It was one of the most fortunate concussions in the history of Washington football. On November 11th, Husky QB Johnny DuRocher went in for an injured Carl Bonnell and promptly got pasted by a Stanford defender on an interception return. DuRocher suffered a bad concussion on the play, but it was what was revealed in a CAT scan that changed his life forever.
"They found a tumor the size of a golf ball," DuRocher told Dawgman.com on November 12th.
He didn’t travel with the team for their game against Washington State the following week and underwent surgery on November 30th to remove the mass lodged in his brain.
Now, almost fully recovered, DuRocher is embarking on a baseball career that has shown some early promise, but he still has a few hurdles to overcome.
“I’m almost back to 100%,” DuRocher said recently. “I still get fatigued really easily and things like that, but I’m on my way back. I’m up and down in terms of how I feel, but I feel a lot better than I felt on November 30th, that’s for sure.
“I’ll be working out and I’ll get extremely tired really quick and then it’s like ‘oh boy here we go’ and it’s just kind of one of those things of where I don’t always know how I’m going to feel. So that’s probably the only thing right now.”
Acclimating to the baseball team after spending so much time with the football players may seem to be tough, but with a personality like DuRocher’s things tend to work out in social circles.
“There’s really not that much of a difference,” DuRocher said of his new circle of friends. “They’re a little smaller. We don’t have any Casey Bulyca’s around taking up the house. The guys that I hung out with on the football team are just like the guys I hang out with on the baseball team.
“Just good guys that like having a good time – a work hard and play hard type deal. It’s been a really smooth transition.
“I get it non-stop especially from the baseball guys because I do stuff out there that’s kind of (stupid). I was out there a couple months ago and it was my first time throwing in a live scrimmage and the ball got bunted and it kind of popped up and I dove for it and I was about two feet short and they were like ‘Why are you doing that? Why are you diving?’ and I wasn’t throwing very well and I was like ‘hey, I need some outs and I’ll get them anyway I can’ so that was a big deal for a long time.
“Whenever I would pitch somebody would yell ‘I need some outs’ so I get it non-stop all the time from everybody.”
Actually living up to his own expectations on the diamond is a different story so far though.
“With a ten being the happiest, I’m probably about a three,” DuRocher said of his feelings about his new baseball career on a scale of one to ten. “I’d be higher if I was playing and was playing better and throwing better. It’s extremely difficult and it’s way harder than I thought it was going to be.
“I thought I was going to jump up there on the bump and throw 95 and strike everybody out and to be honest, that’s just not happening.
“It’s a completely different kind of set of knowledge. Just backing up bases and throwing different pitches in certain situations and the only thing that I have going for me right now is that I don’t over-think. They tell me to throw this pitch and I throw it as hard as I can and that’s how I go about it.
“The hardest thing is it’s Pac 10 baseball. It’s not like you can just go out there and just pick it up in a day. Probably the most disappointing thing is that I haven’t picked it up faster.”
DuRocher has a wide array of pitches at his disposal, but it depends on how he’s throwing.
“I can go out and be really good or I can go out there and be really bad,” DuRocher lamented. “When I’m out there and I’m throwing it good, I’m throwing strikes and throwing it pretty hard. When I’m not throwing it well, I’m not even throwing a strike, so I need to find a happy medium in between and be more consistent.
“I have a 92-mph fastball, breaking ball and it depends on how I’m throwing it whether or not if I have a slider or curve ball and I’ve got a changeup.”
As he concentrates on his baseball career, DuRocher said he hasn’t quite given up on his football career, but, now at the age of 22 the young man from Spanaway, Washington is starting to think about life after college.
“Finishing up the year, we’ve got two months left and we’re playing some good baseball so hopefully we can get in there and make a regional and then after that I have no idea,” DuRocher said when asked about the immediate future. “It’s kind of exciting because I’ve got a bunch of different stuff going on.
“I’ve got to try and think about if I’m going to play football again or play baseball or if I hopefully get drafted, I’d go and do that. Or maybe I’ll just get a job and go coach football, I don’t really know right now, I have to figure it out.”
One thing DuRocher has figured out is what he’d do if he saw some people step into the batter’s box while he was on the mound.
Cody Ellis – “Since he’s not a baseball player, I’m just going to try and blow it past him.”
Husky football coach Tyrone Willingham – “I might go at his ankles. I don’t want him digging in there so I’ll sacrifice one (pitch) and get behind a little bit and I’ll have to use my whole arsenal.”
Jake Locker – “The first one is going at his head. I’m going to tell him ‘you’d better get out of the way son’.”
Mike Bellotti – “I’m just striking him out in three pitches to get him off the field.”
Kim Grinolds – “I’d throw some changeups and see if he could hit it. I wouldn’t drill him.”
While DuRocher may have lost his chance to be a starting quarterback for the Huskies, he certainly hasn’t lost his sense of humor.