Two years ago, Russell Allen, a Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker who was an undrafted free agent in 2009 had the best year of his career with 129 tackles.
Less than two years later, Allen is done with football for good.
As he tells theMMQB.com’s Robert Klemko, the Jaguars cut Allen this offseason after he failed a physical. But there’s more. Much more.
Allen suffered a stroke last season in week 15 against the Buffalo Bills.
According to Allen, he collided face-to-face with Bills center Eric Wood during the contest, leaving Allen buzzed. He thought nothing of it at first.
“It was strange because it was so routine,” Allen said. “We hit, I got off the block, no big deal. I felt something flash—like they say when you get your bell rung. I didn’t lose consciousness. I walked back to the huddle and finished the drive.”
Later, he asked fellow linebacker Paul Posluszny to look in his eyes because he had begun seeing double on the sideline. Posluszny said he thought Allen was fine and he returned to the game.
Via Klemko, here’s what happened next.
The Jaguars’ medical staff ordered an MRI and sent Allen home after it was done. On Tuesday morning the trainer called Allen and told him to meet the team physician at the emergency room. Allen thought going to the hospital was only a matter of convenience, because the doctor might be doing rounds there. To his surprise he was told that he’d suffered a stroke during the 27-20 loss to Buffalo. Allen was admitted to the hospital and put through a battery of tests for three days while teammates visited and coach Bradley (and several assistants) called to offer encouragement.
… The results were conclusive: a small portion of Allen’s brain was inactive. Doctors told Allen it could have been much worse, especially since he went back on the field and risked other jarring collisions. As it was, he had trouble holding onto dishes, breaking several—a symptom consistent with a cerebellum injury.
“If I could go back in time I would do it differently,” Allen says. “Being in it and knowing how I felt in that moment, the game feels so serious. You’re thinking, I can’t come out, because what if someone else comes in and takes my job? Or they need me out there, and I can’t come out because I really want to win. But you can’t do that, and I learned that the hard way.”
His experience has managed to give him a new way to look at his former career. But why tell the story?
I told my story so athletes understand you can’t ignore head injuries. If you’re not sure you have one, then you do. Report it immediately.
— Russell Allen (@RussellAllen50) April 22, 2014