Men's Sports Sports

Caeden Hale has overcome obstacles on and off the field

By Emily Zambarano

As the sun started to turn from light to burnt orange, shadows of the bleachers on Stagg Field — on the campus of Springfield College — became prominent on the 30-yard line. The sun wasn’t the only warmth on the turf, as the football team was practicing during the preseason for a big season ahead. 

Caeden Hale, a senior offensive lineman, came into training camp fired up and ready to go for his final season as a member of the Pride. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some other small bumps along the road, Hale never had the opportunity to really play at Springfield College. This put extra excitement and fuel in his body, as he felt that this was finally his time.

His team, or “the brotherhood” as it is known, had always prided itself around community and support. The field was abuzz with whistles and yelling from coaches and players; before anyone knew, shock glazed over the faces of the offensive linemen as one of their teammates – Hale – lay motionless on the ground.

 “It was the scariest moment of my life,” said Hale.

With emotion in her voice, Shannon Hale, Caeden’s mother, recalled the account of her son passing out on the football field. 

 “He said he just remembers [going] black, and he could hear the voices, but he couldn’t move anything or talk,” she said. “He said he felt fine. He didn’t tell anybody, because that’s Caeden. Practice is not practice, it’s a game. He went to hit the sled, he went down, attempted to stand back up…and then bloop! … [he was] down.” 

 Seasons cut short or modified – an injury here or there – these may seem like minor challenges for an athlete, but for Hale, the pile-up of bumps had him facing adversity from a young age. 

He was born almost six weeks early. There he was monitored in the NICU until he was strong enough to go home. 

 Shannon said he was not developing at a standard rate, and this made her worry. Finally, after some abnormalities with his strength, she was done waiting and decided to take him to Children’s Hospital in Boston. 

 This is where Hale’s life path became unknown, and his mother received devastating news. 

 To say Shannon was distraught was an understatement. “The thing we ended up focusing on that broke our hearts the most was when they said he had cerebral palsy, and we were like, what?” she recalled.

 After hearing such a startling diagnosis, Shannon did everything she could as a mother to ensure her son was getting the proper treatment and care he deserved. With nannies, specialists, caregivers, and outside doctors, she had it covered. 

 As he grew, with the support of those around him, Hale eventually worked his way into the school system smoothly. Shannon said he was quick to make friends and loved going to school.

 Despite the wild ride of his younger years, Hale had a pretty successful teenage career. He loved to make people smile, and he loved school. However, his main passion was sports – where he really excelled.

 He grew up playing hockey, as his dad’s family had some skaters on their side, and he had always swung a baseball bat because he was good at it. What he really loved, though, was football. 

 Hale attended Beverly High School in Massachusetts and did very well athletically. He caught the attention of the Springfield College coaches, and after a few meetings, he ultimately chose to become a member of the Pride. 

 When Hale got to Springfield, he met so many great people who, to this day, he keeps close to his heart. Not knowing how they would support him later in college, he is thankful for these connections.

 College was not smooth sailing, and once again, Hale was fighting for the chance to play. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented him from having a “normal” season until this fall. 

 With much pressure put on this season as the best opportunity for Hale, having a sport-ending injury halfway through the season was something he never envisioned for himself. 

 Time after time again, he was faced with adversity. Whether it was in the form of an injury, mental health issues, the pandemic, or making that choice to step away from football, Hale has seen adversity, and not only has he looked it in the eyes, but he beat the odds. He did not let it stop him from helping others, being that role model for his teammates, or being the supporter.

 The football team imposed an expectation where no man was left behind. Hale did not need the jersey to be a member of the team. 

 “Obviously he’s had a number of injuries over the years, which has probably been extremely disappointing to him,” head football coach for the Pride Mike Cerasuolo said. “He never really got that opportunity to play, so he does the best job he can with providing support to others on the team. His identity as a player changed, but his identity as a person didn’t.” 

 Coach “C,” as his players call him, wants the players to learn more than just football when joining the team. 

 “The brotherhood has given so much back to me, has molded me into a better man, a better person, and has kind of unlocked my true inner self…these guys are the reason I stuck around,” Hale said.

 After Hale passed out early this fall, he went to the doctor to get checked out. Unfortunately, they told him that it was time to hang up the cleats.  

 “They brought me to a hospital, I didn’t have any brain bleeds or anything like that, I continued to rest,” Hale said.

 Afterward, he saw a concussion specialist that showed no damage to his brain, but they did find a bulging disc in his neck. “I remembered the doctor saying to me that this was not normal and that I am lucky my brain is okay,” Hale said.

 That is when the doctor informed Hale that he would be out for the season. The doctor told him she knew of his eligibility and would leave the choice up to him, but ultimately she wanted him to know the severe risks if he did continue playing football. 

 However, Hale persevered with a positive mindset despite the heart-wrenching news: 

“I knew deep inside my life is bigger than being a football player…I have to step away for my own health, it was the hardest decision I felt like I had to make, but it was kind of a little bit easier because it was made for me in retrospect,” Hale said.

 Hanging up the helmet was an emotional and tough decision for Hale. 

 “As sad as I was, I knew I could not let this break me,” Hale said. “I have been through this before, I have been through challenges my entire life, and this is just another setback – things happen for a reason.”

 Hale has chosen to take a positive outlook on this new chapter in his life. 

 He has used what he has learned at Springfield and as a brother to give back to the football program and other aspects of his life in any way he can. 

 Hale still goes to every practice, lift, and team meetings.  He does not only help out, but he goes above and beyond to support his teammates.  

 “Caeden is ‘What you see is what you get.’ He wears his heart on his sleeve,” said Hale’s teammate and roommate Cam Borges.

 As a Psychology major, Hale’s goals after college are to get his Master’s degree in clinical social work and become a counselor in a high school setting, specifically mental health. Ultimately, he wants the opportunity to give back what he learned from adversity.  

 Hale has cultivated so much experience that with his athletic perspective, one day, he wants to open up a practice for “anyone and everyone.” 

  “The game ends at some point in everyone’s life, you just do not know when, but the important thing is taking the lessons you learned from the game, and from your experiences, and using it in your everyday life to make yourself better each day,” Hale said.

Photo Courtesy of  Caeden Hale

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