ROCK SPRINGS – For most people, purple is just an ordinary color. However, for Chase Petty, a football player at Rock Springs High School, purple is a constant reminder to live every day to the fullest.
Growing up as kid who loved to be physical, Chase began playing football in fourth grade in the Young American Football League. Unsure of just how good he was going to be, before signing him up, his mother, Toni Petty, voiced concerns about playing what can be a violent sport.
“My mom didn’t think I was big or athletic enough to play football,” Chase said. “But me being my confident self, as soon as she said that, the first thing I wanted to do was prove her wrong.”
Following his very first practice, Chase came to find out not only was he good at football, but soon after it would take over his life completely.
“I really liked hitting people,” he said. “Before, I was a wrestler and loved to be physical. But as soon as I strapped on my helmet and shoulder pads and the coaches told me it was OK to hit people, I immediately fell in love with it (football).”
Eight years later, not only is Chase still excelling on the field, but cheering him on at every game is his sister Jordyn.
“Jordyn is amazing,” Chase said. “For as long as I can remember, she has always been there. No matter how far we had to travel for games and despite everything she has been forced to go through, she’s always there.”
Jordyn, who is 16 years old and is a junior in high school, has been battling lupus for the past seven years.
Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems – including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.
Currently there is no cure. Treatments focus on improving quality of life through controlling symptoms and minimizing flare-ups. This begins with lifestyle modifications, including sun protection and diet. Further disease management includes medications such as anti-inflammatories and steroids.
The best estimate is that systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) affects between 5,000 and 10,000 children in the United States. Adolescent girls develop lupus much more frequently than do boys, but in younger children before puberty, girls are affected only a little more frequently than are boys.
Before officially being diagnosed at the age of 11, Jordyn began showing symptoms of the disease two years earlier.
According to Chase, around that time, she lost around 30 pounds because she wouldn’t eat. Not only that, but Jordyn would often fall asleep at school and in the middle of her dance classes because she always felt exhausted.
Unaware of what his sister was going through, Chase didn’t find out about Jordyn’s condition until the start of his eighth-grade year after his parents broke the news to him.
“At first I didn’t understand what it was,” he said. “I just remember going into my room and researching it on my phone. One of the first things I looked up was if people can die from it. It said depending on what organ it decides to attack, those who have it can die at any given moment.”
Before finding out about the diagnosis from his parents, Chase, who was 12 years old at the time, knew something was going on before hand, but wasn’t sure exactly what.
“I just remember my parents always having to drive her to Utah for doctor appointments,” he said. “Being so young at the time, I never thought much of it. At first my parents tried to hide it from me because of how close Jordyn and I are. They didn’t want me to panic. But once I figured out what it was, my family eased me in and told me that everything was going to be OK.”
DEALING WITH THE DISEASE
Just like her older brother, Jordyn loved to be active. Ever since she was a little girl, her favorite activities have always been dance and gymnastics.
However, not long after being diagnosed, Jordyn was forced to quit gymnastics due to the amount of pain it put on her hands and joints.
Not wanting to give up, Jordyn tried to fight through the pain, but eventually it became too much for her to bear.
“That was hard,” Chase said. “Watching her have to quit something she loved and something that she was extremely good at was heartbreaking … especially for her.”
From that point on, not only did Chase view life differently, but every time he would get out of bed in the morning or step on the football field, Jordyn became his biggest source of motivation.
“I carry her with me everywhere, whether it’s in the classroom or on the football field,” he said. “Knowing that she is constantly in pain and is forced to fight every day of her life has put a big chip on my shoulder.”
One of the biggest lessons Chase has learned from watching Jordyn battle lupus is that there is a big difference between actually being hurt and being injured.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m on the football field or doing something else in life,” Chase said. “Watching Jordyn push past her pain every day has taught me to do the exact same.”
Fast forward a few years, in his final season with the Tigers, Chase decided he wanted to go out with more than just a bang, but even more importantly, he wanted to show Jordyn, his No 1 fan, just how special she is to him.
This past June, Chase and Toni had an idea to surprise Jordyn with a pair of custom designed cleats.
“At first I wanted to do something with tiger stripes,” Chase said. “But then my mom thought I should do something for Jordyn. Right away, I fell in love with the idea and contacted Dez from Dez Customz.”
Dez, who designs cleats for high profile athletes, including players in the NFL, was told by Chase that the cleats he wanted designed had to be purple and also have the name Jordyn on the side of them.
“I wanted them to be purple because that’s the color of the lupus ribbon,” he said. “I also wanted a butterfly on one of the cleats because the symbol of a butterfly is strength, courage and bravery.”
A few weeks later, after seeing the Nike box waiting on the front porch, Chase immediately opened the package and fell in love with them at first glance. He then took the cleats downstairs and hid them somewhere where Jordyn wouldn’t be able to find them.
“Jordyn knew I was getting custom designed cleats,” Chase said. “She just had no idea what they were going to look like and that they were going to be specifically designed for her.”
A few days later, on Friday, Sept. 6, before the first home game of the season, Chase walked onto the field filled with emotions. Not only was it the final home opener of his high school career, but on his feet were the purple cleats.
“Thinking back to that moment, I still can’t describe what all was going through my head,” he said. “I just know it was a lot of emotions hitting me at once.”
Chase, who plays outside linebacker and slot receiver for the Tigers, not only had a great game that night, but after wearing the cleats for just a short amount of time, pieced together a great play that neither he nor Jordyn will ever forget.
Early in the first half, after being moved to running back for a few plays, Chase shot past the line of scrimmage and after breaking three tackles; he continued to run for 60 yards before finally being tackled down to the turf.
“I remember that clear as day,” Chase said. “There was no way I should have been able to keep running, but I did. I truly believe it was because of the shoe power.”
Since that night, every time Chase makes a big play during one of his games, Jordyn says it’s because of the power of the shoes.
“She thinks of it has her giving me strength through the shoes,” Chase said.
Later that night, Chase recorded his first touchdown of the season, and after the final whistle blew, Rock Springs walked off the field celebrating a commanding 40-7 win over Laramie.
Before going back into the locker room to celebrate with his team, Chase and his family met on the field to take pictures. The minute Jordyn approached Chase, she immediately burst into tears of joy after seeing the cleats up close and personal.
“That was by far the best part of the entire night,” Chase said. “Knowing that I made her (Jordyn) that happy … I’ll never forget that feeling.”
Following his final year of high school, Chase plans on staying close to home for two years while attending Western Wyoming Community College. His plan is to receive his associate degree in business at Western and then transfer to the University of North Carolina, where he plans to receive his masters degree in sports management and his minor in coaching.
When asked about possibly playing football at the next level, Chase’s answer was simple.
“Me being my size, I’m not built to play college football,” he said. “Growing up, the dream was to one day land at a top Division I school, but one day during junior year, after talking with my personal trainer, I realized with my speed and size, I wasn’t going to get there. But because I still love the game, I knew I wanted to remain close to it. That’s when I decided to turn my focus to coaching.”
Even though Chase won’t necessarily be making plays on the field, everyone, including his family and his current coach, have no problem seeing Chase becoming a successful coach one day down the road.
“Growing up, whenever my family and I would watch football on the television together, as young as I was, I would break down defenses in front of them and tell my parents a head of time where the ball was going to go. That’s when they first told me that I would make a great coach,” he said.
The next time Chase heard those words came during two-a-days earlier this year after his new head coach, Mark Lenhardt, told him the same exact thing.
“In the short amount of time I have known coach Lenhardt, he has already become a huge role model of mine,” Chase said. “Everywhere he has been, he has had success. So for him to tell me that, especially early in the year when he didn’t even know much about me … that was a huge confidence booster.”
Over the next two years while attending WWCC, Chase plans to intern on Lenhardt’s staff. During his time with Lenhardt, Chase plans to soak up as much knowledge as he possibly can before going to North Carolina.
Sometime soon, Chase also plans on getting a tattoo of the lupus ribbon with a quote that reads ‘with pain comes strength’ on his left pec.
“My mom has that same tattoo and it is something I have been planning on getting for a while now too,” he said. “I want it because I’ll always have Jordyn close to my heart. I’ll always have a memory of her and because ‘with pain comes strength’ is a universal saying for our family.”
As for Jordyn, according to her older brother, as soon as she graduates high school in 2021, she would like to attend college and study criminal justice. However, due to the damage the sun can do to her skin and the amount of pain the cold can put on her joints, placing Jordyn in the right college geographically will be challenging, according to Chase.
Before going off to college, Jordyn plans to continue dancing for the Tigers Rhythm and Dance Team, something she has been doing since her freshman year. Despite the amount of pain dancing puts on her body, Jordyn pushes through it because it is something she has grown up loving. When not dancing for the high school, Jordyn also dances for a club team called Rock Academy.