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Ex-Bear trying to convince Illinois high schools to limit contact

hillenmeyer Getty Images

Former Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer retired from the NFL at the age of 30 after suffering health problems he attributed to a series of concussions. He says it’s time to change the game of football at the high school level to prevent future players from similar problems.

Hillenmeyer has been urging legislators in Illinois to limit contact in high school football practices, mandating that high school players have no more than two full-contact practices a week. In a letter to lawmakers, Hillenmeyer wrote that a state law is needed to keep high school coaches from pushing their players too far.

“Without it, a rogue, wannabe-Mike Ditka youth coach will continue to have unchecked ability to overexpose our next generation to harm, harm that is avoidable and has long-term implications,” Hillenmeyer wrote, via the Daily Herald.

The Illinois High School Association, however, opposes the proposed law. And an 11-member Illinois House panel voted 6-5 against it.

But while this particular law may have hit a stumbling block, anyone who’s been paying attention to the direction that football is going in — at all levels — would have to agree that it’s probably just a matter of time before limits like this are commonplace across the country. The days of multiple full-contact practices a week have already come to an end in the NFL, and some day they’ll come to an end in high school, too.

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24 Responses to “Ex-Bear trying to convince Illinois high schools to limit contact”
  1. urlacher54 says: Mar 21, 2013 4:59 PM

    Knew it was gonna be Hunter. Man is on a crusade. More power to him I say, let’s teach coaches to coach smarter not harder.

  2. larryboodry says: Mar 21, 2013 5:05 PM

    Always liked Hillenmayer…Like him even better now. And that pic of him sacking Rodgers made me smile, until I realized that Lance Briggs is currently the Bears only linebacker.

  3. nineroutsider says: Mar 21, 2013 5:09 PM

    This is the real reason that Goodell is so focused on making the game safer. It’s actually really smart; just go with me here. Goodell isn’t focused on safety because of Congress or pending lawsuits, he is focused on safety because the good of the game depends on it long term.

    Schools are going away from football. Its a trend that everyone will hear about soon if they haven’t already. The NFL depends on players starting young and working their way up the system. The NFL wants the best athletes. Parents are concerned about football. Concerned parents of the best athletes will push their kids away from football. Eventually the quality of the game will diminish and fans will be turned off. The NFL wants to assuage the worries of parents and continue to keep their funnel full of prime athletes. They very much need youth football and are willing to change the game to maintain a steady stream of the best athletes. It makes a lot of sense to me, even if I don’t like the changes…which I don’t.

    We can’t always bash people and whine and complain, we need to think intelligently about why things are being done and what can be done differently to improve the situation. I don’t know the answers, but talking about flag belts may be funny it offers little to advance the conversation. So advance the ball…

  4. nokittycat says: Mar 21, 2013 5:11 PM

    I understand the concern. I have two boys and they play football at the high school and youth levels.
    Football and all sports are repetition based.

    Any coach who practices full speed every practice and every drill is a bad teacher to begin with. Most drills are done at a quarter or half speed to teach technique so the kids don’t get the very injuries that everyone fears. Contact is required in some form to teach football safely and make proper technique second nature.

  5. veence69 says: Mar 21, 2013 5:34 PM

    PLAY ANOTHER SPORT.

  6. footballhistorian says: Mar 21, 2013 5:48 PM

    Why take a shot on Ditka?? He was offering suggestions a couple of years ago on how to keep players from spearing each other. One was a little “out there” – he suggested removing face masks. He said that when he played – that tended to keep players from leading with their foreheads. They used their shoulders more.

    Nineroutsider – well thought-out post. I would add the previously made posts regarding retired players suing for chronic head trauma induced long term effects while current ones grousing about steps being taken as they are today. There’s a long term strategy in a lot of this.

  7. 303bengalguy says: Mar 21, 2013 6:03 PM

    You need to understand context. That wasn’t a shot at Ditka by any means historian.

  8. brewcrewfan54 says: Mar 21, 2013 6:13 PM

    I also didnt think that was a shot at Ditka. It was a reference to that areas well known coach who coached in what can only be considered a different era of football now.

  9. filthymcnasty1 says: Mar 21, 2013 6:19 PM

    Hunter Hillenmeyer is by far the best Bear player to ever come out of Vanderbilt.

  10. romoscollarbone says: Mar 21, 2013 6:23 PM

    you run live action scrimmages for an hour or two during double sessions and maybe 3 times a week for 2 or 3 weeks before school starts and after that you don’t really hit all that much the rest of the year. sure you collide every day unless its shells but not full speed thwacking after the summer.

  11. db3300 says: Mar 21, 2013 6:29 PM

    The NFL should just go for it and ban all contact other than “two anywhere”.

  12. smelltheglove2 says: Mar 21, 2013 6:40 PM

    Was that the full size Ditka, or the mini Ditka?

  13. bearsfan4life says: Mar 21, 2013 7:16 PM

    “Hunter Hillenmeyer is by far the best Bear player to ever come out of Vanderbilt.”

    When he was playing for the Bears, he wasn’t even the best Vandy player on the defense.

  14. holdthebeans says: Mar 21, 2013 7:35 PM

    Who goes live every practice during the week? NOBODY. This is stupid. Get these idiot legislators out of the game of football. Go steal tax money it’s all their good at anyway.

    You thump it out in the preseason to see who starts and then once the season starts that stuff is over. No coach wants their guys worn out during the week or hurt once the season starts. This is more nonsense. End up getting more guys hurt cause they’re not in football shape when the real hitting starts. Once the government gets involved it’s over. There isn’t anything they’ve ever touched that’s gotten better. Other than stealing peoples money like I already mentioned.

  15. vaphinfan says: Mar 21, 2013 7:47 PM

    I played hs and college ball but I really enjoyed laying guys like this out and watching them cry to the trainers

  16. wwwmattcom says: Mar 21, 2013 8:05 PM

    If a coach ever says, “We as a society have gotten softer, back when I played, no kid is sitting in a rocking chair because of a concussion.” You got a coach who was hit in the head too much.

  17. idolized1 says: Mar 21, 2013 8:49 PM

    Amazing that the hundreds of old and older people I know who played HS and even some college ball don’t have any head/neck/back injuries from when they played with less than satisfactory protection and crazed coaches that loved contact.

    Just makes a guy wonder – Does anyone have a pair anymore or is football going to be the new soccer?

  18. abninf says: Mar 21, 2013 9:13 PM

    Illinois politicians will go with that. Try it in Texas haha

  19. harrisonhits2 says: Mar 21, 2013 9:42 PM

    Hillenmayer also went on to say that all scoring should be removed from the game so both sides could feel good once the game was over and so no player would have to endure the pain of an actual loss.

    The wussification of America continues

  20. nytroutdog says: Mar 21, 2013 9:42 PM

    nineroutsider offered a compelling case but excluded one thing: people (ticket holders/TV viewers) pay for big hits which benefits the owners and that, in turn, benefits the players. If the game is altered too much the money dries up. There will always be inner city/country players parents looking to ride their children’s coat tails to get them out of poverty…it just is.

  21. nananatman says: Mar 21, 2013 10:35 PM

    I think that considering what happens to men physically in real jobs that we are paying so much attention to what amounts to men-boys playing a children’s game is laughable. I’m gonna go watch paint dry.

  22. drsteller says: Mar 21, 2013 11:13 PM

    Couldn’t find a pic of Hillenmeyer?

  23. jimmylions says: Mar 21, 2013 11:25 PM

    “… a rogue, wannabe-Mike Ditka youth coach will continue to have unchecked ability …”

    He’s talking about clueless coaches (and there are lots of them) who have a warped concept of “toughness” — coaches who don’t know the slightest thing about how to help kids become a team. These are guys who think they are like Ditka or Lombardi, and don’t know actually know jack about either of those men.

    What Hillenmeyer is suggesting really isn’t that much different than when coaches had to change how they taught kids to tackle. We’d been taught to put our facemask into the other guy’s numbers. That changed to using our shoulder pads. The game survived just fine and injuries decreased.

  24. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Mar 26, 2013 1:29 AM

    Hey Hunter, just have the HS kids sign a big contract and you won’t have to worry about them tackling or hitting anyone anytime soon. At least that works in the NFL.

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