Like many, T.J. LaFaver gets goosebumps when the month of August rolls around.For the 20-year-old Missouri Western quarterback, the return of fall practice is a joyful sight. This year it also represents coming back to the game after missing most of last season due to multiple concussions.“You start seeing different things on Twitter and all the talk about college football starting back up and it’s just an awesome feeling,” LaFaver said. “I didn’t get to play last year because I got hurt, but I’m excited to be back playing the sport I’ve been a part of since I was 7 years old.”While the former Warrenton standout, who amassed 41 touchdowns in his Warriors career, was enjoying playing time as a redshirt-freshman last season for the Griffons, his season was cut short.Yet another concussion, this time more severe, sidelined LaFaver for the rest of the season after taking a big hit to the head in Week 4 against Lindenwood,Also with multiple concussions suffered during his high school career, LaFaver nearly had to call it quits to a sport which has taught him numerous life lessons.“With my injury, I realized how much my identity was wrapped up in football,” he said. “I got hurt and they told me I might want to hang it up for good. My perspective changed right then that something you love can be taken away from you and you have to embrace it every chance you get.”This fall, LaFaver has received the go-ahead to return to practices after passing his neurological tests. He could even be ready for game action if camp goes accordingly.“I’m ready to go and have great faith that whatever is supposed to happen will happen,” he said. “You just have to pray that it doesn’t happen again. My impact test scores were better after all my time off. My brain function hasn’t gone down.”While he is being eased back into practice by Head Coach Jerry Partridge, a quarterback competition will be on hand between he and Skyler Windmiller, who he split time with at the signal-caller position last year.The 6-foot-2, 185-pound LaFaver started in two of his three appearances. He completed 46 percent of his passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.“My goals are to be competitive and compete for the starting job,” he said. “I want to contribute any way that I can. Even if it’s to just get a package where I can get in and run around. I want to prove why I can be the starter.”As a dual-threat quarterback, LaFaver has realized sometimes his style of play has led him into a few too many big hits. However, at the same time, he understands the risks of playing the way he does.“My athletic trainer has always told me I have a hard time of going to the ground when I get hit,” he said. “I always want to stay up. I can change maybe going down or going out of bounds, but I can’t avoid all contact.”Realizing that football is never a given, LaFaver has already made plans for his future once he is off the gridiron.“It’s cliche, but football is life,” he said. “You have to commit to it and finish it as well as get out what you want from it. You have to put in the extra work and I take that into my every day life. Football will always be a part of my life and I plan on coaching after I finish playing.”LaFaver looks to find his mark this season at Missouri Western, which is a Division II program in the MIAA Conference, and help the Griffons any way he can.His top college performance came against Northeastern State on Sept. 20, 2014, in which he completed 5-of-7 passses for 60 yards and rushed for 19 yards as well in a 30-0 victory.“You have to commit to the game and love it,” he said. “Nothing comes easy, but I believe I can show my coaches that I still have a lot left to give them. They were worried about me coming back and being gun shy, but I have been able to show them so far that I am ready to go. I’m excited for this season and I want to help my team win any way that I can.”The Griffon football program finished 7-4 last season and will open the 2015 campaign with a road contest against Central Missouri.
T.J. LaFaver (1) was cleared by doctors to resume full play this season after suffering a season-ending concussion last year at Missouri Western. He hopes to regain his starting quarterback role and contribute in big ways for the Griffons.
Derrick Forsythe photo.