Cerasani goes 'Jogging for Josh' in marathon show of support

Running a marathon was not on the "to do" list of Leyden football coach Tom Cerasani.

But Cerasani decided to go the extra mile to do something to help former Leyden player Josh Padilla, who has autism. Actually, it turned out to be 508 extra miles of training the last five months in order to tackle the grueling 26.2-mile test of the Chicago Marathon last Sunday.

Cerasani was part of a 15-person team called "Jogging For Josh" that raised $17,400 for the Organization For Autism Research.

"I feel better but I was pretty sore (Monday)," Cerasani said on Tuesday. "The training was tough. Everything was tough about it, but it was for a great cause."

Especially considering the impact Padilla ultimately had on the Leyden community in his four years in the football program. In his final game last year on an emotion-filled senior night, Padilla took a short pass and ran 66 yards for a touchdown on a set play agreed to by Proviso East.

"He came a long way in four years, from a kid who wouldn't talk to anybody to becoming one of the guys," Cerasani said. "His dad Dan is a big advocate for him and he got me involved in the marathon. It opened my eyes, too, the things they do for autism research."

Cerasani laughed about how he wound up going well beyond his longest race of 5 miles. Dan Padilla put Cerasani's name on a list of runners on the "Jogging For Josh" team.

"I saw that and said, 'I guess I'm running it,' " Cerasani said.

There were plenty of challenges for Cerasani, a 1990 Schaumburg graduate who was an all-area quarterback for his dad Tom Sr. A good chunk of his training would come in the midst of the always time-consuming football season.

There was also teaching and making sure his wife and two young kids got their share of time, too.

"Luckily my wife was very understanding and supportive of the training," Cerasani said. "But all of the coaches can attest to the fact I wasn't always in the best mood.

"It was difficult. I've been an athlete my whole life and I thought I could do anything, but this was definitely a test of physical and mental toughness."

Leyden assistant coach Mike Anderson, one of the stars of Prospect's 2001 Class 7A football state champion, also planned to run in hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. But a stress fracture in Anderson's shin put him on crutches for the last month.

Cerasani had no such delusions of grandeur but hoped to finish the Chicago Marathon in three hours and 40 minutes. Leg cramps in the final miles wound up knocking his time down to 4:15.

What truly mattered was Cerasani completed the race for Josh Padilla, who is currently in a transition program to independent living at Leyden. Padilla was there to cheer for him and the rest of the "Jogging For Josh" team.

"That part of it was awesome," Cerasani said of the money raised from the marathon. "We got to see on a daily basis a lot of things he overcame and it was very motivating for the rest of the team and coaches. To see his progress has been great."

So, is Cerasani now driven to run more marathons?

"No," Cerasani said with a laugh. "This is going to be my first and last."

It will be memorable for all the right reasons.

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