Elk Grove senior quarterback Dejan Basara stayed focus and helped the Grenadiers to an milestone season.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
Dejan Basara figured he had just played his last football game in an Elk Grove uniform.
He was on his way home from the hospital after breaking his collarbone against Schaumburg in the season's fourth game. Basara did the math and knew the time he was likely to be sidelined stacked the odds against a return to the field.
So, would the injury put Basara on the outside looking in at what was supposed to be a special season? Would it push him aside, almost turning him into an athletic orphan, which Elk Grove coach Brian Doll said can happen to players who are hurt?
Basara found out where he stood in his teammates eyes when he finally arrived at home that night.
"Everybody came to my house and was in front of my house and waiting for me," Basara said. "I thought, 'Wow.' It was very emotional.
"That really hit me and the easiest part for me to do would be to not care anymore. Then everything started happening."
Basara's time frame for a return was shorter than expected. Elk Grove kept winning and its season kept looking as if it would go longer than many expected.
By the time the postseason rolled around, Basara was doing even more than what he had been before his injury. What he had done all along was the fuel for a team that won 10 games and a Mid-Suburban East title and reached the Class 7A state quarterfinals.
Not bad for a team where outside expectations weren't high after the graduation of quarterback Nick Meyer, the Cook County honorary captain of the Daily Herald's 2010 All-Area Football Team.
"I'm sure there was pressure and the way he handled it and excelled was so impressive," Doll said of Basara. "If there's an all-state leadership team, I would expect him to be the captain of it."
So, it's no surprise Basara is this year's Cook County honorary captain of the Daily Herald All-Area Football Team.
He scored an area-best 132 points, rushed for 745 yards and 15 touchdowns, passed for 648 yards and 4 touchdowns and kicked 5 field goals.
When he returned to the offense in the playoffs he also saw action at tight end. It produced a dilemma for defenses wondering on each play if Basara or sophomore Adam O'Malley would be at quarterback.
Basara was also a returning starter at linebacker for one of the area's top defenses and was the long snapper on punts.
"There are kids more talented than him physically," Doll said, "but I don't know if emotionally or psychologically anyone will touch what he's done for awhile."
What Basara did more than anything was help make a team believe anything was possible.
"Coaches always tell you hard work is going to pay off," Basara said. "To actually see it happen, where everyone is working hard and to see the payoff, it's actually true.
"What I learned most is if you want something really, really bad it could happen."
Even when something bad such as Basara's injury happened. It's the type of occurrence that often motivates teams to prove they can with without their star.
It was different for Elk Grove. The common theme among players was to win for Basara so he could play again.
"The kids bought into the whole thing that they want to play deep enough into the playoffs so he can come back," Doll said. "That's the way the kids felt about him. He was the leader."
Shortly after the injury, Basara talked to defensive coordinator Rob Pomazak and started doing weight work to keep his legs in shape.
Good thing since he was medically cleared to kick in Week 7 and the right leg provided the dramatic game-winning field goal in the final minutes of a 24-21 win at Prospect.
"It was almost like a movie," Doll said.
But he was no "Neon Dejan." His game was more grit than glitz, which earned the respect and admiration of his own coaches and players but also those on the opposition.
It will also earn him a roster spot somewhere next year. Basara isn't sure where or at what level yet, but the school that gets him will be better for it in the long run.
As Elk Grove figures to be since Basara is already helping others the same way Meyer helped him last offseason.
"When I came in I told myself I don't want to be known as the best player that ever played there," Basara said. "I wanted to be somebody the younger kids looked up to.
"We don't have to be there but we're still going to all of the (off-season) things. Me and Stef (Skoneczka) still feel like we're a part of it and want to be a part of it. We want to see this year's juniors succeed and go farther than we did."
Which is certainly possible if they follow Basara's lead.
"The school and community and coaching staff will tell stories about Dejan for a long time to come with all he's done," Doll said.