Corey Widmer may be the exception, but he’s willing to be the vocal exception.
The former Giants middle linebacker, who played eight years in the NFL, recently turned down an invitation to be enshrined in the Montana Football Hall of Fame because he’s so disturbed by what the game he once played did to him and countless others. So for him, all the pain present and future isn’t worth the money and the glory in his past.
“I think if I’d be putting that jacket on right now I’d probably puke,” Widmer said, via Jon Maletz of the Bozeman Chronicle. “I don’t think I’d be able to shake a hand. And that’s why I’m doing it this way; I don’t want to make some political statement right in the middle of their party and take advantage of some very nice people.
“I can’t sit up there and tell interesting stories and how cool it is — the camaraderie, the fame, things like that — and have somebody else say, ‘Well, if that local kid can do it, so can I.’ It just doesn’t work that easy. . . . I’d never want to give somebody the impression that football is safe and that the injuries are short term. They’re not. I’m proof of that.”
His playing career was ended by a back problem, but he’s dealing with much more than that now. Widmer said he’s suffering from a number of problems which he believes are related to concussions, and doesn’t want that to happen to others. He knows trying to derail the most powerful sports industry in the United States won’t be effective, but he does with he could share his message to convince parents to delay participation in full contact tackle football until the senior year of high school.
Widmer described physical and emotional symptoms consistent with other former players dealing with brain injuries, and he’s fearful for what is to come.
“I’m 49 years old, depressed to the Nth degree but have a lot of money . . . and some people might say it’s still worth it. I just tell them to watch what they wish for,” Widmer said. “If someone could’ve explained all of this to me when I was 14, I would’ve given it all back in a heartbeat. I would’ve wished for something else.
“The 6-foot-2, 260-pound canary in the coal mine has died. Maybe having been in the coal mine is the only way to really get the point across.”
While many former players are willing to acknowledge the benefits of the sport — including financial — Widmer no longer feels comfortable with the trade-off. And he’s willing to walk away from any recognition of his playing career to underscore his point.