Official Dave Rabe's remarkable comeback

INDIANAPOLIS - "Blood, sweat and tears" -- the familiar refrain in athletics applies to more than just the guys wearing jerseys on Friday nights.

Sports are filled with comeback stories and the thrill of game night isn't just reserved for players.

Head linesman Dave Rabe, 54, is a former fighter pilot who flew the F-4, F-16, F-117, T-37 and T-38.

His battle after service is also noteworthy. Rabe has overcome five bouts with sarcoma. The cancer cost him his right arm and shoulder.

Rabe's struggle is similar to that of big league pitcher Dave Dravecky, who wrote a book about his journey in 1992.

"When I'm just a day out of surgery, somebody hands me this book. Inside the book, it shows him without the shoulder," Rabe said. "I eat this book up, and I looked at that and said, 'OK, I can come back, too.'"

Rabe's appearance is often the topic of discussion at Friday night games and a topic for inspiration for other officials on the crew.

Referee Joe Culp was with Rabe though the surgery.

"Considering what he's been through, we all have troubles in our daily lives, but it brings things into perspective really quick," Culp said. "My first thought was, 'OK, he's not going to be working with us anymore.' When I found out he was, I was like, 'OK, how's this going to work?' He proved to me and the rest of the guys that he's more than good at what he does."

It has taken time for Rabe to adjust. He uses a baseball umpire's clicker to keep track of down and had to adapt to do simple tasks, such as tying his shoes. There have been challenges on the field, too.

"We've had to work out some of the mechanics. He's go down to the goal line, and I'll say, 'I need to see that arm sooner,'" Culp said.

"I'll signal and I'll nod at the same time (for a touchdown)," Rabe said.

It has taken certitude and sense of humor.

"Football is a little bit more of a challenge. I practiced throwing and I think I can probably catch with one hand as good as Reggie Wayne," Rabe said with a chuckle. "It took a while."

"He takes it so well in stride. He'll send us an email and sign it 'Lefty,'" Culp said.

Rabe's love of the game came from his high school coach, the legendary John Lidy at Castle.

"Resilience, recovery and making comebacks -- life is all comebacks," Rabe said. "When I look back at my life, tears come to my eyes when I think about it, I think of my coaches. I adored my coaches. I was blessed with coaches that had incredible integrity, and they were there to build men, as well as athletes. You can still hear them talking to you."

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