Desert Vista’s Cade Van Raaphorst spent hours with his dad spinning the football back and forth.
Plenty of father and son combos have done so over the years, but it is a little different when the last name is Van Raaphorst.
His dad, Jeff, was a record-breaking quarterback at Arizona State, guiding the Sun Devils to their only Rose Bowl victory, and his uncle, Mike, played behind Carson Palmer at USC.
“We grew up playing catch, throwing the ball in the backyard and once you start throwing the ball, you either like it or you don’t,” Cade said. “My brother (2009 graduate Jake) didn’t and played safety. I stuck with it and I had one of the better teachers in the state, so why not take advantage?”
Cade was named starting quarterback to begin the 2013 season, but a knee injury cut his season short and sophomore Alex Farina took over and fared well enough to remain the starter into the spring, leading to a position change for Van Raaphorst, who is one of the Thunder’s bigger physical presences as a 6-foot-1 and 215-pound outside linebacker.
“There’s parts of me that is going to miss it this year, but that’s to be expected after playing that position all growing up,” he said.
In the big picture, the move made sense considering his future very much looks to be in lacrosse. Not only did he help the Thunder to the state club title, he has been committed to Duke for a year and a half and his commitments to the game kept him away from a portion of the football offseason activities.
But that doesn’t mean it was easy.
“It hurts your pride a little, for sure,” he said. “We are all competitive and you want to be the best, but previous to varsity, you play both ways. I always played defense growing up and I play defense in lacrosse. Playing quarterback was never pushed on me, it just happened with time, and now that time is over.”
Thunder coach Dan Hinds has had to talk to players about position changes time and time again. It isn’t always easy and there can be some apprehension and tension involved.
“But I knew Cade and I had a great relationship,” Hinds said. “It’s not always easy but the respect we have for each other made it easier to talk. He comes for a great family, a football family, and it went as good as could be expected.”
While the news wasn’t easy to take, it was clear once Van Raaphorst was done with his lacrosse commitments, he was going to do whatever the team needed.
“We already knew Cade would be an unselfish and giving guy,” senior T.J. Roberts said. “He earns everything he works for. He is one of the best athletes I’ve ever played with, so he will make the transition fine and give everything he’s got.”
Van Raaphorst knew he could send a message — either good or bad — by how he reacted to the position change.
“Any way I can be a leader, I am going to do it,” he said. “We talked about senior leadership and that’s part of it. I may not be a captain, but any way I can do my part to make this team better and make everyone better as men, I’ll do it.”
It is clear Van Raaphorst is a nationally respected defenseman in lacrosse with some of the premier college programs offering him scholarships and being selected to the underclassmen All-American game in Baltimore over the summer.
And he believes there is a crossover to playing linebacker, a position he played all but last year since putting on the shoulder pads.
“There is some similarities that help,” he said. “There is a lot of the side-to-side action and filling a hole. You are not flooring it toward someone else like lacrosse, but you do have to read and react and get in position. It helps when trying to make an open-field tackle. There’s a lot of crossover between the two.
“I only took a year off, so it’s still natural. I think once I step on the field, it will be just about making plays and helping the team. If I see the ball, I am going to go get it.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.