I played everything growing up. I was probably missing uncontested layups in the womb and I picked up baseball in the second grade. I ran track in junior high and high school, swung golf clubs in the general vicinity of the ball and even tried my hand at tennis just long enough to come to the undeniable realization that I had no business anywhere near a tennis court.
None of that—not even baseball, my first true love—impacted me the way that football did.
Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in all of sports, but no sport is as universally hard to play as football. Football demands adequate athleticism, sure—but the physiological requirements place an even greater level of difficulty on the sport.
Football, like all contact sports, is dangerous. As a player, you realize that from day one. I was hyper-aware of the risk for neck or spinal cord injury—if not fully understanding of the potential long-term ramifications of a head injury.
I’m not telling anyone to ignore those risks and let their children play the game. I’m not even saying that I will ignore those risks with my own kids. What I am saying is that I’m a better person for having played football in high school and college because of the life lessons I learned, and I hope the game continues to evolve in a manner that neutralizes a lot of the growing concern.