Chase Prasnicki at West Point (Photo courtesy of Army Athletics)
We honor Chase Prasnicki, an American hero
by Byron Jones, recruit804
Before taking the field on gameday, West Point football players rub their hands on a bronze plaque with a quote attributed to George C. Marshall. “I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission. I want a West Point football player.”
1st Lt. Stephen “Chase” Prasnicki played football for three seasons as a backup quarterback for the Black Knights before moving to safety his senior year. After graduating in 2010, Chase served as a graduate assistant coach at West Point. In addition to this role, he served as a mentor to players who needed tutoring and academic support. In late 2011, Prasnicki reported to his unit in Bamberg, Germany. He was a platoon leader with the 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
On June 27, 2012, Prasnicki was mortally wounded by an IED in the Wardak province of Afghanistan. When news began to circulate about his passing and the details surrounding it, myself and others who knew Chase were not surprised to hear that he had volunteered to lead a patrol even though he had only been in the country for a few days. Prasnicki epitomized the motto “lead by example” until he took his final breath.
Before Afghanistan, Germany, and West Point, Chase was a small-town kid from Lexington, VA. It was here where he learned the valuable lessons about leadership and servitude that allowed him to excel at West Point and in the military.
Prasnicki starred at quarterback for Rockbridge County High School. Current Dinwiddie County football coach Billy Mills coached Prasnicki in high school and can vividly remember the first time he laid eyes on him.
“We had a quarterback/receiver camp for the middle school kids and the youth in the area. Really just looking for our next quarterback. A young man really stood out to us. He wasn’t very big at the time, about 160lbs, but I liked the way he carried himself. He became our JV quarterback that year.”
Over the next few years, Coach Mills and Prasnicki spent a lot of time together working on building their relationship on and off the field. According to Mills, his most memorable memory of Chase was when he led his team back to victory against Fort Defiance High School in 2004.
“We found ourselves down late in the game, it was less than a touchdown. I remember calling our last timeout and it was fourth and a half yard…Chase jumps into the defensive huddle and was yelling at Pookie ‘I need the ball back.’ Pookie jumped over top of the center and hit the running back as he was getting the ball and his knee went down.”
He continued, “Chase got the ball with less than two minutes left to play. I don’t remember what happened on the first down but I remember second down we got sacked. It was like third and fifteen or fourth and fifteen, and he made a great throw to Brian Sandridge, and Brian made an incredible catch. Chase took us right down the field. Left, right, left, right.”
With less than thirty seconds remaining in the game, Mills called a pass play, but Chase decided to put the team on his back and win the game. “I saw him turn the corner and I knew he wasn’t going to throw it. He went in kind of sideways, ran over a couple guys, and scored. He just willed us to that win as he did nine times that year.”
Recent Grafton High School head coach Brandon Jarvis also played for Mills at Rockbridge County during this time and was the intended target of the final pass play.
“The last play Coach Mills called a roll-out pass. I ran my route, looked back at Chase, and I could see in his eyes that he was going to take it himself. That was the first time we beat Fort Defiance in school history and the reason we were able to do so was because we believed in Chase,” explained Jarvis.
When asked to elaborate on why the team believed so much in Chase, Coach Jarvis stated, “Chase valued hard work. He and I would go and get together in the offseason and throw. This was before you could practice year-round. He enjoyed the process of getting better more than the end result of winning football games. I believe that’s why we all bought into him as our leader.”
At the conclusion of the 2004 season, Coach Mills left Rockbridge for Dinwiddie and next in line to lead the Wildcats was his assistant Coach Jason White. Like Mills, White also played football at Emory and Henry College and had been on staff for a number of years prior to taking over.
As a first-time head coach in his mid-twenties, White explained how having a guy like Chase helped put his nerves at ease.
“There’s no doubt I learned more from Chase that season than he did from me. As a 27-year old rookie head coach, I couldn’t have survived without his experience and leadership to rely on. Chase was a leader in every aspect of his life. I am blessed to have known him.”
Today as we celebrate the 4th of July, I ask that everyone take a moment to remember Chase and the countless men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy this day with our loved ones.
For the young men who follow our website and social media, I implore you to work and lead like Chase.
Stop worrying about how many offers you have and what schools are recruiting you. Fall in love with the process of getting better as a student, athlete, and individual. Once you have done this you will see the fruits of your labor.
– Byron Jones