Headbanger: The Price I paid

I use the word headbanger instead of football player because I considered myself the hardest hitter playing the game at the high school level. I mean that I would always try to hit the ball carrier as hard as I could, hit him with my head and drive right through him.  Players sometimes couldn’t get up after a hit by me. But it was always legal. I paid the price, though. And I’m still paying for it decades later.

I had a dozen offers to play college football, including Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Florida. Florida began contacting me at the end of the season in the 10th grade. They wanted me to play head on the center to plug up it from guard to guard plus play on the suicide teams, kickoff and punt, because of my speed. Double-teamed or trap-blocked, I made the tackle. I had the speed to catch  most running backs,  playing at 190 to 200 pounds but sometimes I was at a disadvantage.

I once went against a center who was 6 foot 5 and weighed in at about 260. He  played for Auburn and later a backup center in the NFL. The first three plays averaged 2.5 yards up the middle. They never ran another play there the rest of the game.

During my last two years, however, I began to have a constant pain in my head from a number of concussions. Back then if you were knocked out (as in  not knowing your name or where you were), the coach would send you back in if you could line up on the right side of the ball.

After high school I decided not to play college ball. It was not a doctor’s decision. In those days concussions didn’t matter and you played on. I just couldn’t make the pain go away. It was 24 hours a day. The pain lasted for 6 years. See what can happen to you at any level of football.

I traveled and attended a half dozen colleges and pursued engineering and studied chemistry, engineering drawing, and calculus, then dropped it  because I decided I didn’t like it nor the pain. I received Bachelor of Art degrees in Philosophy (1977) and Political Science (1979). As an undergraduate I published a scholarly article on the So People of Kusuman in 1979 and developed an alphabet for the spoken language. Later I co-authored an article on the Vietnamese, Explaining Recent Vietnamese Behavior (1980). Over the years I learned to speak, read and write Spanish, Vietnamese, Thai and Arabic.

I’ve managed to stay in outstanding physical condition until recently. But the problem I stay concerned with is the problem I sometimes have with my memory. It’ not a significant problem now. I still work out and eat right, especially the B vitamins, essential for your memory. I also read a lot, analyze and produce articles. And it’s always important to interact with others. Contact with friends and relatives is important. Interacting with others has proven to be beneficial for your mind. It challenges you to think- a mind exercise.

As for football, I would not go that route again. If you go for the big bucks and have the talent to play on Sunday, go for the gold but remember these players are trying to keep their job and they mean to hit you hard , with no mercy. And get out as soon as you can and avoid the big hits. Ask yourself if it’s worth the risk.

If you really want to play football, learn how to kick extra points and long field goals. Headbanging is a losing proposition.

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