Bishop Brady senior born with nerve damage in arm to continue football career at Curry College

  • Bishop Brady athletic director Annie Alosa (right) and football coach Matt Shaw (left) watch on as senior Chase Buckman signs his celebratory letter to attend Curry College and compete on the football team next year during a signing in February at Bishop Brady High School. Courtesy of Bishop Brady Athletics

  • Bishop Brady’s Chase Buckman hits a ground ball during a game at Rollins Park in Concord on April 28, 2017. Buckman, who was born with limited use of his right hand, recently signed his celebratory letter to attend and play football at Curry College next fall. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

  • Bishop Brady senior captain Chase Buckman (72) stands with teammates before kickoff during a game against Farmington last season. Buckman, who was born with Erb’s Palsy, signed his celebratory letter to attend Curry College this fall. RAY LABBE / Courtesy

  • Bishop Brady’s Chase Buckman (72) holds hands with teammates after a contest against Farmington last season. Buckman, who was born with Erb’s Palsy, will attend and play football at Curry College this fall. BELOW: Buckman (72) prepares to make a block in a game last season. RAY LABBE / Courtesy

  • Bishop Brady senior Chase Buckman (72) prepares to make a block during a game against Farmington last season. RAY LABBE / Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 3/19/2018 11:55:27 PM

Chase Buckman can still hear the phrase. In a lot of ways, it’s been a driving force for the senior since the day he arrived at Bishop Brady High School for his very first practice with the football team.

“I was completely out of shape, it was my first time playing football ever and I threw up three times in one drill,” Buckman recalled. “And (Brady coach Matt Shaw) was like ‘Keep working, Buckman.’ That’s all he said and throughout the four years, that’s all he said, ‘Keep working, Buckman.’

The message hit home. With those three words, playing football didn’t feel like an impossible task anymore. It just required hard work, and Buckman’s been used to that since the day he was born.

Buckman suffered a brachial plexus during birth called Erb’s Palsy – a type of paralysis that resulted in limited use of his right arm and hand. He underwent two surgeries at Boston Children’s Hospital – the first at 10 months old and the other when he was 3 – and has gone through countless hours of physical therapy.

Even with the surgeries and therapy, Buckman will have restrictions on that arm for the rest of his life. But he doesn’t allow the arm to restrict his life.

Buckman has been a four-sport athlete for the Giants – football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He’s part of Bishop Brady’s Student Athlete Leadership Team. And this fall he’ll live his dream of playing college football at Division III Curry College in Milton, Mass.

“Everybody says it’s kind of like a dream come true,” Buckman said. “My freshman year when I first started playing football, I fell in love with it the first day. Right then and there I knew it was what I wanted to do. ... For the past few years I’ve been working so hard at it, so to finally get there and have it on that piece of paper was the best feeling in the world.”

“As much as he may have doubted himself, he really had a drive even at a very young age,” said Chase’s mother, Maria Buckman. “He’s amazing and it’s been a really long road for him to come to this place in life, but he’s always had a drive inside of him to find a way.”

Shaw tapped into that drive when he encouraged Buckman to keep working on that first day of practice. The coach had his doubts early on, but those quickly vanished.

“When you first shake someone’s hand, with Chase it’s that right hand and it’s kind of hard to miss, but we had to think, ‘Okay, he wants to play defensive end, that’s where we think his speed will help us. Well, what side of the line is he going to be more capable of doing it?’Shaw said. “The longer I knew him and the harder the kid worked, I realized it really didn’t matter where I put him. It was what he wanted to accomplish and it didn’t really matter what I was going to do because he was going to prove me wrong no matter what.”

Chase ended up being an impact player for the Giants for all four seasons, even transitioning from defensive end to linebacker this past fall. He played across the offensive line, mainly at center, and rarely – if ever – came off the field.

“I’m amazed with Chase to be honest with you,” Shaw said. “He’s able to do more with one fully functional arm than most guys I know that have two. On the offensive line he plays center. This year as a senior he played linebacker, which is a hard position to play on its own, and he really kind of filled that role on both sides of the ball.

“I never found Chase to have any limitations – he didn’t put any on himself – so therefore I didn’t feel the need to put any on him myself as a coach,” Shaw said.

And it wasn’t just on the gridiron where Chase excelled.

He’s played hockey since he was 6 years old, was the starting center for the Brady boys’ basketball team this winter and pitches and plays first base for the baseball team.

“We did encourage him (to play sports),” Maria Buckman said. “(Boston’s Children Hospital) encouraged him and us to have him do whatever he can do to continue to work on his arm. Whether it’s physical therapies, sports or anything that includes his arm.”

On the baseball diamond, Chase’s mechanics on the mound induce memories of MLB pitcher Jim Abbott by throwing and then quickly switching the glove over to his left hand. On the football field, he takes after a newly discovered role model – NFL prospect Shaquem Griffin. He had his left hand amputated at a young age but thrived as a linebacker at the University of Central Florida and tore up the NFL combine earlier this month.

“The combine came up and I was all about him,” Chase said of Griffin. “I saw this thing about him saying that his dad, his brother and his family always helped him get through things like making things for him to able to work out. I’m an only child, but emotionally and mentally, my family has always been there. They’ve been that thing to help me keep going.”

Chase needed that unconditional support growing up with his condition.

“When I was a kid I was so down, I didn’t know why. I always asked myself why did I have to be the one to have this? Why me?” Chase said. “I was constantly asking those questions. I really changed during my junior year, that’s when I started to realize this is starting to come together.

“Once I learned through Brady that this wasn’t done to me, it was given to me, and I truly believe that,” he said. “I believe that god gave this to me for me to work for him. It’s his plan and that’s what I need to do. It’s not like a burden, it’s more of a blessing that I can prove to other people with what you’re given, you can do anything you want.”

That includes playing college football. And when he arrives for his first day of football practice at Curry, he’ll undoubtedly hear the phrase “Keep working, Buckman” in his head as he sets out to inspire a new coach, team and school.

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)

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