High school football combines are supposed to be risk free, stats heavy assessment zones where college recruiters can get a better feel for the athleticism of future players. Suddenly the risk free part of that equation seems less certain, after top wide receiver prospect Lamont Baldwin suffered a severe concussion and fractured skull during a combine on April 2.
According to the Washington Post, Baldwin, a highly-touted wide receiver at Archbishop Carroll (D.C.) School, was injured during a collision while participating in a standard wide receiver vs. defensive back drill. The scary incident involved two other players -- Eleanor Roosevelt (D.C.) High's B.J. Antoine and DeMatha (Md.) Catholic High's Demery Monroe -- both of whom were released after a brief hospitalization.
That wasn't the case for Baldwin, who spent a lengthy spell in the hospital after being transported from the Dulles Sportsplex in Virginia by helicopter. The teenager spent two days in intensive care and has since been released from the hospital, though he may potentially be months away from a complete recovery.
"I've been doing this a long time and seen some crazy injuries, but I have never seen anything scare me this much," Carroll Coach Rick Houchens said. "I feared for the kid's life."
The Post reported that Baldwin's injury came in connection with the combine running two one-on-one drills on adjacent fields, with the quarterbacks from both fields throwing to similar spots.
Houchens, who went to the camp as a spectator, said Baldwin lined up for a play while being covered by Antoine. Baldwin ran about 10 yards straight ahead, then broke off on a 45-degree angle, Houchens said. At the same time, from the other end of the field, Monroe was covering a wide receiver, with the four players on a collision course.
"You don't do that, you never run any kind of drill into each other," said Houchens, noting that there were close calls before the injuries occurred. "There is too much risk."
The event's organizer, MDHigh.com recruiting analyst Wayne Yarborough, cited the need for more participation from all the combine's attendees as the reason for dueling one-on-one drills, citing frequent complaints abut a lack of repetitions in prior events as the motivation for pushing the envelope on participation.
That demand for more repetitions has come as a direct result of the rapidly increasing number of athletes who attend events like the Northern Virginia Riddell All-American Training Camp Elite Skills and Lineman Showcase at which Baldwin was injured. With combines seen as the most direct route to a scholarship, fewer athletes with any collegiate football hopes are willing to forego them.
More athletes means a need for more drill repetitions in the same amount of time, a crunch which clearly contributed to Baldwin's injury, and which may have put his collegiate future in jeopardy. While Miami, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Maryland and Pittsburgh have all shown interest in the budding receiver, his long term recovery may jeopardize those schools' willingness to commit a scholarship to him.
"I've been texting him and talking to him, not for long, just little bits and stuff because he is still in a lot of pain and still has real severe headaches," Houchens told the Post. "That's a combination from the skull and concussion symptoms.
"Even though he's out of the hospital, it's a long-road type of recovery. We don't know how long it will take."