GOLDEN BEARS LEADING RECEIVER FACED FATHER'S DEATH
November 1, 2013Monroe Central Jr.- Sr. High School
By Sam Wilson of The Star Press
PARKER CITY — If R.J. Sears’ father were alive today, there’s no doubt he would want to be in Fountain City, Ind., today to watch Sears’ Monroe Central team face Northeastern in a Class A sectional semifinal football game at 7 p.m. In his son’s estimation, Randy Sears would be decked out in Golden Bears gear, letting the officials know if he disagreed with a call that went against his son’s team. When Randy Sears died in 2012, his obituary in The Star Press prominently mentioned his passion for attending his children’s sporting events.
R.J. Sears is not hearing that voice in the stands anymore. In literal terms, he’s not hearing his father’s voice at all. Yet Randy Sears’ message seems to be coming through to his son loud and clear.
Randy Sears always encouraged his son to work hard, both in school and on the football field. It was only after his unexpected death last November, though, that R.J. Sears says that message began to fully sink in.
Now, R.J. Sears moves with greater purpose, following his father’s advice more than he ever has before. While he doesn’t have his father with him physically, he’s thankful to still have the advice his father gave him during his life. It took him a few months to come to that realization, but now he uses his renewed work ethic as a way for his father’s legacy to live.
He dedicated himself to his team’s summer weightlifting regimen this year, something he hadn’t done in the past. He’s blossomed into a player who has caught 22 passes for 475 yards and three touchdowns this year, good for an average of 21.6 yards a catch. He caught an 85yard pass against Edinburgh, his team’s longest reception of the season. Golden Bears coach John Hochstetler said quarterback Bracken Barga has had an excellent season, with Sears being his most threatening target.
Sears is the leading receiver for a Monroe Central team that is easily having the best season in the program’s young history. The Golden Bears are 6-4, having won more games this season than they had in all three previous seasons of existence combined.
Last week’s win against Wes-Del was the first playoff win in school history, something Randy Sears would have surely enjoyed. R.J. Sears had a clear sense that his father was proud of him as he celebrated that victory.
“It would have been the world to him,” R.J. Sears said. “Because he always loved to see me succeed and do well at what I loved doing.” R.J. Sears has also improved his schoolwork. He described himself as an average student before, with grades at various points along the spectrum. He has mostly A’s now. He wants to go to college and play football. His goal is to pursue a career in the sports medicine field. “He would have been ecstatic,” R.J. Sears said. “Because he was all about good grades. Because it’s always student before athlete. He always was checking our grades every month or so.”
Despite the tragedy he faced, R.J. Sears said he might be going through one of the best years of his life, given all the positive changes he’s seen since his father died. He says he’s even become more willing to reach out to others going through difficult times in their own lives. Whenever R.J. Sears gets into a pressure situation, he thinks about his father. It helps calm him, and allows him to concentrate on the task at hand. He’lllikely face such pressure tonight, as his team takes on an 8-2 Northeastern team that hasn’t lost a game since September. R.J. Sears is quick to concede this will be a difficult opponent. Teammate Marcus Drummer has seen an added strength from Sears as well. Drummer can relate to Sears, as he lost his own father, David Writtenhouse, a few years ago. Writtenhouse and Randy Sears were football teammates at Southside, so their sons have a variety of means by which to bond. For Sears, Drummer’s friendship was critical as he went through the difficult period Drummer had also experienced. “His motivation is a lot better now, and he’s a lot stronger person,” Drummer said. “He’s helped our team a lot more.” When Hochstetler talks about what Sears has been through, he talks about the blue Chrysler he drives, complete with a Michigan Wolverines license plate on the front. Randy Sears used to drive it, often parking it on the road just south of the Golden Bears’ stadium as he waited to pick up his son from practice. After a recent practice, it was in a nearby parking lot, waiting for R.J. Sears to drive it himself. To Hochstetler, the work ethic Sears demonstrates now has always been within him. He still sees the same person he began coaching last season, back when his father would drive the blue Chrysler behind the stadium to pick him up.
“He’s a great guy, always,” Hochstetler said. “He just grew up some.”
Contact prep sports reporter Sam Wilson at 213-5807. Follow him on Twitter@SamWilsonTSP.