Instead, Marine Lance Corporal Himan was clad in a brick-red Arizona Cardinals Pat Tillman top — No. 40. And on Friday, he was the toast of Woodbridge.
Himan, who graduated from Hylton in 2002, was seriously injured when his Humvee ran over a makeshift bomb in Afghanistan in 2009.
He underwent an intensive rehab regimen at Walter Reed Army Medical Center until 2011, when he returned to his Dale City home in a wheelchair.
As part of “military appreciation day” at Hylton (3-1), Himan served as honorary captain for the Bulldogs and carried the American flag during the national anthem.
“It’s extremely special,” Himan said. “I was really honored. Me and all the other vets were.”
A return to Hylton — where Himan and his younger brother Joel both played football for the Bulldogs — was another step in Josh’s journey home.
“I’ve come a long ways,” Himan said. “I’m integrating back into society. I’m starting to drive again and go to school. I say that when I came home, my tour finally ended.”
The Pioneers (4-1) ended Hylton’s perfect season with a 31-21 win. Jake Caparella rushed 25 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
Caparella — whose father is in the Air Force — found inspiration in Himan’s pregame role.
“It’s awesome to see that because I can imagine how he [Himan] feels,” he said. “I hear about it all the time.”
Hylton led 14-10 at halftime, but the Pioneers, whose 3-7 record in their inaugural 2012 season included a 42-3 drubbing at the hands of the Bulldogs, thundered back in the third quarter.
Caparella ran over two Hylton tacklers en route to a 17-yard touchdown with 8 minutes 46 seconds left in the quarter. Patriot never trailed again.
Senior quarterback Travon McMillian kept Hylton close by picking up chunks of yardage on designed runs and scrambles, finishing with 134 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. The Virginia Tech recruit also hooked up with wide receiver Terrin Allen on scoring tosses of 90 and 42 yards.
When his team fell behind 14-3 with 2:40 remaining in the first half, Caparella said patience was the watchword on the Pioneers’ sideline.
The junior back and his teammates knew they were losing — but not outmatched.
“We knew we were good enough,” Caparella said.