Should Austin Collie retire from professional football - right now - before his brain and body deteriorate further?
Playing in the NFL is one of the ultimate risk-versus-reward career decisions.
The rewards are obvious: Millions of dollars, fame, and professional enjoyment.
The potential risks are becoming increasingly well known: Brain trauma, early dementia, possible post-football depression, and joints that fail relatively early in life.
At this point the risks to Collie's brain and body look to outweigh the rewards.
While this decision is ultimately his to make, I look at him as a fellow BYU graduate and wonder if the right long-term decision is for him to hang up his helmet for good.
Learning from Jim McMahon
Former BYU quarterback Jim McMahon was recently on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the face of the devastating effects football-related brain trauma can have.
McMahon, 53, is in the early stages of dementia and is part of a group of more than 2,000 former players suing the NFL for the effects they claim to suffer from brain trauma stemming from their playing days.
In retrospect, McMahon now says he "probably would have chosen a different career" had he known the toll football would end up taking on his brain.
It is too late now for McMahon to change his fate.
It may not be too late for Austin Collie.
Collie's Awesome Potential
Walking away right now would be understandably difficult for Austin Collie.
He is in the final year of a four-year, $2.2 million contract and will miss the remainder of this season with a knee injury. This was supposed to be the year he proved concussions were no longer a problem and resume his status as an elite receiver. The reward would have been another multi-year, multi-million dollar contract.
And when healthy, Austin Collie has proven he can be an elite receiver.
As a rookie in 2009 his 60 receptions tied him with Percy Harvin for the most receptions by a first year player.
In 2010 Collie was simply dominant. Through Week 6 he averaged over seven receptions, 84 yards, and one touchdown per game, putting him on pace for 117 receptions, 1,341 yards, and 16 TD's - numbers to match Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, or any other top-tier wideout.
But in Collie's seventh game of 2010 he suffered a devastating concussion against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Five weeks later he suffered another gruesome concussion against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It is one thing to read about a concussion. It is something else to re-watch just how bad they can be.
Here is the video of Collie getting knocked out against the Eagles.
Here is the video of the Jacksonville concussion.
These are brutal, brutal blows to his brain.
And now Austin Collie will miss essentially the entire 2012 season with a knee injury.
The potential reward of continuing to play football may no longer exceed the risk.
A Bright Non-Football Future for Austin Collie
I have never met Austin Collie. I have never spoken with him. I do not know him.
But based on what I know about him, Austin Collie will fare just fine in life without football. He graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA and was named to the Mountain West Conference All-Academic Team as a sophomore and junior at BYU.
All indications are that he is smart, committed, and hard-working. He should succeed in life no matter what he does.
Even if Collie leaves millions of dollars on the table by walking away from professional football, his education and status as a former NFL player will open plenty of doors.
Because he is smart, Austin Collie will make the right long-term decision for himself, his family, and his future.
At this point the smart thing to do might be to simply walk away, preserving his body and mind for the future.
Andrew Sweat is a BYU alum and die-hard Cougars fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check out these articles:
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Austin Collie