The word “patience” isn’t often used when describing football.
While it surely has its places on the gridiron, there’s an impatience and a sense of urgency in the game — in decision-making, in reaction time, and in the run of play. Play clocks demand that the action starts back up in a timely matter. Cheerleaders and fans shout “Let’s go,” not “Let’s wait.”
For Conroe senior quarterback Christian Pack, patience has been a big part of the last year.
Pack was a student at Giesinger Elementary, Cryar Intermediate and Peet Junior High before he got to the Conroe Ninth Grade campus.
While at Conroe, Pack was the freshman quarterback, then the junior varsity quarterback. As his junior season approached, it seemed to be a sure thing that he’d suit up as the varsity starter for the 2018 season.
Some patience was needed first.
NEW COACH, NEW PLAN
A couple new faces appeared at Conroe as Pack’s junior year approached: head coach Cedric Hardeman and transfer senior quarterback Jay Smith.
Smith, who began high school at Conroe before playing one season at Legacy Prep, had the varsity experience edge on Pack. He was returning to the Tigers after leading Legacy Prep to the TAPPS Division III state title game appearance.
Pack, who months earlier thought he was in line to be the varsity quarterback, had to adjust.
There was, and still is, no ill will toward Smith.
“He was working just as hard as I was, he really was,” Pack said earlier this month. “It’s funny because we actually became really good friends. It was just kind of frustrating because when you work hard for something and you don’t get it right away, it’s easy to quit.”
Pack embraced his new, unexpected role.
“I was trying to be the player that my team needed at the moment,” he said. “At the moment, it wasn’t starting quarterback. I was trying to encourage my team, and I did the best I could to help the team win, even though I wasn’t out there on Fridays.”
Late in the 2018 season, Pack got his first varsity start in Week 10 against Klein Forest. The Tigers erased a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter and won 48-44.
In the third quarter of the win, Pack broke his throwing hand. Adrenaline took over until the next day.
“I felt something and heard some popping, but it wasn’t swollen and didn’t really hurt,” Pack said. “I thought I just jammed it. The next morning, that’s when it started to hurt.”
Pack’s pain was patient, too.
Being the backup quarterback wasn’t Pack’s plan for his junior season, but he made the most of it.
While standing on the sidelines during varsity games for much of the 2018 season, he committed himself to getting better and being ready when his number was called.
“It taught me to take a step out of the spotlight and grind in the dark a little bit,” Pack said. “When I did get the spotlight put on me, I was ready for the adversity that comes with being a 6A quarterback in a really tough district.”
The lessons from last year have transcended football for Pack.
“Especially with my relationship with God, something I’ve really had to work on these past few years is patience,” he said. “Not just with football, but with my teammates, with my friends, my family. I think that’s something kids our age need to learn.”
In Conroe’s first offseason under Hardeman, Pack’s path to varsity starter was used as a lesson for the entire team.
“It takes a tremendous character,” Hardeman said of Pack. “We live in a society of entitlement, and it’s funny because us as adults, a lot of times, we point to the kids, but it’s very evident in adults as well. To see a kid go through an experience like that and be able to respond like that was motivation for all the other kids as well.”
Pack’s initial plan — to be the starting varsity quarterback at Conroe — was delayed.
Now that his senior season is here, he’s reminded of the path that led to this moment.
“Being a kid, you kind of try to picture yourself playing quarterback for the high school,” he said. “You kind of think it’s a longshot, but it’s just been such an amazing experience for me being able to live out my dream, really, with what I’m doing right now with the guys that I love, my brothers I grew up with. It’s a really special feeling.”
Hardeman sees a quarterback that has improved and grown after things didn’t go his way last year.
“I told him there’s guys that play quarterback and there’s quarterbacks,” the coach said. “He has to be the quarterback. And that’s in everything he does — from getting guys lined up to holding them accountable. He’s really been able to do that and find his voice.”
Conroe opens its season against Mayde Creek at 7 p.m. Friday at Moorhead Stadium. Pack has already had his first varsity start, but the home opener of his senior season is sure to have a unique feeling.
The path Pack took to where he is now didn’t follow the original plan, but it’s a journey that has taught him a lot about patience.
“I went through the whole process, and I don’t regret any of it,” Pack said. “When you kind of have to be patient and wait for something, it just makes it that much better when you finally get that opportunity.”