SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 6, 2012

Column: College football needs to tackle its problems

(Continued)

But what happened to Marcus Davis, who was absent from the 2010 roster, and Mark Fisher and Brock Fitzhenry, who were gone by 2011? John Paul Floyd played in two games in 2011 before disappearing from the 2012 roster, as well. Dominique Jones was on the roster in 2011, but he missed the spring drills because of injury and was gone by 2012.

Tre’ Newton, son of Dallas Cowboy Pro Bowler Nate Newton, was spectacular during his sophomore year, but a concussion during the game against Kansas State, the latest of many, ended his football career.

Each of the 45 boys who signed up to play football at Texas in 2009 has his own story. In an ideal world, they all would have had scholarships — many of them were walk-ons — and nearly all would have graduated four years later, more or less uninjured.

But here’s the problem: The National Football League is only the final stage in a long, winnowing process that depends on “winning-is-everything” colleges and public schools to serve as a near-endless source of players. Unfortunately, the process leaves behind a considerable human cost, a vast residue of disappointed dreams, misspent energy and, worst of all, an enormous number of injuries, many of which will have lifelong consequences.

Which reminds me of Dewey Turner. He was a student in the first freshman composition class I ever taught at UT, in the late 1970s. Dewey was a gentle, taciturn guy whose 6-foot-5-inch stature and 220 pounds made him a good candidate to play tight end for the Longhorns. He lettered in 1979 and 1980 and then lost a year due to a shoulder injury. Unfortunately, he was killed in a car wreck in the ’80s.

Dewey’s football stardom hadn’t served him very well academically. But he had a brutally realistic, illuminating wisdom that led him to tell me one day: Oh, they give you all kinds of help here. But once they see you aren’t gonna make it on the team because of academics or injuries, they — as he put it — “cut you loose.”

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John M. Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Email jcrisp@delmar.edu.

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