22 Sep 2020

Home of the NFL Offseason

What Grant Calcaterra Is Telling the Sport

Oklahoma tight end Grant Calcaterra announced via a well edited video on Twitter Thursday evening that he was stepping away from football permanently, leaving behind a potential NFL Draft dream. He was a borderline top 50 prospect on my list, sitting at 51st overall, as a pass catching tight end offering a vertical threat downfield.

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Calcattera’s reasoning is his history of concussions, which is a serious issue in the health of the sport. In fact, this season, Calcaterra had already missed a several games due to concussions. Also, it’s pretty awesome that he wants to be a firefighter.

With sports science doing so much to try and prevent these types of head injuries, it’s a touchy subject in the football media. Most people sympathize with the players, while a minority are under the opinion that players understand the risks that they are taking to play the game. The real question is how many more will walk because of the exposure to injuries?

Respect Calcaterra for doing the best for him and his future

The first thing people need to do is respect Grant’s decision to leave football entirely. I’m sure it was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do. People who play football in college have a passion for it, because college sports (especially football) is a grind. It’s a lot of sacrifice, long hard hours of practice and late nights.

Calcaterra isn’t the first modern football player to voluntarily step away from the game due to injuries. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired after a promising rookie season in the NFL because of the concussion threat. Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski stepped away due to injuries as well after a successful eight years in the league. People are going to continue to step away from football for their own health.

What is different about Calcaterra’s case is it’s really the first time we have seen a high end NFL prospect step away long before the NFL Draft process has started. Calcaterra want’s to protect his health, his future and overall well being, something that football players give up every time they step onto the football field.

Will football ever be a “safe” sport?

Football is one of the most physical games in the world, one that captivates millions of Americans every Sunday, along with millions of others world wide. Football is played in the back lots of schools, churches and sandlots in neighborhoods. Everyone who plays it, amateurs included, understand the risk that they take every time they play the game.

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Much work has been done to understand what causes head injuries in the last decade, so much so that leagues have begun to ban older versions of helmets that have been deemed unsafe for use. It’s a constant investigation, always trying to reduce the numbers of concussions.

Reality called wanting to check in. Will football ever be a safe sport? No. It’s physical, violent, and designed to test the endurance and strength of the players involved. People wear extra padding, made from a mix of plastics, metals and other such materials. Football will never be a safe sport.\

What Calcaterra is telling the sport

What Grant Calcaterra did was brave. With today’s merciless world of social media, he knew he faced instant ridicule and possibly more from a fan base concerned with their the single goal of their team winning football games. Surprisingly, he was met with much support and love by the Sooner faithful.

What Calcaterra did was mature. It’s hard when you are so passionate about something to leave it. However, Calcaterra realized what was best for him and his family and did the right thing for his future health.

Calcaterra is paving the way for athletes in the same position that he is in to step away from the game for their own personal safety. This is a good thing, no one should feel forced into anything by public opinion. What Calcaterra is telling the sport is that people now understand the risk involved in the game, and how dangerous it really is.

Why would this be a good thing?

Think about it. How many people didn’t get involved in a project or a career path they wanted to because they felt they would be trapped and unable to escape?

What Calcaterra is doing is proving to people that there are other options outside of football. There is a sensible way out. He almost went professional, and backed out for safety and to pursue firefighting, a completely noble cause.

This is good for football. It’s not a trap.

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