed down to zero seconds, Passmore got up hobbling a little bit, but made it back to the huddle. He might have had time to take a single deep breath before the Dragons moved to the other side of the field for the start of the second quarter.
He’ll miss Warren Dragons football, and nagging injuries always go with it.
Passmore was playing in his last high school game; not just that, but the senior was playing in his last game with teammates he has played with since the third grade.
He had a carry for 4 yards and a couple catches for 14 more, and that doesn’t begin to describe him.
Warren won its fourth straight to finish the 2020 season at 5-3, and Passmore — listed at quarterback and linebacker on the depth chart — had 13 more tackles in a 34-28 come-from-behind win over Sharpsville. He finished the season with 60 tackles in eight games on defense, and 211 passing yards, 276 rushing yards, 227 receiving yards, and five touchdowns as a quarterback, running back, and receiver. Heck, he even punted once.
“More than anything else is his willingness to play multiple positions and play them well to help the team,” said Warren head coach Mark Morelli. “He is such a natural athlete; we can play him anywhere and it would improve our team and impact the game.”
Morelli added: “Once we made the change at QB, Micah blocked on offense like he was playing linebacker on defense. He went after and hit anything that moved in a different-colored jersey. That just shows how unselfish he is and how he put the team’s success ahead of his own. That alone speaks volumes as to how our coaching staff put our trust in him to do whatever we asked him to do.”
Micah admitted this isn’t the first time he’s rose up off the green turf a little gimpy.
“I was dealing with ankle issues this season that made it tough,” said Passmore. “I didn’t feel like I had the explosiveness that I typically would. I hurt it the first game and just kept reinjuring it every game. I also have had issues the last four years as a starter in cramping. I have done so much to overcome that and ultimately Dr. (Robert) Gatto helped me in figuring out what was wrong and what I needed to do to prepare pregame. I still would cramp sometimes, but I learned how to deal with the pain and was appreciative for our trainer (Andrea Shene) and Coach (Shawn) Wilson, who would help me to get rid of the cramp and get back out on the field as soon as possible.”
The Dragons needed him out there.
“Athletically, Micah just wants to win, and he will do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal,” said Morelli. “He has that competitive nature in him that you cannot teach. He does not care where he plays just as long as it helps the team win. Here was a kid who played QB since his freshman year, yet this year we had to make a few changes. Never once did he complain; it was more about whatever helps the team win. That is the sign of maturity, the sign of a leader, the sign of a team player.
“He came in as a freshman, my first year, and of course he was one of the first names I kept hearing about,” said Morelli. “Now, keep in mind, I tend to be old-school. The theory in coaching was always you never play freshmen on varsity. If you do, there will be growing pains. I would ask our coaches, ‘So who do we have in the secondary,’ Micah’s name would always pop up. The more we watched him, the more it was evident to us he was a special talent who could help us. He is the quiet leader of this senior class just as he has been a quiet leader for each of the past four years. His teammates notice him. He was elected team captain the last two years.”
He will miss those teammates, that was obvious, having played with some since the Warren County Youth Football League.
“I knew he was hooked the first practice in third grade and even before,” said his father, Dan. “When he started playing football, we always talked about, ‘It’s always better to be the hammer and not the nail.’ He always understood what that meant and did a good job delivering the blow on offense or defense.
“When they ran out on the field the last game (on Friday), it felt like a movie because all I could see was him running out in third grade with his Sharpie marker ‘Passmore’ on his white T-shirt from WCYFL. Even though we have been through it before with our older kids, it’s still amazing how fast it goes.”
Mom says he was hooked from the start. So was she.
“He loved watching his older brother play and he wanted to suit up himself and get out there and tackle,” said Heather. “He’s always had a love for football. When he was 4, he knew every QB in the NFL. He could rattle them off proudly. I only ever was a worried mom his freshman year as a varsity starter. He seemed so much smaller than those older guys. Once I watched him a few games, I knew he was going to be just fine.
“Football has always been a driving force for him,” she said. ‘How can I get stronger?’ ‘How can I get faster?’ ‘How can I be a good leader for the team?’ He has been a leader as a captain for the last two years and he expects his teammates to go out and give it their all like he does. He has learned how to take a loss and handle a win. He has never ever taken the credit for a win, but will accept the credit for a loss. He is his worst critic. He is very hard on himself and expects a lot of himself. He has learned to take the good and the bad and learn from all of it. It will only help him throughout his life.”
Before life happens, Passmore will “miss the practices, bus rides, and getting ready pregame the most.”
First, he tried to soak up every last tick of the clock.
“The week before, I kept thinking that I needed to take in every last second,” said Passmore. “It actually hit me the hardest before the game when the coaches were giving their pregame speech, and as of now it’s still surreal that it’s over. I’ve played with a lot of these guys since third grade. We have built some unbreakable friendships. I’ll always miss playing and blocking for my buddy, ‘Louie’ (James Swanson). I want to say a special thank you to Coach (Andrew) Morrison and Coach Wilson. They have coached this year’s senior class every year since seventh grade. They’re amazing coaches and believed in me. I was so lucky to have them with me through junior high and high school. I started playing in WCYFL in third grade. Coach (Henry) Borger was my coach from third through sixth grade. My earliest football memory is playing ‘The Kick Return Game’ in my backyard with my older brother, Jacoby.”
Hopefully he was allowed to hit his big brother and not just get hit.
“I’ve always played a lot of positions growing up in football and in baseball, so that’s nothing new. My favorite role in football is defense and lead-blocking,” said Passmore. “For whatever reason, football has always tested me more mentally than any of the other sports I’ve played. It gets me the most excited. It’s physically and mentally challenging. I love that!
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time around sports and gained interest at a young age,” he said. “My sister is 10 years older than me and she was a swimmer. Getting up every morning at 5 a.m. to go to practice before school taught me, at a young age, dedication. My brother and I always played football, basketball, and baseball in the backyard. He is six years older than me and he never took it easy on me. He made me a better player. I also have to shout out to my dad. He put in countless hours with me that has made me the player that I am today. He is my biggest fan and believes in me. He is always positive and has always kept my head up when I was feeling frustrated. My family is my rock. I am lucky to have them there cheering me on at every game.”
You wouldn’t think luck has had anything to do with his success, but this is the year 2020, after all.
“It has taught me that things can change in an instant and you can’t take anything for granted,” said Passmore. “We weren’t sure at first if we could even be able to have a football season, so I’m just glad that I was able to have a senior year and play with my team one last time.”
“I’ve learned that football is not like any other sport,” said Heather. “It shows strength, mentally and physically, beyond measure. I have so much respect for the sport. It takes so much courage and dedication. You have to be brave to play the game.”
Micah brushed the turf pellets off of his uniform for the last time at War Memorial Field. As a Dragon, Passmore had 951 passing yards, 1,331 yards rushing, 553 yards receiving, 191 tackles on defense, and five interceptions.
“(But) Micah has colleges looking at him, due to his versatility,” said Morelli. “He will be an asset for a college out there depending on what sport he chooses to play. If it is not baseball, I think we can see him as a safety on the football field. Whatever he decides, I am confident he will do well and be successful.”
He’s weighing his options, taking a breath.
“Micah has always been a driven, intense kid,” said his father. “I think he took a lot of pride in leading by example on the field regardless of the situation. I was always extremely proud of the fact that, when you watch him play, you could never tell if they were winning or losing. The intensity was always there. He plays every down the same way on both sides of the ball. If you apply that mentality to anything, you’ll be successful.”