John, Kody Karpinski living father-son dream playing football for Shasta College

Father and son John and Kody Karpinski have spent the season together playing for the Shasta College Knights. (Photo by Mike Daly / Shasta County Sports)

The sideline was hyped when Shasta College quarterback Kody Karpinski truck-sticked a defender on a keeper in the fourth quarter of the Knights’ 49-21 loss to College of the Siskiyous.

The 6-foot-4, 214-pound QB ran right and lowered the boom on a linebacker and then dragged him and a few more Eagle defenders several more yards. It was a viral moment in an otherwise disappointing loss for the Knights.

But it took a backseat to the buzz when Karpinski’s father, John, ran out as a defensive end for Shasta later in the quarter.

Yes, both father and son saw action last week.

The curious thing is that Kody Karpinski is a 20-something fighting for a starting spot after a stellar prep career at West Valley where he threw for more than 3,500 yards in three varsity seasons.

John Karpinski is a 40-year-old man living a dream unfulfilled.

“I was a young dad and didn’t have the opportunity when I was younger,” said John who’s been married to Amy Karpinski for 22 years.

Instead, John Karpinski worked to support his young family, putting needs in front of wants after graduating from Gilroy High School in 1995 – the same year “Toy Story” hit theaters and OJ Simpson was acquitted.

At 17, he opened his own business, Amy said. Now, at 40, John owns and runs Reliable Truck and Trailer Repair in Cottonwood while juggling a full-time class load as well as his football commitments.

“John’s been a go-getter since we were young,” Amy Karpinski said. “I thought he was crazy when he first told me.

John Karpinski, 40, controls the edge on defense for the Knights. (Photo courtesy of Maddie Harrell Photography)

“He’s old,” she added with a laugh. “But I knew it was a bucket list thing. All I said was ‘Don’t get hurt.’”

But football isn’t the only thing John Karpinski’s chasing at Shasta College, as he’s working on a medical administration degree and carrying 14 units.

“I’ve worked myself into a place where I can afford to take off work and chase a dream,” said John. “So this is what I did and I made it.”

John and Kody Karpinski can say they share something most fathers and sons never get the opportunity to do – play football together.

“How many kids can say they played college ball with their dad?” Kody said. “It’s something I’m going to look back on in a couple of years, heck, even now, and think it’s really cool.”

John said he first thought about returning to the playing field about 10 years ago — about the same time Kody was beginning to play youth football.

Instead of padding up, John began coaching his son, first with the Junior Eagles and then in high school as the passing coordinator for the West Valley varsity program.

“There were times we butted heads, but I’ve matured and realized his football knowledge is impeccable,” Kody said.

But at Shasta College, on opposite sides of the ball, the Karpinskis don’t often talk shop. There might be occasional dinnertime banter, but “he’s a player out there and he does his own thing and I do mine,” Kody said.

“We don’t always talk a lot of football because he’s on the other side of the ball. Still, it’s neat to be out here with him,” John added.

Forty-year-old John Karpinski realized his dream of playing college football nearly 25 years after graduating high school. (Photo courtesy of Maddie Harrell)

Shasta College head coach Craig Thompson said he’s seen older guys come out to play football before, but that most don’t stick more than a few days or weeks.

“He came out determined and in great shape,” said Thompson. “He bought in 100 percent.

“He looks good … considering he’s a 40-year-old man. To be honest, it’s a great thing to see. He’s been very realistic and has no grand illusions. … He’s just living out a dream.”

Thompson said the one thing he’s seen from John is a tireless work ethic and persistence.

“I guarantee he has respect of all teammates,” the coach said. “It’s not a big deal until you realize it’s pretty special.”

John and Kody both said they trained together beforehand to get ready for the rigors of the season, but injuries have been a nemesis for each (shoulder troubles) and Father Time is always looking out for John.

“The journey has been really tough. When you’re talking about an older body, there are things that come up, but …  it’s hard work,” John said. “I’m not going to lie, there’s times you question what you’re doing, but you just keep pushing through and everyday it gets a little easier.”

For now, John, Kody and the Knights are focused on the final two games of a season that didn’t quite match the lofty expectations placed on them by last year’s success.

But when the Karpinskis have time down the road to reflect on what they’ve accomplished, they both said they’ll appreciate the moments, the sacrifice and the journey.

Kody Karpinski made the most of his time last week in a relief role for Shasta College. (Photo courtesy of Maddie Harrell)

“I get goosebumps talking about it,” Kody said. “Not many kids can say they watched their dad play, let alone play with him.”

Sadly, Amy Karpinski’s words of caution hit home for her husband as the rotator cuff injury which sidelined him for spring ball was re-aggravated during the Siskiyous game, shutting him down for the year and possibly for good.

But John was realistic coming into the pursuit of his gridiron moment, knowing that nothing is given.

“It’s a fun journey and something I can look back on when I’m older and maybe share with the grandkids,” he said. “If you have a dream, chase it.”

About Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams has been involved in the North State sports scene for nearly two decades. He spent eight years as the Sports Editor for the local newspaper and another four more as the voice of high school football on the radio. In addition to coaching freshman football, Williams is also the public address announcer for the Shasta College football team.

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