As much as America loves football, very few of us can tell you what happened to our favorite players once they hang up their helmets. It's easy to assume that the guys whose bruising hits and breath-taking catches entertained us on Sundays are living out their golden years on a beach somewhere. That's not always the case. In fact, it's seldom the case. Many of them never earned that much money to begin with and a large number of them are facing a lifetime of pain due to injuries sustained on the field.
Most of you may not remember Brent Boyd. He came out of UCA in 1980 as an offensive lineman and was drafted in the third round by the Minnesota Vikings. He only earned 30,000 dollars a year, but as a young college graduate who'd made it to the top of his sport, Brent Boyd thought he had the world by the tail. By the time he left football in 1986 though he wasn't the same man. His knee was in constant pain. He took painkillers for that. But the dizziness, depression, constant headaches and fatigue were harder to diagnose. He describes feeling like "having the flu every day." Over the next decade Boyd lost his job, his home, his marriage, and his self-respect.
It wasn't until 1999 that doctors ever thought to ask him if he'd ever suffered a concussion. Boyd remembers one in particular. It happened during a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. He says he was hit so hard he temporarily lost sight in one eye. When it was determined he could still see out of the other eye, he was sent back onto the field. Boyd doesn't blame his coaches, he admits he was fighting to keep his job and did what he had to. He played hurt.
Doctors say the brain and how much battering it can take is still a mystery and often depends on the individual. In other words, the hits to the head that damaged Brent Boyd broken may not have had such a negative impact on another player. Boyd went to the NFL and its players union to request a disability income of $8,000 a month, but his request was rejected, even though he says two of three NFL doctors agreed he was disabled and his injuries were sustained playing football.
Last week we visited him in his tiny Reno, Nevada home where he lives with his second wife Gina and his son Anders. Tuesday he told his story to Congressman looking into how the NFL and the NFLPA treat former players. He doesn't know if anything that happens in DC today will make a difference in his life, but he does hope today's hearings might ease the pain of players down the road.