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On a clammy April evening, Corey Kenyon sat on his aback balustrade with his aerial academy football associate Jevan Snead, affable steaks on the grill, alert to the active cicadas and reminiscing about their celebrity canicule on the field. It was one of their accepted trips bottomward anamnesis lane.
For 15 years, alike as Snead’s football career took him to the exciting heights of NCAA distinction and the crushing lows of NFL flops, the Stephenville Aerial Academy stars had remained close.
But as they reminisced that night, Kenyon recalled, article was awry with his friend. As he anecdotal the smacking of helmets, the pileups of pads and the clap acclaim of admirers watching their beauteous plays, Snead sat expressionless.
“He aloof affectionate of laughed, like a weird, stressed-out affectionate of laugh, and said, ‘I don’t bethink any of that affectionate of stuff,’ ” said Kenyon, now a Cedar Park Average Academy abettor football coach. “It was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I would say, ‘That was one of our best games. You did this and this and this.’”
Kenyon brought up the 2010 Cotton Bowl. As quarterback for the University of Mississippi, Snead came aback from a skull-jarring helmet-to-helmet blow that larboard him addled on the accommodation and led his aggregation to a 21-7 achievement over Oklahoma State. The bold was a highlight of Snead’s career.
“He was aloof like, ‘I don’t bethink it,’ ” Kenyon said.
Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead lays on the acreage afterwards actuality blocked adjoin the Oklahoma Accompaniment Cowboys during the Cotton Bowl Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Jan. 2, 2010. (Photo: Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports-US PRESSWIRE)
The words were worrisome. Football had been his friend’s life. He spent best of his childhood, boyhood and academy years on a aisle to football stardom, adherent to a action that had fabricated him a top civic recruit and had accustomed him a admission out of alone Texas. He was a backstab all-state aerialist at Stephenville afore landing at the University of Texas.
Hoping for a bigger role on the field, he transferred to Ole Miss in 2007. By the time he larboard three years afterwards to access the NFL draft, the aphotic blond-haired, baby football amateur was so accepted that he was about asked to assurance autographs or accept game-day pictures taken with admirers in the university’s arresting affair mecca alleged the Grove.
But about a decade afterwards the aiguille of Snead’s football career, his ancestors and abutting accompany accept the action he so dearly admired unraveled him. By his aboriginal 30s, he fought affection of dementia, struggled with abasement and could scantly anamnesis banal capacity of the antecedent day or alike the adventure of ancient victories.
Snead’s post-football coast deepens questions about the dangers of a admired American amusement and what experts say accepted arch agony does to the accuracy of boyish players weekend afterwards weekend during football season. It has put the affair of abiding alarming encephalopathy, accepted as CTE, on centermost date for Snead’s admired ones, who accept now adherent themselves to educating parents and youths about the dangers and the charge for top-line assurance gear.
The Snead family, from left, Jennah, Jaylon, Jane and Jayse, affectation for a photo Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 at Stephenville City Park as they bethink Jevan Snead, a above Texas and Ole Miss quarterback who died by suicide in September. (Photo: Ricardo Brazziell / Austin American States-man)
Snead’s ancestors — his father, mother and two ancestors — believes he suffered a alternation of concussions throughout his life, from aback he was a band-aid boy in rural Texas abolition into alive oak copse to the abominable Cotton Bowl helmet-to-helmet appulse captured on civic TV.
Snead himself was so assertive that he suffered from CTE that he instructed his ancestors to accord his academician to medical analysis afterwards his death.
Jevan Snead was about 6 aback his ancestor accomplished that the average of his three accouchement was a able athlete. Not alone did he accept a able appropriate arm, but he was acutely competitive.
Over the abutting two decades, Jaylon Snead would become his son’s greatest fan. The two accumulated into his king-cab Ford auto to drive to sports camps beyond Texas. Aback Jevan went off to college, his ancestor crisscrossed the Southeast on weekends and never absent a game.
Jaylon Snead, who managed a agronomical in Concho County afore acceptable a academy bus driver, says he aboriginal anticipation his son would become a baseball player. His abilities were credible the aboriginal summer he took Jevan from their home in Eden to a affected 90 afar abroad at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene aback he was 7. By the time he was 10, coaches clocked him throwing a baseball at 62 afar per hour.
“He was aloof a adventure to be about athletically,” Jaylon Snead said.
But Jevan was added absorbed in football. The summer amid the third and fourth grade, his ancestor began active him 45 afar to San Angelo for after-school convenance and Saturday amateur as allotment of a peewee football league. They were about so apprenticed for time that Jevan afflicted clothes in his father’s barter amid academy and practice.
“He came to football naturally,” Jaylon Snead said. “The aboriginal day he went to practice, they did a arrest drill, and he buried his face affectation appropriate in the chest of the fella he was tackling. The drillmaster aloof backed up and said, ‘Oh, my gosh. We accept a amateur here.’ ”
Snead was No. 9 with the San Angelo Apaches through the sixth grade.
“He was eager,” peewee drillmaster Art Rangel recalled. “Football was his activity aback then, and we knew he was meant to go to bigger and better.”
Jevan played inferior aerial football in Eden, a boondocks of about 1,200 bodies who began ambulatory about the boyish standout. His father’s articulation absurd aback he remembered the bounded broker endlessly him one night afterwards a game.
“He put his arm on my shoulder, and he said, ‘Jevan has consistently been accepted as Jaylon’s boy. But it won’t be continued afore you are aloof Jevan’s dad.’”
As Jevan able for aerial school, the Sneads absitively it was time for a desperate change — one that would accord their accouchement added opportunities and advice Jevan’s alpha football career.
They had visited Jevan’s beforehand sister, Jennah, who was accessory Tarleton Accompaniment University in Stephenville, and absitively they admired the town, which had about 15,000 bodies at the time. The bounded aerial academy was accepted for its football program.
“My dad said, ‘I aloof don’t apperceive if he can cut it at a academy as big as Stephenville,’” Jevan’s sister, Jennah Snead Walker, said. “The coaches looked at my dad and said, ‘He can cut it anywhere.’ ”
The ancestors larboard Eden and confused 120 afar northeast, and Jevan abutting the Stephenville Aerial Yellow Jackets.
“We saw this tall, albino kid, affectionate of skinny, and we were like, ‘Who is this kid?’” Kenyon recalled. “He picks up the ball, and he chunks it 50 yards accessible as a freshman, and we were like, ‘I anticipate we can be accompany with this guy.’”
Over the abutting four years, Jevan was a archetypal aerial academy apprentice and kid brother to a sister bristles years older. The boy who had taunted her with pranks as a boyish now angry to her for opinions on his clothes or hairstyle, arrive the categorical preppy attending he agitated for years to come. Brother and sister joked that he wouldn’t apperceive how to get dressed afterwards her.
But on the field, Jevan was all about football.
Stephenville’s drillmaster at the time was Chad Morris, who went on to be the arch drillmaster at Lake Travis Aerial School, Southern Methodist University and the University of Arkansas. Morris is now abhorrent coordinator and quarterbacks drillmaster at Auburn University.
“He and Jevan aloof clicked,” Walker said. “He was a additional dad to Jevan.”
Over the abutting four years, accolades caked in. Jevan was alleged to the 2006 Parade All-America team. That year, he additionally was alleged for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. By his inferior year, academy offers abounding the family’s mailbox. The Sneads still accept those letters, accumulated neatly in Nike shoeboxes.
Snead chose Texas afterwards admission from aerial academy in 2006. He believed acclaimed quarterback Vince Boyish would be with the aggregation for at atomic addition year, giving him time to alternation and position himself to alter him. Instead, Boyish abutting the NFL, and the starting job went to Colt McCoy, who had already been with the Longhorns.
Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead celebrates afterwards the Rebels defeated Florida in 2008. (Photo: The Associated Press)
Snead was afresh offered the quarterback position at Ole Miss. He visited and fell in adulation with the Oxford campus afore enrolling in January 2007.
“They were defective a quarterback, and Jevan was defective a abode to alarm home and feel like home,” his sister said. “As anon as he stepped bottom on campus and the town, he alleged and said, ‘Y’all aren’t activity to accept this place. The campus is beautiful, and they’ve got so abundant tradition.’”
Over the abutting three years, Snead flourished. His photo appeared on the awning of the Aug. 17, 2009, affair of Sports Illustrated with the headline: “The Rebels accept the firepower to agitate up the BCS.” Copies address Snead’s autograph are still for auction on Amazon for $400.
His time at Ole Miss culminated with the Cotton Bowl, area he completed 13 of 23 passes for 168 yards with three interceptions. On an interception acknowledgment in the 13th minute of the additional quarter, an Oklahoma Accompaniment amateur addled him as Jevan bankrupt in for a tackle.
The able blast alveolate Snead’s helmet into the air. He landed collapsed on his back. TV cameras showed him rolling over and afterwards walking off the acreage and talking to coaches on the sideline.
His ancestors remembers watching from the stands, terrified.
“You could see his eyes cycle into the aback of his head, and he was out for what seemed like always to us,” Walker said.
Snead brushed it off and alternate for the fourth division of his final academy game.
But central his skull, his ancestors believes, the Cotton Bowl crash, circuitous by a career dotted with traumas, unleashed a acoustic acknowledgment that angry the able football brilliant into an emotionally brittle boyish man who acquainted afflicted as his abused academician began to accord out on him.
The ancestors of Jevan Snead, a above Texas and Ole Miss quarterback who did by suicide in September, allotment a photo of him during his academy days. (Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell / Austin American-Statesman)
In contempo years, arch injuries to football players accept become a chat with accretion coercion amid sports and medical experts.
Chronic alarming encephalopathy, which can alone be diagnosed afterwards a person’s death, is about begin in bodies with a history of afresh academician trauma, including athletes.
“We’ve apparent CTE with boxers, football players and bodies who accept had a history of alternate arch injuries, concussions or alike subconcussions, area bodies may accept hits to the arch but no affection associated with it,” said Dr. John Bertelson, an Austin neurologist.
Repeated agony triggers the accretion of a protein alleged tau, which can advance to aberrant academician functions months, years or decades later.
The ache is associated with affection such as anamnesis loss, broken judgment, actuation ascendancy problems, aggression, abasement and baleful tendencies — abounding furnishings that Snead’s ancestors and accompany said he showed.
It eventually leads to accelerating dementia, according to advisers at Boston University’s Abiding Alarming Encephalopathy Centermost who are alive to added absolutely accept abiogenetic accident factors, the age at which a being is at accident and added accident factors. Scientists achievement to ultimately advance a treatment.
The affair of CTE has accustomed added civic absorption in the accomplished 15 years, alpha with the advertisement of the aboriginal affirmation of the action in a U.S. football player: above Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, whose activity afterwards football was bedeviled with agitation that appear letters say included bouts of homelessness, banking problems and continued periods of reclusiveness. He was 50 aback he died of a affection advance in 2002.
Since then, the Boston University centermost has accustomed added than 600 donated brains, mostly from football players. Added than 325 of the accuracy accept been diagnosed with CTE.
Revelations about the action accept additionally led to lawsuits, including one acclimatized aftermost year in Dallas that was brought by the added of arresting lineman Greg Ploetz, who played at Texas from 1968 to 1971. He died in 2015, and scientists disqualified he had all-encompassing academician damage. The accusation adjoin the NCAA said he suffered from anamnesis loss, advice issues and confusion. Terms of the adjustment accept not been fabricated public.
The affair has prompted some states, including Massachusetts, to accede banning accouterment football for accouchement in grades seven and under.
Texas has taken accomplish in contempo years to abbreviate arch injuries to players, including the access of a 2011 law that appropriate academy districts to actualize blow blank teams that charge accommodate at atomic one doctor and to authorize “return to play” protocols that accommodate an appraisal of a apprentice amateur by a doctor afterwards a accessible concussion. The law additionally appropriate the University Interscholastic Alliance and the Texas Department of Accompaniment Bloom Services to actualize appropriate training courses for coaches and able-bodied trainers about the dangers of CTE.
Texas Rep. Four Price, an Amarillo Republican, said he authored the 2011 law afterwards account accessories about concussions amid aerial academy athletes and wondered whether the accompaniment was accomplishing abundant to assure its youths. The ancestor of four additionally had two sons who played football.
“There is such a affluent attitude of contest and sports competitions in the accompaniment of Texas,” he said. “There isn’t annihilation I capital to do to punch that back, but we capital to advance that by authoritative it safe and convalescent the bloom of acceptance who participate.”
Jamey Harrison, agent administrator of the University Interscholastic League, which governs Texas aerial academy athletics, said the alignment has taken assorted accomplish to abbreviate the affairs of a apprentice accepting arch trauma, including attached the bulk of time a amateur can participate in abounding acquaintance practice. Officials additionally afresh began efforts to advance a database of athletes who accept concussions so that they can bigger acknowledgment questions such as the activities that are best acceptable to aftereffect in academician trauma.
“All of this advice is absolutely about befitting kids safe,” he said. “That is the goal.”
Other organizations, such as the Texas Medical Association, additionally accept become complex to advice accession awareness, ablution a webpage that has advice for physicians, athletes and parents about the dangers of concussions and bearing an educational video to advice athletes and coaches apprentice about the furnishings of assorted concussions.
Dr. Maria Monge, who chairs the association’s board on boyish and boyish health, said abounding doctors are acquisitive for added abstracts that actually links assertive activities with CTE. But she said she is afraid to endorse sports such as football for accouchement and youths.
“The affecting allotment of me wonders, ‘What are we doing? Would I let my own boyish comedy football?’ ” said Monge, an Austin pediatrician. “I anticipate a lot of pediatricians don’t let their accouchement comedy football.”
After finishing that ballsy 2010 division and earning an Ole Miss business degree, Jevan apprenticed advanced with football, assured to footfall into a successful, advantageous NFL career.
Former Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead. (Photo: Jim Brown USA TODAY Sports)
He entered the 2010 NFL abstract but was anesthetized by. He active with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April of that year but was appear in July. Afterwards the team’s starting quarterback bankrupt his finger, Jevan active with the Buccaneers a additional time, but he was cut afresh months afterwards afterwards the afflicted quarterback returned. In January 2011, he active to comedy with the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League, but he was appear afore the division afterwards the drillmaster who had recruited him was fired.
Jevan was bedeviled by disappointment that his football career concluded so unceremoniously. He was addled by the angle that he had bootless his coaches and the association that had believed in him.
“He would get a little dejected in the fall, aback football came around. I anticipate he absent it,” Jennah Snead Walker said. “The ‘what ifs’ would edge aback in.”
He formed assorted jobs, including in absolute estate, acreage development and medical sales, as he approved to accomplish a activity in which football wasn’t the active force.
His aloofness was a conceivably barefaced evidence of long-pursued dreams dashed. But Jevan’s accompany and ancestors noticed behavior that was added acutely troubling, an accretion akin of absent-mindedness accidental of a man in his aboriginal 30s.
His sister says he couldn’t bethink things she mentioned about their adolescence such as funny memories from anniversary meals.
During a golfing weekend with a friend, he forgot the advance from one day to the next.
He so doubted his anamnesis that he consistently fabricated admonition addendum to himself about annihilation from assignment assignments to banquet plans, afresh took pictures of them on his buzz so he had them at all times.
His moods became erratic, and he was about impulsive.
“It was, ‘I’m annoyed of this job; let’s go in a altered direction,’” Jennah Snead Walker said.
And he wrestled with alternate depression.
“The highs were absolutely high, and the lows were absolutely low, and it would change aloof like that,” she said. “It would about-face on a dime.”
Jevan met with addition disappointment afterwards he confused to California to accompany a accord aftermost year. He alternate to Austin afterwards the breakdown aftermost bounce and formed as a adviser for WeWork, a startup that provides appointment amplitude for alien workers.
He began authoritative new friends, rekindling old relationships and accidentally dating.
Whitney Wilson met Jevan accidentally a brace of years ago, and she said the two anon had chemistry.
“It was an accessible accord to be in,” she said. “He had such acceptable activity and fabricated you feel comfortable.”
When he alternate to Austin, the two began spending time together, about with a beyond accumulation of accompany at Agronomical 616, one of their admired spots downtown.
Wilson says she knew aftermost abatement that Snead was disturbing with abasement and all-overs over aggregate from his football accomplished to his able future. He was captivated with self-doubt about about everything, including his appearance.
“Here was a being who is tall, attractive,” Wilson said. “He had already accomplished a ample bulk of success at such an aboriginal age. But for Jevan, it seemed to be aloof the opposite. I could acquaint him he was perfect, and he would aloof apprehend whatever he capital to hear.”
On Saturday, Sept. 21, Jevan was declared to aces up a acquaintance from California at the airport in Austin. But aback that acquaintance and others, including Wilson, didn’t apprehend from him all day, they knew article was wrong.
They eventually alleged the police. Aback admiral affected their way into his South Austin apartment, they begin Jevan in his bath with a tan belt about his neck.
On Sunday morning Sept. 22, as Kenyon was abrogation for church, Jevan’s parents alleged him with the abhorrent news.
“That’s the alone time I’ve anytime been mad at God and asked him, ‘Why didn’t you appearance up?’ ” Kenyon said. “‘Why didn’t you appearance him what you’ve apparent me aback I’ve been down?’ Aback he died, a little allotment of me died.”
In befitting with his wishes, Jevan’s ancestors donated his academician to the Boston centermost for research, acquisitive to apprentice article that could advice the abutting bearing of boyish football players. The ancestors additionally has amorphous adopting money to buy helmets for academy districts that contrarily can’t allow top-of-the-line assurance gear.
Six months afterwards his friend’s death, Kenyon about scrolls through pictures of Snead on his phone. He’s dug up beforehand ones, too, from their celebrity canicule on the acreage at Stephenville Aerial School.
Kenyon about thinks aback to the chat he had with Snead on his aback patio aftermost spring, aback the abyss of his anamnesis accident took abounding focus.
He is still apparitional by his friend’s acknowledgment aback he mentioned one of the best cardinal moments of Jevan’s career, one that he has replayed over and over afresh on YouTube as he grieves.
He additionally thinks about the night Jevan took his life. Kenyon had been apprenticeship in a football bold and advised calling him about 11 p.m., as he was aggravating to appear bottomward from the night’s adrenaline rush.
He ample Jevan was out with friends, so instead he texted a video. Kenyon had acclimated his cellphone to almanac a video that had been apparent on the school’s Jumbotron introducing the football apprenticeship agents beforehand that night.
“Getting big time,” Kenyon joked as he typed what became his aftermost argument to his friend. “You apperceive what this is all about.”
“Hahaha,” Jevan responded. “I adulation you.”
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