Jonathan Boland was one of the most explosive high school athletes I have ever had the pleasure to cover. We covered him here at NWPR many times and helped him get his name out and secure his scholarship at Portland State. In fact he was now infamous Head PSU Coach Bruce Barnum's very first recruit.
Jonathan was brought in on a full scholarship as a 2 way threat. The speed. The moves. The Talent. He had it all going for him.
But he had something else working against him. Concussions. And not 1 but as many as 5 severe concussions that he had suffered in the years he led the Parkrose Bronco's. His Senior season he carried his team as far as he could while injured admitting he knew it was not a good idea but that he had to in order to be recruited.
"I've had four (Concussions) since my Sophomore year of high school. The big one was my Junior year that sent me to the hospital if you recall. That one changed my life forever. Then I knew I had one my Senior year during the Wilsonville game but hey it's Senior year I was trying to earn a scholarship. Didn't have time to sit out. I was so determined to earn a scholarship that I was willing to risk my head," offered Boland.
Son of preacher Jonathan accepted the PSU scholarship was was all in for #BarnyBall. But in his efforts to earn his spot as a starter he was hurt again; concussion #5 would happen and he knew it was over. The game for him, like it will for every athlete, had come to an end.
He was hurt more than before and that added to the lingering issues from High School football led him to a decision that he had to choose life over football.
We asked him what his symptoms were and while he was guarded he did answer.
"Memory loss for sure. But that's pretty much it. Peripheral Vision on my left side too," he offered adding "I can def see more on my right then left side."
He went to his coach to let him know his decision to quit football knowing that his scholarship would come to an end. He realized then he would probably drop out of college and head back home to try to find another way forward in life.
This is where the story turns from Boland, who is the sort of athlete we are most proud of, to Barnum. Boland saved himself and confronted this Traumatic Brain Injury monster for the life altering monster that it is; football's biggest problem.
Bruce Barnum the man told Boland he was not going to drop out of school. He told him that PSU would honor his scholarship even if it had to come out of his own salary. Without hesitation and a full heart Boland accepted the offer. He wants to work for his life beyond football and this was the chance he did not expect but was never going to reject.
"Coach Barnum and his staff are amazing coaches. Barny is a father before a coach in my eyes. He stood by his word by promising me a full ride and a college degree if I put the work in. Even If He has to pay for it. Those were His exact words! Amazing. And I am majoring in Criminology & criminal justice. I want to be a juvenile justice officer."
Now we already love Coach Barnum. This just cements it for me. There are a lot of great coaches and great men in the College ranks. I am not sure if them frankly if many of them have ever risen to this level of commitment. If you have a son playing football and one who is lucky enough to earn a scholarship I hope you consider this. If PSU is in the mix how can you now look at this as a huge plus in the decision column? You can't. Barnum is the real deal.
Be clear on this fact too. The NCAA dies not require coverage for concussions and traumatic brain injuries partly because the care for those issues can last a lifetime and cost millions. We feel they should. Scholarships are also only valid as long as the athlete can compete. There are no guarantees. Barnum may not be able to provide this for additional players but he has for Boland and that is all that matters right now.
Jonathan Boland and his Head Coach Bruce Barnum did this out of the limelight and did not seek credit. Facts are we sat on this story out of respect for Jonathan wanting to downplay his injuries. The story by Nick Krupke at Fox 12 News is inserted below and is one of the best stories we have seen in years- great job to all of you!
This is everything that can be so very right about football and deserves National attention.
God speed you in recovery Jonathan. Coach Barnum way to go. Way to go!