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Trent Tanking courts stardom

In other news, Bill Snyder talks CTE

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media Days Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

We’re not far from Real Live Kansas State football now. Only #35 Blake Richmeier days to go now!

— Senior Trent Tanking had fairly low expectations for his career in purple. A walk-on, he just wanted to make the roster. But fate had other plans, and now he’s not only on scholarship but likely to be the team’s top linebacker in 2017. Indeed, he seems destined for stardom (Kellis Robinett, Wichita Eagle).

To what extent does culture breed success in football? At Kansas, David Beaty—who acknowledges it’s impossible for two Power 5 schools to share the state and be equally successful—thinks Kansas State’s walk on and work hard culture helps new players transition from underrated player to Big 12 starter. These players then promote Kansas State as the place to be for future success, and recruits buy into that. This cultural effect is something money cannot buy (Kevin Haskin, Topeka Capital-Journal).

As you might have heard, football is in the headlines right now for reasons other than the impending season. Four days ago, a new study was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). According to the New York Times, the study used a convenience sample of the donated brains of deceased football players, and 109 brains of 110 former NFL players showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), significantly more than the average expected for the general population. Offensive and defensive linemen were the worst affected (Joe Ward, Josh Williams, Sam Manchester, NYT).

The immediate fallout from this report has involved both overreaction and skepticism about the study itself. But at least one NFL player, the Ravens’ John Urschel, appears to have retired from the sport in response to the report. Urschel, 26, is currently a Ph.D. student in applied mathematics at MIT. He cited a desire to spend more time on his studies as the reason for his retirement, but the timing and inside sources suggest the JAMA report was the key deciding factor (Ken Belson, NYT).

For his part, Bill Snyder wonders if football will even be around long term. Referencing the NYT article, he had this to say:

If indeed those numbers continue as they appear that they have been, if it stays the same, I think you’ll see football change dramatically if indeed it even stays around.

Even if Snyder’s words seem a bit alarmist, we need to acknowledge that football is not as safe as it needs to be. As a parent of a football-playing child, I’m deeply conflicted. I recognize that it’s possible to love a sport while recognizing its inherent dangers, but at what point do people—fans, players, parents—turn away from the sport altogether?

Snyder notes that Kansas State stresses fundamentals as a way of improving safety and security, and many others close to the sport note that injuries are minimized when players are taught to tackle and hit properly, especially at a younger age.

But maybe the solution is to fundamentally change the way the game is played? Spencer Hall addresses these issues in this longform article from the mothership: The Future of Football.