Much of what I write and how I approach Football these days took a drastic turn in 2009. Faced with long term concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury effects with my own kids I was struggling to stay involved with a game so wonderful and yet so brutal at the same time. Also that month, September of 2009, I would be introduced to what a Craniectomy is (removal of the skull to save a life) and go to my first football caused Funeral of a High School player. That was when I met Matthew Newman of Cowiche, Washington and the boy that was Drew Swank of Hauser Lake, Idaho.
Matthew had fallen during a game at Highland High School in the hills above Yakima, Washington. The QB and all around stud on that team was hit hard but was apparently already bleeding inside his brain from practice the night before; he had hit his head on a concrete curb on the edge of the football field during a full contact Thursday Night scrimmage. By the time one of you readers reached out to me in Portland via email about Matthew he was fighting for his life at Seattle Children’s Hospital. We ran to his side and brought you all with us and through a world wide campaign that became known as Raise 7 For Matthew we aided in his healing through Prayer and love. It worked but Matthew who suffered a TBI and Second Impact Syndrome suffered permanent brain damage and struggles everyday to have the best life he can. He is doing great thank God.
At that same time as we were helping Matthew another story rose up out in Spokane, Washington. The same night Newman had fallen another Washington High School player had fallen after being flat backed on the field out in Washtucna, Washington. He was playing with a severe concussion and everyone knew it. His Doctor cleared him over the phone and his Coach insisted he played shoving him back into the game even as his father ran from the stands to get him out. He was hurt and everyone knew it. The next play Andrew Swank sat limp armed and motionless as the linemen pulled up field and flattened him.
I can go into hours of discussion about all that went wrong on that night. No Ambulance, no trainers, no one that knew you can not call an ambulance and wait 2 hours to get a kid with a bleeding brain to emergency. All you really need to know is that Andrew “Drew” Swank died that weekend and it did not have to be that way. People let him down. We all as a football community let him down. He was an angel and while his Organs went on to save 5 lives that we know of he was ripped from the Earth and his family too soon.
Today we remember all of this that happened 6 years ago. The same year the Zack Lystedt Law was passed in Washington, which began the entire movement to save football, these boys were hurt. So were many others. Have we made gains? No. We have not really.
This weekend in the greater Seattle area I have film of an Athlete that was knocked silly in a game. He did not know where he was or what was happening. After being referred to the sideline he returned. This is how these things happen folks. I love football- more then most people. The reason I say that is while I am a huge fan and I am also a terrible critic. Most of you get this stuff but a lot of you do not- and it is you and the folks who are not taking meaningful action I must hold in disdain.
Try going to a funeral or standing at the Grave of #15. Those things changed my life and I will never relent and never forget what happened to these boys and many others like them. If I am at your games or camps or anywhere that football is happening you best believe my eyes are wide open.
Rest in Peace Andrew. Our young star who never really got his Chance to shine. And Matthew- we are coming to see you next weekend buddy and I hope your ready for some fun!