LIVINGSTON — There was almost a feeling of panic surrounding the Livingston football program this spring.
The Wolves didn't have a quarterback.
Imagine a Hollywood director getting ready to shoot a blockbuster summer movie without a leading man.
That was Livingston coach Chris Lacey as he nervously made a phone call to Hawaii.
Senior Gabe Deol was on the fence about playing football. He was the Wolves only legitimate answer at quarterback to replace last year's do-everything star, Brian Alvarez.
Lacey made one last pitch to Deol's father, Bobby.
"I called him in Hawaii," Lacey said. "They were on vacation and I left a message on Bobby's phone.
"I said, 'Bobby, I really need Gabe out here playing.' He called back and we talked. He said he'd talk to him, but ultimately the decision to play would come from him. He wasn't going to put any pressure on him. That's good parenting.
"That call to Hawaii was us punting, our hail mary — it was everything at the same time. When I got the call back with him saying he'd play, the first thing I did was call our other coaches. I think we all had a collective sigh of relief. It was like, 'OK, now we can do the things we wanted to do.' "
Deol has been all-in since making his decision and has given the Wolves another dual threat at quarterback, helping Livingston get off to a 2-0 start.
Livingston will have another tough test Friday night when Le Grand (1-0) comes to town.
Lacey and the coaching staff weren't the only ones concerned this spring.
"It kind of got scary," said senior running back Brian Perez. "I've known Gabe for a long time. We've played football together forever. We had no other option at quarterback. I tried my best to get him to play. I chatted with him a couple times on the phone. I personally went over to his house."
The decision to play football wasn't easy for Deol. His original plan was to focus on school and getting into college.
He has a 3.63 GPA and his sights are set on U.C. Davis where he wants to begin his journey into the medical field.
"I talked it over with my dad," Gabe said. "He always helps me with big decisions. We made a list of the pros and cons of playing football. In the end, this is my last year with these guys. I want to make it last."
The transition to quarterback wasn't easy, either. Deol did a little bit of everything for the Wolves last year as a flyback, receiver, cornerback and safety.
Deol played quarterback on junior varsity two years ago, but spent the bulk of the time handing off the ball.
"It's been a learning experience," Deol said. "It's the hardest position on the field. You have to play with your brain a lot more than you do at running back. Making pre-reads is hard for a beginner like me. Getting to know what everybody else has to do is hard."
So far, so good.
He's completed 9 of 16 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown in the Wolves' wins over Orestimba and Modesto Christian.
His arm hasn't lit up the scoreboard, but it has kept defenses honest.
"It would have been a lot harder to bring someone in new to the system," Lacey said. "Even some of the verbiage and hand signals were a litte foreign to Gabe.
"I had such a good rapport with Brian the last couple years. I didn't have that with Gabe right away, but he's quickly picking it up."
And Deol is becoming a leader.
"We saw it last week against Modesto Christian," Lacey said. "He started grabbing shoulder pads. It was like a 'get on board' type of thing. He's a soft-spoken kid, but he shows his emotion with the way he plays."
As for Deol, well, Dad was right.
"I'm extremly happy with my decision," he said. "We have a good team this year. We should do well."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or at firstname.lastname@example.org