ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Jade Pender was on his way to play professional football. At least that’s what coaches told the 6-foot-5, 240-pound wide receiver who suffered his first concussion in third grade.
“I remember it was on a kick-off play, when coaches said I got my bell rung,” Pender said. “While playing through high school and college — first in Texas then at Colorado State — I sustained several more concussions that forced me out of the game I loved.”
At the time, his GPA was a 3.8 at CSU. That changed in a hurry.
Despite an effort to switch to track and field, Pender was so angered about missing out on his pro dream, he turned to alcohol, dropped out of school and had to figure out for himself what was happening to him.
That’s when he found Dr. Shawn Steadman.
“He had been very successful at rehabbing concussion victims back to somewhat normal lives,” Pender said. “Working with him on kind of re-booting my brain, I set up a speaking program, Head First, to teach coaches and parents about how dangerous head injuries can be.”
Pender thinks his brain functions also caused chemical imbalances in his body, which led to other problems.
In addition to being on the lecture circuit — coaching kids football, and working with helmet makers — Pender is still being treated for the life-changing concussions that put him on a different path than the one that may have led him to professional football.
And that, in his mind, is a good thing.
“While the average age of an NFL player is 55, it should also be noted that each year of college football takes three years off how long a life you will live.” Pender said.
With that as a warning, Pender urges parents to make sure the equipment your child is using is certified safe.