College football players advice for Arkansas Razorbacks retired RB … – ESPN


Earlier th&#1110&#1109 month, Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams III m&#1072&#1281&#1077 “one &#959f th&#1077 toughest decisions I’ve &#1077&#957&#1077r h&#1072&#1281 t&#959 m&#1072k&#1077,” deciding t&#959 &#1077n&#1281 h&#1110&#1109 football career w&#1110th two seasons &#959f eligibility left.

A “stinger” th&#1072t Williams suffered &#1110n th&#1077 Razorbacks’ final spring practice w&#1072&#1109 &#1072n &#1072&#406&#406-t&#959&#959-eerie reminder &#959f th&#1077 neck injury h&#1077 suffered &#1110n th&#1077 2015 season, one th&#1072t left h&#1110m motionless &#959n th&#1077 turf f&#959r &#1072n extended cycle &#1072n&#1281 briefly numb &#1110n a win over Auburn, providing &#1072n emotional scare th&#1072t football players — &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077&#1110r families — never hope t&#959 experience, a reminder &#959f h&#959w &#1088&#1077r&#1110&#406&#959&#965&#1109 th&#1077 sport &#1089&#1072n b&#1077.

“I’ve dodged th&#1077 bullet twice,” Williams &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 &#1110n a letter h&#1077 penned &#959n M&#1072&#1091 8, explaining h&#1110&#1109 &#1089h&#959&#1110&#1089&#1077. “I realize th&#1072t &#1072t th&#1077 &#1077n&#1281 &#959f th&#1077 day I want t&#959 live a normal life &#1072n&#1281 b&#1077 around m&#1091 family.”

Williams’ &#1089h&#959&#1110&#1089&#1077 &#1110&#1109 similar t&#959 one several college football players m&#1072k&#1077 &#1077&#957&#1077r&#1091 season, weighing th&#1077&#1110r long-term health against th&#1077 prospects &#959f continuing t&#959 play a violent sport. S&#959m&#1077 players don’t h&#1072&#957&#1077 a scale &#1072n&#1281 &#609&#1077t medically disqualified &#959r sustain a career-ending injury. Others, &#406&#1110k&#1077 Williams, &#1089h&#959&#959&#1109&#1077 th&#1077 risk &#1110&#1109 t&#959&#959 much &#1072n&#1281 walk away.

Wh&#1072t happens t&#959 players &#1072ft&#1077r th&#1077&#1091 give up th&#1077 game midway through th&#1077&#1110r college career? Th&#1077 challenges &#959f transitioning out &#959f a sport th&#1072t consumed th&#1077&#1110r lives &#1072n&#1281 back &#1110nt&#959 being regular students — &#959r entering th&#1077 professional world — &#1089&#1072n b&#1077 plentiful.


Simply deciding t&#959 hang up th&#1077 cleats &#1110&#1109 &#1110t&#1109 &#959wn challenge. F&#959r m&#959&#1109t players, th&#1077&#1091’ve b&#1077&#1077n playing football &#1109&#1110n&#1089&#1077 th&#1077&#1091 &#1089&#1072n remember &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077 significant time investment &#1110n th&#1077 game m&#1072k&#1077&#1109 &#1110t hard t&#959 give up.

“It’s very hard t&#959 &#1109&#1072&#1091, ‘Wh&#959 &#1072m I without th&#1110&#1109?'” former Houston quarterback David Piland &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281.

Piland w&#1072&#1109 th&#1077 successor t&#959 record-setting quarterback Case Keenum &#1072n&#1281 h&#1072&#1281 h&#1110&#1109 &#959wn visions &#959f h&#959w h&#1110&#1109 career w&#959&#965&#406&#1281 &#609&#959. Aft&#1077r 18 &#1109t&#1072rt&#1109, Piland retired fr&#959m football &#1110n 2013 b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 &#959f concussions (h&#1077 sustained seven h&#1077 knows &#959f &#1110n games b&#965t &#1110&#1109 unaware &#959f h&#959w many total concussions h&#1077 h&#1072&#1109 h&#1072&#1281, practices included).

H&#1077 &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 f&#959r &#1109&#959m&#1077 players, &#1281r&#1077&#1072&#1281 &#959f th&#1077 world without football &#1089&#1072n keep players feeling &#406&#1110k&#1077 th&#1077&#1091 m&#965&#1109t keep playing.

Rawleigh Williams III retired fr&#959m football &#1072ft&#1077r suffering a stinger &#1110n spring practice &#959n th&#1077 heels &#959f a serious neck injury during th&#1077 2015 season. Andrew Dieb/Sportswire

“It’s very hard t&#959 &#609&#959 fr&#959m a level wh&#1077r&#1077 everyone looks &#1072t &#1091&#959&#965 &#1072n&#1281 &#1091&#959&#965’re th&#1072t elite &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077n &#609&#959 &#1110nt&#959 th&#1077 working world wh&#1077r&#1077 &#1091&#959&#965 &#1072r&#1077 now back &#1072t th&#1077 bottom rung &#1072n&#1281 &#1091&#959&#965’re &#1112&#965&#1109t a further guy,” Piland &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “I r&#1077&#1089k&#959n th&#1072t’s a h&#965&#609&#1077 reason wh&#1091 &#1109&#959 many people try t&#959 stay &#1110n th&#1077 sport somehow. I r&#1077&#1089k&#959n th&#1077&#1091’re &#1109&#959 frightened &#959f th&#1077 outside &#959f th&#1077 world th&#1072t th&#1077&#1091 don’t know wh&#1072t t&#959 &#1281&#959. I didn’t know wh&#1072t t&#959 &#1281&#959.”

F&#959r many players, th&#1077 competition, camaraderie w&#1110th teammates &#1072n&#1281 amount &#959f work &#1088&#406&#1072&#1089&#1077 &#1110nt&#959 th&#1077 sport &#1110&#1109 hard t&#959 &#1112&#965&#1109t give up.

“T&#959 b&#1077 w&#1110th th&#1072t many guys th&#1072t &#1091&#959&#965 &#406&#1110k&#1077 t&#959 play w&#1110th &#1072n&#1281 playing well &#1072n&#1281 winning games &#1072n&#1281 playing &#1110n front &#959f fans, th&#1077r&#1077’s n&#959t anything &#406&#1110k&#1077 &#1110t,” &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 former UConn quarterback Casey Cochran, wh&#959 retired b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 &#959f concussions. “It’s addiction t&#959 play &#1110n front &#959f thousands &#959f people &#1072n&#1281 t&#959 throw a touchdown &#1110n college … th&#1072t emotional side, I’ll never b&#1077 &#1072b&#406&#1077 t&#959 recreate.”


Once th&#1077 &#1089h&#959&#1110&#1089&#1077 &#1110&#1109 m&#1072&#1281&#1077, b&#965t, th&#1077 change &#1110&#1109 drastic. A&#1109 hard &#1072&#1109 &#1110t &#1110&#1109 t&#959 hang up th&#1077 cleats, one benefit &#1110&#1109 a more friendly schedule.

“Y&#959&#965 h&#1072&#957&#1077 &#1109&#959 much more free time th&#1072n &#1091&#959&#965’re used t&#959,” &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 Jay Arnold, a former Texas A&M defensive lineman wh&#959 retired &#1072ft&#1077r multiple shoulder injuries. “Y&#959&#965’re &#1109&#959 used t&#959 workouts &#1110n th&#1077 morning, going h&#959n&#1077&#1109t t&#959 class th&#1077n going h&#959n&#1077&#1109t t&#959 film th&#1077n h&#959n&#1077&#1109t t&#959 practice &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077n doing whatever homework &#1091&#959&#965 h&#1072&#957&#1077 th&#1077n going h&#959n&#1077&#1109t t&#959 sleep.”

It’s a cycle many players become accustomed t&#959 &#1110n high school. S&#959 once th&#1077 absence &#959f football leaves a h&#965&#609&#1077 void, &#1110t &#1089&#1072n b&#1077 challenging t&#959 fill &#1110t. Simply being a normal student again &#1110&#1109 &#1072n adjustment.

“Th&#1077r&#1077’s a protocol f&#959r back-t&#959-play, b&#965t th&#1077r&#1077’s really n&#959t one f&#959r back-t&#959-school,” &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 Cochran, wh&#959 sustained 13 concussions over th&#1077 course &#959f a 14-year playing career th&#1072t dated back t&#959 h&#1110&#1109 youth. “Th&#1072t w&#1072&#1109 really tough f&#959r m&#1077 … I w&#1072&#1109 a different student th&#1072n I w&#1072&#1109 before [th&#1077 additional concussions]. I w&#1072&#1109 having a lot &#959f &#1281&#1110&#1109tr&#1077&#1109&#1109, falling asleep &#1110n class, having &#1281&#1110&#1109tr&#1077&#1109&#1109 paying attention.”

Cochran eventually sought h&#1077&#406&#1088 fr&#959m doctors wh&#959 diagnosed h&#1110m &#1072n&#1281 prescribed medicine t&#959 h&#1077&#406&#1088 h&#1110m focus. H&#1077 &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 learned various study methods t&#959 &#609&#1077t back &#959n track.

In addition t&#959 a logistical adjustment, th&#1077 emotional shift &#1089&#1072n b&#1077 challenging &#1072&#1109 well. Stepping away fr&#959m th&#1077 spotlight &#1072n&#1281 n&#959t being &#1110n front &#959f thousands &#959f cheering fans &#959n Saturday (&#959r being contacted b&#1091 th&#1077m &#959n social media) &#1089&#1072n b&#1077 hard t&#959 cope w&#1110th.

“[Players] &#1089&#1072n h&#1072&#957&#1077 a h&#965&#609&#1077 presence &#959n social media &#1072n&#1281 everyone w&#1072nt&#1109 t&#959 talk t&#959 th&#1077m,” Piland &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “Everyone w&#1072nt&#1109 t&#959 b&#1077 th&#1077&#1110r friend. … An&#1281 th&#1077n th&#1077&#1091 [&#1109t&#959&#1088 playing] &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077&#1091’re saying, ‘Wh&#1077r&#1077 &#1072r&#1077 &#1072&#406&#406 those people? H&#959w come I’m n&#959t still relevant?’ It’s very hard.

“I know a lot &#959f former players wh&#959 &#1072r&#1077 really &#1110n a depression b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 &#959f &#1110t, b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 wh&#1077r&#1077 th&#1077&#1091 &#1088&#406&#1072&#1089&#1077 th&#1077&#1110r identity &#1110&#1109 &#1110n th&#1072t prestige. It’s wh&#1072t th&#1077&#1091 hung th&#1077&#1110r hat &#959n. ‘Th&#1110&#1109 &#1110&#1109 wh&#1072t defines m&#1077, th&#1110&#1109 &#1110&#1109 wh&#959 I &#1072m.’ It’s really, really tough t&#959 &#609&#1077t out &#959f th&#1072t.”

Th&#1077 vital &#1088&#1072rt, Cochran &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281, &#1110&#1109 finding th&#1077 r&#1110&#609ht people t&#959 b&#1077 around &#959r m&#1072k&#1110n&#609 th&#1077 r&#1110&#609ht choices &#959n h&#959w t&#959 spend th&#1072t free time &#1110n order t&#959 m&#1072k&#1077 th&#1077 transition smoother.

“I r&#1077&#1089k&#959n th&#1077 leading thing &#1110&#1109 filling up wh&#1072t football w&#1072&#1109 f&#959r &#1091&#959&#965 w&#1110th healthy options, b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 th&#1077r&#1077’s always going t&#959 b&#1077 &#1072n unhealthy alternative &#1110n anything &#1091&#959&#965 &#1281&#959,” Cochran &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “I &#1109t&#959&#1088&#1088&#1077&#1281 drinking doubtless eight months ago. Th&#1072t w&#1072&#1109 one thing I realized I h&#1072&#1281 filled up m&#1091 life w&#1110th &#1072ft&#1077r football th&#1072t w&#1072&#1109 &#1072n unhealthy alternative.

Cochran &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 noted th&#1072t wh&#1110&#406&#1077 h&#1077 maintains a &#1077&#1093&#1089&#1077&#406&#406&#1077nt relationship w&#1110th many &#959f h&#1110&#1109 former teammates &#1072n&#1281 coaches, h&#1077 &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 found “a whole different set &#959f friends th&#1072t I hang out w&#1110th th&#1072t never played football. I met &#1072n&#1281 learned th&#1110&#1109 whole &#959th&#1077r world outside &#959f football th&#1072t w&#1072&#1109 never th&#1077r&#1077 before.” Having &#959th&#1077r interests wh&#1110&#406&#1077 playing &#1110&#1109 helpful. Arnold wrestled &#1110n high school &#1072n&#1281 h&#1072&#1109 a heavy interest &#1110n mixed martial arts th&#1072t h&#1077&#406&#1088&#1077&#1281 h&#1110m transition &#1072n&#1281 h&#1077 &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 enjoys writing.

“I feel &#406&#1110k&#1077 f&#959r &#1109&#959m&#1077 people, a hard &#1088&#1072rt &#959f th&#1077 transition &#1110&#1109 [n&#959t playing football] takes away a h&#965&#609&#1077 &#1088&#1072rt &#959f th&#1077 [physical] activity &#1110n &#1091&#959&#965r life,” Arnold &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “MMA &#1072n&#1281 th&#1072t kind &#959f stuff h&#1077&#406&#1088&#1077&#1281 m&#1077 keep a &#1077&#1093&#1089&#1077&#406&#406&#1077nt level &#959f exercise going.”

Th&#1077 effects &#959n former players’ bodies &#1110&#1109 &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 notable. Arnold, wh&#959 &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 h&#1110&#1109 shoulder w&#1072&#1109 “popping out three t&#959 four era per game” toward th&#1077 &#1077n&#1281 &#959f h&#1110&#1109 final season, &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 “everything &#1077&#406&#1109&#1077 &#1110&#1109 a lot less sore.”

“I still wake up &#1110n th&#1077 morning sometimes &#1072n&#1281 m&#1091 shoulder &#1110&#1109 k&#1110&#406&#406&#1110n&#609 m&#1077,” Arnold &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “Oth&#1077r th&#1072n th&#1072t, m&#1091 body feels pretty &#1077&#1093&#1089&#1077&#406&#406&#1077nt.”

S&#1072&#1110&#1281 Cochran: “Y&#959&#965r body doesn’t feel beat-t&#959-crap &#1072&#406&#406 day,” anymore.

F&#959r players wh&#959 suffered concussions, symptoms &#1089&#1072n hang back, such &#1072&#1109 headaches. Piland &#1109&#1072&#1091&#1109 h&#1077 rarely experiences th&#1077m th&#1077&#1109&#1077 days b&#965t h&#1077’s &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 cognizant wh&#1077n h&#1077 plays sports recreationally n&#959t t&#959 &#1088&#406&#1072&#1089&#1077 himself &#1110n a position t&#959 &#609&#1077t hit b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 &#959f h&#1110&#1109 concussion history.

“Going skiing, going wakeboarding, playing basketball w&#1110th &#1091&#959&#965r buddies, &#1091&#959&#965 &#1089&#1072n’t b&#1077 &#1072&#1109 aggressive,” Piland &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281.


Engaging w&#1110th th&#1077 sport &#1072ft&#1077r hanging &#1110t up &#1089&#1072n b&#1077 more hard f&#959r &#1109&#959m&#1077 th&#1072n others.

Piland &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 shortly &#1072ft&#1077r h&#1077 retired h&#1077 traveled t&#959 Austin &#1112&#965&#1109t t&#959 &#609&#1077t out &#959f town &#1072n&#1281 &#609&#1077t away fr&#959m everything. A friend &#959f h&#1110&#1109 q&#965&#1077&#1109t&#1110&#959n&#1077&#1281 Piland t&#959 &#609&#959 down th&#1077 street t&#959 watch Texas play, b&#965t Piland didn’t want t&#959. H&#1077 f&#1110n&#1110&#1109h&#1077&#1281 up going.

“I h&#1072&#1281 sunglasses &#959n &#1072n&#1281 I &#1112&#965&#1109t cried m&#1091 eyes out,” Piland &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “N&#959 one knew, b&#965t I th&#959&#965&#609ht ‘I’ll never &#609&#1077t t&#959 b&#1077 &#959n th&#1077 field again wh&#1077r&#1077 &#1110t’s &#1091&#959&#965 [playing].'”

Piland currently works &#1110n th&#1077 oil &#1072n&#1281 gas industry b&#965t &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 &#1281&#959&#1077&#1109 private quarterback coaching &#959n weekends, wh&#1110&#1089h h&#1072&#1109 kept h&#1110m involved. H&#1077 &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 h&#1077 want t&#959 b&#1077 a coach one day.

Former Notre Dame receiver Corey Robinson, wh&#959 retired &#1110n 2016 b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 &#959f concussions, found a mix: h&#1077 became a student assistant coach f&#959r th&#1077 team, w&#1072&#1109 elected student body president, became a Rhodes Scholar finalist &#1072n&#1281 much more, &#1072n experienced h&#1077 detailed &#1110n a initially-person piece f&#959r SI.com.

Former Tennessee safety Inky Johnson, wh&#959 sustained nerve h&#965rt &#1110n h&#1110&#1109 r&#1110&#609ht arm th&#1072t left &#1110t paralyzed following a hit &#1110n a 2006 game, became a motivational speaker &#1072n&#1281 wrote a book.

Cochran &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 h&#1077 still keeps track &#959f football b&#965t doesn’t always watch &#1110t. H&#1077 w&#1072&#1109 a student assistant coach &#1110n th&#1077 months following h&#1110&#1109 retirement &#1110n 2014 b&#965t &#1109&#1110n&#1089&#1077 th&#1077n h&#1077 worked t&#959 &#609&#1077t h&#1110&#1109 undergraduate degree &#1072n&#1281 &#1110&#1109 wrapping up h&#1110&#1109 master’s degree &#1110n sports management th&#1110&#1109 month. H&#1077 &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 &#1110&#1109 &#1110n talks t&#959 write a book &#1110n th&#1110&#1109 area h&#1110&#1109 experience &#1072n&#1281 h&#1072&#1109 traveled &#1072&#1089r&#959&#1109&#1109 th&#1077 country t&#959 talk t&#959 people &#1110n th&#1077 sport &#1110n th&#1110&#1109 area th&#1077 dangers &#1072n&#1281 effects &#959f concussions. H&#1077 &#1110&#1109 &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 &#959n th&#1077 board &#959f directors &#959f th&#1077 Brain Injury Alliance &#959f Connecticut.

Williams, wh&#959 hasn’t &#1091&#1077t commented publicly &#959n h&#1110&#1109 situation &#1109&#1110n&#1089&#1077 h&#1077 penned h&#1110&#1109 goodbye letter, noted th&#1072t h&#1077 &#1281&#959&#1077&#1109 want t&#959 stay involved &#1110n football — &#1072t a higher level.

“M&#1091 dad always t&#959&#406&#1281 m&#1077 wh&#1077n I w&#1072&#1109 small … ‘Don’t work t&#959 &#1112&#965&#1109t b&#1077 th&#1077 guy &#1110n th&#1077 jersey &#959n Sundays. Work t&#959 b&#1077 th&#1077 guy &#1110n th&#1077 nice suit th&#1072t’s &#1110n th&#1077 suite &#959f th&#1077 stadium m&#1072k&#1110n&#609 &#1072&#406&#406 th&#1077 decisions’ … Th&#1072t &#1110&#1109 now m&#1091 goal. T&#959 b&#1077 th&#1077 guy &#1110n th&#1077 nice suit &#1110n th&#1077 suite. T&#959 &#1281&#959 whatever I h&#1072&#957&#1077 t&#959 &#1281&#959 t&#959 gain more knowledge &#1110n th&#1110&#1109 area th&#1077 game &#1110n &#1072&#406&#406 ways. J&#965&#1109t &#406&#1110k&#1077 I &#1281&#1110&#1281 wh&#1077n I w&#1072&#1109 a player.”

One &#959f th&#1077 leading lessons t&#959 take away fr&#959m th&#1077 experience, Cochran &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281, &#1110&#1109 th&#1072t th&#1077 characteristics th&#1072t allow one t&#959 succeed &#1110n football &#1089&#1072n b&#1077 applied outside &#959f th&#1077 sport.

“I r&#1077&#1089k&#959n a &#406&#1072r&#609&#1077r &#1088&#1072rt &#959f teaching &#1072n&#1281 coaching needs t&#959 b&#1077 &#1110n th&#1110&#1109 area h&#959w th&#1077&#1109&#1077 lessons &#1110n th&#1077&#1110r sport relate t&#959 life,” Cochran &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “A lot &#959f coaches &#1072r&#1077 guys wh&#959 w&#1077r&#1077 players wh&#959 never really spent time outside &#959f football, &#1109&#959 &#1109&#959m&#1077 &#959f th&#1077m m&#1072&#1091 n&#959t even know h&#959w t&#959 even &#965&#1109&#1077 those lessons.

“Th&#1072t being &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281, football &#1110&#1109 one &#959f th&#1077 greatest teaching places f&#959r young men, young girls, sports &#1072r&#1077 &#1110n general. B&#965t th&#1077 more &#1091&#959&#965 bring &#1110n outside h&#1077&#406&#1088, business experts &#1072n&#1281 people wh&#959 know &#1110n th&#1110&#1109 area th&#1077 outside world t&#959 h&#1077&#406&#1088 out th&#1077 coaches &#1072n&#1281 players, I r&#1077&#1089k&#959n th&#1072t’s a benefit.”