Casey Taub was an intelligent 16-year-old history buff and an all-around likable guy.
People described him as mature beyond his age. He loved conversing with adults and would often do so at his parents’ parties.
There was one thing, however, that Casey loved more than just about everything—soccer.
One day, the soccer fanatic started feeling dizzy.
At age 14, Casey began having dizzy spells that were thought to be vertigo. Casey then underwent more comprehensive tests that resulted in an unexpected diagnosis of brain cancer.
The news was devastating, and Casey’s first question to his father was, “Am I going to die?”
There was no easy answer to that question and his father, wanting to be both honest and loving, gave the knee-jerk response of, “No.” He answered in an interview with Yahoo News, “You immediately tell him, ‘No.’ What do you do? You pray.”
Casey’s dad, Jonathan, would have told his son the same thing no regardless what the prognosis was. “Initially I thought it was something a lot of kids recover from,” said Casey’s dad. “Then we saw it was a mutated tumor, which you never want to hear.”
It was cancer versus jersey number 22.
Casey went through six weeks of radiation, five days each week. He also underwent three major surgeries, which at one point start to show hope, but his body couldn’t react quickly enough to aggressive cancer, try as it might.
If you asked Casey what the most difficult part of enduring all he went through, he would probably answer not being able to play soccer. Even cancer could not stop his love for the game.
However, he couldn’t play anymore, so he was named team manager.
But he never stopped wearing his jersey with his chosen number ’22’ on it. That jersey and number represented Casey’s identity and a passion for something he loved. In fact, he had chosen the number 22 back in 4th grade when he was ten, and it had stayed with him every year since.
He met some of his heroes.
At age 16, the reality that he might not live to participate in his own high school graduation hit home. At the rate the cancer was attacking his body, the chances were slim. That’s when the Make-A-Wish foundation granted Casey a chance to meet his favorite soccer team, the Chelsea team from London.
That visit included getting to personally meet some of his soccer heroes from the New York City FC. Khiry Shelton, in fact, spent hours with Casey while he was hospitalized.
He was soon gone.
On July 9th, Casey passed away. He was only 16 years old.
“He soldiered through a lot of stuff,” said Jonathan. “He was a trooper. He never gave up.”
The collective remorse and devastation of losing Casey were beyond measure. Any words to describe how his family and friends felt after his death would fall far short of their true emotions.
However, his memory would soon come back to comfort them in a way they least expected.
Teammates planned to honor Casey.
His family and teammates felt helpless and wanted to do something to celebrate his life and come closer to their own personal closure. They all felt for one another deeply. But what could they do?
More than 800 people were present at Casey’s funeral, and it was there that his teammates started to devise a plan to honor their friend’s legacy. Respectfully, they ran the idea by Casey’s dad.
“I was all for it,” said Jonathan. “For some reason, still, in a way, it sort of gave me comfort … that I’m still connected to [Casey].”
He was loved and respected.
The Horace Greeley High School Soccer team had decided that in their next game when the play clock hit 22 minutes, the crowd would applaud slowly to honor Casey. That plan played out exactly as described. When 22 minutes showed on the clock, fans began their somber clap.
At that exact moment, team captain Matt LaFortezza scored a goal, which sent the crowd into a collective frenzy of cheering of “did-that-really-just-happen?” shock.
Then everyone saw the clock.
But then, another stunning revelation—the goal was scored at exactly at 22 minutes on the scoreboard, but because the digital clock also displays seconds, the precise time the clock stopped was 22:22.
That was more than anyone could pass off as mere coincidence. The odds of something like that happening are astronomical.
“When they started the clapping thing I was OK,” said Jonathan. “As it kept going on, I was overcome. When the goal was scored I was crying and everyone was comforting me.”
At 22 minutes and 22 seconds, everyone knew that Casey Taub was both on that field and in the hearts of all who witnessed what had happened.