Alabama and Texas A&M both made national signing day special for two players who might not have otherwise been part of the festivities.
Defensive tackle Elisha Shaw and cornerback Cedric Collins pledged to Alabama and Texas A&M respectively, but neither will ever see the field. Both player suffered career-ending injuries in high school, but their commitments to their programs were honored and both players will enroll in school with medical scholarships.
Neither player signed an official letter of intent and medical scholarships do not count toward official recruiting numbers.
Shaw, a three-star defensive tackle from Atlanta, was a highly-recruited athlete even though he suffered a neck injury in August 2013 and missed all of his senior season. And since schools didn't know whether or not he would be able to play in college, teams continued to pursue him.
Shaw didn't know he wouldn't be able to play college football until late last year and when word got out, teams started looking for alternatives. Offers were pulled left and right, but Alabama stayed. While there was a small chance Shaw could play again, Alabama knew that it was remote and didn't keep him on their scholarship list because of his talent. They did so because the coaching staff wanted him to be a part of their program even if he couldn't play.
Texas A&M felt the same way about Collins.
Collins committed to the Aggies in August 2012, but during the playoffs that season, he took a hit and subsequently suffered numbness in his legs. Tests revealed congenital cervical abnormalities and Collins days of playing football were over.
On a routine play, Collins headed toward the action, when he was blocked by an opponent.
“I lost the feeling in my legs,” Collins said.
The numbness lasted only a few minutes. In the stands, Collins Sr. figured it was a typical leg injury. Collins Jr. walked off the field under his own power. He didn’t know then that he would never return.
X-rays and an MRI taken by doctors the next day raised concerns.
Collins was referred to Dr. Andrew Dossett, a noted orthopedic surgeon at The Carrell Clinic who has a history of treating professional and collegiate athletes with spinal disorders.
Collins was diagnosed with Klippel-Feil Syndrome, a rare congenital fusion of vertebrae.
“It’s exceptionally rare to have this abnormality,” Dossett said, “and be that good of a football player.”
Collins visited A&M in January 2013 with several other recruits looking forward to their futures on the field. A&M coach Kevin Sumlin pulled the Collins family into his office and told them that as long as their son wanted to attend school there, his education would be paid for.
Collins will work as a student coach at Texas A&M.
We hear a lot – almost daily – about how college football is about money and greed and a whole host of other things that take away from the pureness of the sport, but every once in awhile there are stories like these that makes you remember that college football is also about an education and an experience.
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