I got a text from one of my former coaches recently. He told me that he was showing some of his players a few of my old highlights.
“I forgot how good you were,” he said.
My whole goal when I started playing football was to leave the game better than it was when I started playing. When an old coach tells me that he’s using my old film to teach his players, or when I talk to younger guys in the league who want to gain some knowledge, I feel like I’m doing that. I feel like I’m giving back to the game that has given so much to me.
But as we’re now learning, the game can take a lot away from you, too.
Last month, Nick Buoniconti became the latest in a long line of former NFL players to reveal that he’s been suffering from the lasting effects of the hits he took during his playing career.
For those of you who don’t know Nick, he’s a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a bad man in his day, too. He was a co-captain of those Dolphins teams that went to three straight Super Bowls and he was part of Miami’s undefeated ’72 team.
Over the last few years, Nick has been suffering. He’s started falling down a lot. He has trouble doing things as simple as putting on a T-shirt on, and he can’t even remember how to tie a tie. His brain — and his body — are starting to fail him. And even though he’s 76 years old, it’s hard not to think that all the hits to the head he took in his 14 years in the NFL aren’t contributing to his decline — especially knowing that CTE was present in 91 of the first 95 brains of former NFL players studied by researchers collaborating with the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
I’ve also started to feel the effects of the hits that I took in my career. My memory ain’t what it used to be. And yeah, it’s scary to think that my brain could be deteriorating, and that maybe things like forgetting a grocery list, or how to get to a friend’s house I’ve been to a thousand times are just the tip of the iceberg. So when it comes to concussions, CTE and how we can make our game safer for future generations, I wanted to put my two cents in — to help leave the game better off than it was when I started playing.
Because you can’t stand on the sidelines if you want to affect something. You gotta make a move. You gotta do something.
So that’s what I’m going to do.
To learn more about the Concussion Legacy Foundation, please visit concussionfoundation.org.