'I learned so much': Forgiveness buoys former Michigan State linebacker Jon Reschke
Jon Reschke understands words have meaning.
They can lift you up and they can smash you down.
They can also hurt.
He might not have grasped that concept until a little more than two years ago when the words he used in a text message ripped apart relationships, clouded trust and nearly derailed a promising football future.
“One of the hardest times I’ve ever gone through. It was the hardest time I’ve ever gone through,” Reschke, a former Michigan State and Brother Rice linebacker, told The Detroit News.
“But going through that situation I learned so much about a lot. I learned the meaning of words can affect someone.”
That moment, when he lashed out, using racially charged and insensitive words when talking about a former teammate, led to him leaving Michigan State for a year, planning to transfer, wondering if the bonds Reschke had created his first four years playing for the Spartans would be forever broken.
But growth and maturity, a hefty dose of understanding and forgiveness from those he hurt with his words, and a bad break that turned lucky left Reschke in a position to earn a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and return to Michigan State for one final season.
He played in all 13 games in 2018 and now is set to take part in pro day Monday at Michigan State in hopes of becoming a professional football player.
“To be able to finish my career as a Spartan meant everything to me,” Reschke said. “It meant everything to me and my family. It’s truly a blessing being able … It healed relationships, and these relationships are gonna last an entire lifetime. These are gonna be my friends for the rest of my life.”
It was early 2017 when everything, in particular those relationships, started to crumble around Reschke. That’s when the text was sent, and by February he had left the team, saying it was a “mutual” decision between him and coach Mark Dantonio.
“Negativity and anger led me to send a text message totally uncharacteristic of anything I would ever say,” Reschke said this week. “Because of how shocking and uncharacteristic the message was, the closest people in my life were deeply hurt. The situation impacted my life tremendously, especially my football career.”
Reschke intended to transfer and play one final season as a graduate. However, a last-minute decision to join teammates Damion Terry, Matt Morrissey and Byron Bullough in Fort Lauderdale for a spring break trip changed that plan.
“The first day down there we were skimboarding out on the beach in the morning and it was a windy day,” Reschke said. “I threw the board down and it kind of floated in the air and I jumped on it anyways and it just stuck to the sand and my knee buckled out. It was brutal.”
He suffered a torn ACL. With 16 credits left until graduating, the injury kept him from getting the courses completed on time to transfer and play one more season somewhere else, not that he could have anyway after the injury.
The path was starting to be cleared, and Reschke was starting to understand.
“I realized, this is God,” Reschke said. “This is God sending me a message.”
Perhaps, it seems, there was much more on the line — being humbled, finding forgiveness, making amends. It was all available to Reschke, and it wasn’t long before he realized which direction to go.
“There were talks about it during the 2017 season when I was out, and I would stay in touch with all the guys, stay in touch with the coaches because at that point I didn’t know whether or not I was transferring,” Reschke said. “I had a torn ACL, and was kind of just sitting out and waiting to see what would happen and I had the coaches on my side, my teammates on my side and I was patient. That spring we talked further and Coach Dantonio told me that, ‘We’re gonna get you back here as long as the guys are behind it.’ The guys fought for me. The guys said, ‘Coach, we need him back, we want him back, we want him by our side.’”
That meeting came only after Dantonio told the players on the team it was up to them whether Reschke would be welcomed back, specifically the team’s African-American players. It was a move they supported.
“In the heat of the moment, he made a mistake and he was mad,” running back LJ Scott said at Big Ten media days last July. “He came in and talked to us and apologized and it brought tears to his face.”
Reschke, who before the incident was on track to potentially be a captain in 2017, had already been humbled.
He’d lost his spot on the team and he’d damaged relationships. But his teammates accepting him back was the beginning of forgiveness.
However, he also needed to try and make amends with the teammate who was the target of his words. Reschke says that healing has happened, but it wasn’t easy.
“From this I became a better person, I became a better friend, a better teammate,” Reschke said. “My relationship with God grew a lot stronger. Just from that I’m forever thankful for the meaning of forgiveness.
“My teammates showed me what it means to forgive firsthand by standing behind me and allowing me to finish my career at Michigan State as a Spartan and I’ll never be able to thank them enough for that.”