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San Diego Chargers linebacker

Shawne Merriman

visited four different doctors to get opinions on his damaged left knee over the summer.

Specifically, Merriman wanted to know if he could play football with a torn PCL and a torn LCL.

Four doctors said he needed surgery. Merriman ignored them and declared himself available for the start of the season anyway.

"My knee still looks pretty good," he said at the time. "The decision was left up to me to play. If you give a football player a decision to play, you know, I'm going to play."

Elite athletes become elite through relentless hard work and a ton of passion for the sport they're playing. But when should someone step in and say no to an athlete who doesn't have it in them to say no themselves?

Merriman, who played one game before hanging it up and electing surgery, isn't the first example of an athlete playing through a potentially catastrophic injury. Not even close. Remember:

-Terrell Owens

, who played in Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005 despite a broken leg. Doctors wouldn't clear him to play but he did anyway, catching nine passes for 122 yards in a loss.

-Oregon quarterback

Dennis Dixon

was the Heisman Trophy favorite in 2007 before hurting his knee against Arizona State halfway through the season. He returned two weeks later against Arizona but left again when his knee buckled. It was then made public that he tried to play with a torn ACL.

-St. Louis Cardinals superstar

Albert Pujols

has played the 2008 season with a "high-grade tear" in his elbow, which is liable to blow any day. It's his call to delay surgery as long as he can. The way he can hit a baseball (even with the bad wing), nobody's going to get in his way.

 

-Even in the Beijing Olympics , China track star

Liu Xiang

tried to compete in front of his home country with a serious Achilles injury. He had barely broken out of the blocks on a false start when he finally gave up, knowing it wasn't going to work.

It seems coaches don't intervene in the professional ranks, which is up for debate. College coaches have much greater authority over their players (football coaches, in particular, take advantage of that). But in the case of Dixon, Oregon's coach allowed him to play until there was another sign of trouble.

Here's the debate: Where does it stop being the player's call and starts being someone else's? Should Chargers coach

Norv Turner

have stepped in and told Merriman no? Would the NFL Players' Association have raised a fuss if Turner didn't play Merriman? We know San Diego fans would.

 

If Merriman wanted to play through this injury while at the University of Maryland, does that change things? What about during his high school days in the Washington, D.C. area?

 

It's a gray area worth visiting. Merriman wasn't the first player to ignore a doctor's orders. You can bet he won't be the last.

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Gene Upshaw passed away yesterday at the age of 63.  Coincidently, that was the number on his uniform during an incredible NFL career that included two Super Bowl wins and seven Pro Bowl appearances. 

 

However, it will be for his leadership of NFL Players and the Union that he will be most remembered.  For over 20 years, he served as head of the Union and was instrumental in positioning the NFLPA where it is today.  From Free Agency for players to increased salaries and benefits, he battled a Machine, the NFL, that for years, had benefited from athletes on the field without giving much back to them.

 

Playing nine years in the NFL and having served as union representative for most of those years, I was able to experience first hand the results he had produced.  People always had an issue here or there with what he was doing, but overall, no one could argue with his leadership.  In any type of leadership position, it is difficult to please everyone all of the time.  Being a retired player, there are benefits that I feel could have been addressed more for us.  However, the retirement benefits that I now have are largely due to his ability to surround himself with strong leadership and get results.  For that I am thankful.

 

His ability to relate to players and stand his ground when dealing with the NFL owners was an attribute to his strength, courage, integrity and most of all his tenacity.  The next Executive Director will have some big shoes to fill, but I am confident that Gene set enough examples to follow.

 

That things that I love about sports/athletics are discipline, teamwork and leadership qualities.  These are necessary to be successful on the field, court, in the water, on the bike, etc.

 

There are so many benefits to an Active life style whether competing against others or yourself, whether you are hoisting the championship trophy or handling defeat with dignity.

 

Thank you, Gene, for being an example to all athletes by realizing that our potential doesn't end when the last whistle blows and we walk off the field for the last time.  Whether that is in high school, college, the Olympics or professional, we have the foundation to be successful in life.

 

Rest in Peace.

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Michael Husted played professional football for nine years  as a placekicker in the NFL. He is also the co-creator of ActiveRecruiting.com an innovative online video recruiting tool that connects student

athletes with coaches through the use of interactive video profiles.

 

Choosing the right college to attend is something that will take some

time. You will want to find a school that fits you both academically

and athletically.

 

The first step is to make a list of 12-15 schools

that you, initially, would like to attend.

 

I would categorize them in this way:

 

  • Dream schools

  • Realistic schools

  • Fall back schools

 

Of course, there could be some overlap between the Dream and Realistic

schools. Having simple categories will help to organize your choices as

you start this process.

 

Your Dream schools could be a big time college athletic program, like

UCLA, Notre Dame, Texas or Florida. Maybe you have grown up watching

that program, members of your family have attended that school or you

simply like their mascot and colors. There are many colleges that offer

both big time athletics as well as incredible academics, Virginia, Cal

Berkley, Boston College, etc. Therefore, attending one of these

programs would appear to be ideal.

 

However, you need to be "realistic" with your athletic abilities and

decide if you would get significant playing time by attending one of

these programs. If so, great. If not, then you will need to decide if

just being on the roster is good enough for you. Otherwise, finding a

program, athletically, that will allow you to get a lot of playing time

might be at a "Realistic" School.

 

Being a "Big fish in a small pond," is something that will provide for

a great college experience. There are dozens of incredible academic

institutions that play at smaller divisions, Amherst, William and Mary

and all of the Ivy league schools.

 

You have heard or you will hear that "College is one of the best times

of your life." The great thing is that you can do many things to ensure

that you have an incredible experience.

 

Finally, have your "Fall Back" Schools. These are schools that you

would still enjoy attending, but they are not necessarily the first ones

that pop up in your head. They still combine the academics and

athletics and offer the expected experience.

 

Do your initial research on these schools, their location (Do you want to stay close to home or leave the state?), student

size, academic offering, players at your postition (How many? When are

they graduating?),etc. Your list and rankings may move around after

your research. Some schools may drop out and some new ones may be added.

 

Two sites where you can begin your research are:

 

CollegeBoard.com

 

NCAA.com

 

You have to work just as hard off the field, to find the right school, as you do on

the field.*  *

 

One of the most important questions that you should ask

yourself when trying to select the right college is "If something were

to happen that prevented me from playing my sport in college, would

I still want to be at that school?"

 

Leveraging your sport to go to college is a great way to be a starter, get an education and have an incredible experience that will set the foundation for the rest of your life.

 

Once you have narrowed down your school options, the next step is letting them know that you are out there.  The most efficient way is to create an online video profile with www.activerecruiting.com

 

Good luck!

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