Ferry’s Weir has added motivation for every game
MARTINS FERRY — Every player who takes the field tonight in the annual Martins Ferry and Bellaire game wants to win in the worst way.
For Purple Rider senior Jack Weir it’s taking on an even greater importance.
And honestly, It has nothing to do with Bellaire or even the coveted SPARKY Trophy. It’s much more personal than that.
As the month of October winds down, Weir continues to play to honor his late mother, Susan Wisvari-Weir, who passed away after a lengthy bout with breast cancer on Aug. 15, 2017 at the age of 49.
Weir’s tributes will be clearly visible tonight when the Purple Riders take the field.
“You know what they say, ‘real men wear pink,'” Weir said. “I always wear pink wristbands, but during October, I make more of an effort to show them off. I want people to ask me, so I can share (my mom’s) legacy with them, as well as spread awareness. My hope is that my mom’s story and how she fought could be an inspiration to others.”
Weir was a 14-year-old freshman at the Linsly School when he lost his mother. His sister, Taylor, was a senior at the school.
Dealing with a personal tragedy is difficult at any age, but it’s especially challenging for teenagers. When you consider the fact that though Susan had been battling cancer for a while, her passing was still deemed “sudden” made the tragedy even tougher and more confusing.
“It did not feel like real life,” Weir said. “My sister and I were stunned.”
Susan worked part time at Linsly just for the opportunity to be closer to her children. Actually, Jack and Taylor had just seen their mom “maybe an hour” prior to her death.
“It was like a bad joke or a bad dream. At times, it still doesn’t feel real,” Jack said. “At just 14 years old, I knew I still had so many big, life moments coming up, but none of it felt worth it without the presence of my mom.”
Obviously, the grieving process is handled differently by each person. According to Jack, he thought about his mom and how she would want him to continue to move forward in life and soak up every opportunity and moment he could.
“I realized life has to keep going on,” Jack said. “My dad (Jim) and I went and saw her that night and at first that was very scary and hard to see her that way, but I was able to spend some time talking with her and I know she heard me.”
Though he knew she would want him to move forward, he also admits to having a few moments where maybe he got off the tracks a little bit. Fortunately, he was able to realize it before it became too much of an issue that he couldn’t regain control.
“It didn’t take long, after my mom passed, to realize that I wasn’t handling it very well,” Weir recalled. “Worldly temptations surrounded me quickly and I made a lot of dumb mistakes. Things I wish had never happened. But, as I’ve pushed through and gotten older, my faith has grown. I’ve realized it’s alright to miss my mom and there are going to be certain things that remind me of her, but I always try to remind myself of the good memories. I am honestly grateful for the memories I have.”
Jack remained at Linsly as a student-athlete until the spring of last school year when he opted to transfer to Martins Ferry. He was quite appreciative of the support he received from the entire Linsly community during the weeks and months following his mom’s passing.
“Everyone at Linsly was great,” Jack admitted. “(Linsly Headmaster) Mr. (Justin) Zimmerman and the staff were very patient with me. Coach (B.J.) Depew honored my mom with a home game in her memory.”
Ironically, that game that was played in honor of Susan was the game in which Jack made his first varsity catch as a freshman.
“I just appreciate (Linsly) so much,” Jack said. “I also have some very close friends at Linsly who are a part of my church family, too. I am grateful for them every day. They picked me up when I needed them the most.”
The decision to come to Martins Ferry involved a lot of factors, but his mom was part of that, too. After the Cadets swimming season ended in February, Jack and his family decided that becoming a Purple Rider would be the best move for him to finish his high school career.
Quite frankly, the fact that his mom had worked at Linsly and been so visible each day there was a big part of it.
“A lot of small things led to the big move,” Jack said. “I just couldn’t get past all of the feelings and emotions. My sister went to college three days after my mom’s funeral and things (at Linsly) just felt so different and kind of meaningless. I have so much respect for all of the members of the Linsly community and they were a huge part of my development. I just decided I needed a change and a fresh start.”
Originally, when Jack approached his dad with the idea of leaving Linsly it was met with an abrupt, “no way!”
However, after listening to all of his son’s concerns and a lengthy discussion, Jack was able to convince his dad that the move would be in the best interest of him both in terms of academics and athletics.
“I knew I had more to offer in terms of my academics and athletics, but I really felt like a new environment would help that,” Weir pointed out. “I still keep in touch with my friends and close teachers from Linsly and I wish them nothing but the best. I know they want the same for me.”
Weir has served primarily as Martins Ferry’s back-up quarterback, but has been called upon several times this season because of an early season injury to starter Logan Smith.
When he’s been thrust into duty, Weir has played well. He’s passed for almost 300 yards and thrown a touchdown. He was called upon in the middle of the Shadyside game and helped lead the Purple Riders to victory in that game. He actually started against his old Cadet teammates the following week.
Weir would have been lying if he said there wasn’t part of time who glanced into the crowd after some ‘big’ plays in those games, wondering how his mom would have reacted.
“I think about my mom a lot before, during and after the game,” Jack said. “I think about her when we say our prayers before we take the field. I think about her when I run out on the field, knowing she is watching over me. I also think about her after the game … win or lose. It’s constant.”
Each time Weir steps on the field, he looks at as a chance to represent his mom “in a positive way.”
“I know I can’t see or hear her, but (I know) she would be the loudest one (at the games), doing some crazy dance on a good play,” Weir said. “Prior to her passing, we would talk about all of the things I wanted to accomplish and bring a quarterback was one of them. I know that she’s with me and is my personal protector on the field.”
While every athlete has his own personal goals to go along with the team goals, Jack Weir’s motivation stems from what he watched his mother endure during his fight against cancer.
“No matter how many sprints we have to run or early morning (practices) we have to get up for, nothing can compare to what cancer patients have to go through,” Weir conveyed. “Every day is a battle for them and they never give up. They are the true warriors in life. That has helped team me, for sports, to never settle for less than the best. We have to give 100% effort and we have to make each day count because you never know when it could be your last.”
TWO SENIORS taking part in tonight’s game have already been recognized for their academic prowess. Martins Ferry’s Alex Bennett and Bellaire’s Vinnie Patrone were recently named Great American Rivalry Series Scholar Athletes for 2020. Each receives a $500 scholarship and becomes eligible to become a member of the inaugural Great American Rivalry Series Scholar Athlete Hall of Fame Team.
Staskey can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at twitter.com/TLSportsSeth