But as the season got closer, DJ couldn't stay away.
“I don't want to grow up and I'm 45 years old and thinking, ‘What if I would've played back then?'” DJ said. “It was a big risk playing football but in the end, even if I got hurt again, it's for the best.
He started from the bottom rung, having to work his way back to earn playing time. Eventually, he earned a starting spot on a Norman North linebacking corps that could be the best in the state.
“This is the last time I'm ever going to play football so I'm working as hard as I can,” DJ said. “I'm leaving it on the field and having no regrets.”
That was the biggest thing he feared had he chosen not to play — regret.
“To be playing for a title is still kind of surreal. It's so rewarding after all the hard work we've put in and the risk and the pain that me and a lot of the other players have gone through.”
Patty can see the pain in her son's face when he's on the football field.
She sees the effects the injuries have had on DJ.
“I don't think anyone really knows how much sometimes adrenaline keeps him going,” Patty said. “He's been pretty diligent about going through the treatment and taking as much care as possible. He really wanted to make it through the season.”
DJ's effort has also meant a lot to his teammates.
“It shows you how much he cares for us and the team to come out and give it his all every game through that,” Norman North linebacker Jordan Evans said. “He's a great leader who leads not only by what he says but also by example.”
Now, DJ just has four quarters left, and his mom will be there to see them.
“It wasn't much of a choice for me,” Patty Gasso said. “I've had a lot of big moments and he's been there for all of them.
“I needed to be there for his big moment.”
16 Week Curriculum With Instructions, Lesson Plans & CNG Conversion Kit
Norman North (12-1) at Jenks (11-2)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater
Noteworthy: Jenks is playing for its first title since 2007, while Norman North is going for its first. ... Both teams feature players committed to Oklahoma. Norman North linebacker Jordan Evans committed to the Sooners earlier this week, while Jenks receiver Jordan Smallwood committed to OU during the summer. ... Norman North quarterback Peyton Gavras is the top passer in Class 6A. Last week he threw for nearly 400 yards and five touchdowns. ... Jenks running back Trey'vonne Barr'e has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards.