By Kevin Graham
Follow him on Twitter @KevinGrahamKFAN
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall loves his quarterback Riley Nelson. He loves his leadership. As he said earlier this season it “drips out of him.” He loves his grit, his heart, his passion–the list goes on and on. Heck, whether you’re a BYU fan or not everyone should admire this kid for those qualities. He has the charisma and determination that should make him successful in whatever he chooses to do in life after BYU. But if Mendenhall truly loves Nelson he would make the most difficult, yet admirable decision–sit him down for his own well being.
Not for just this week against Hawaii. Not for the next couple weeks. For the rest of the season. Nelson should never play another football game again and Mendenhall needs to make that decision for him. While that may seem like a drastic move in the whole big picture of life–it isn’t. Nelson is in pain. Mendenhall confirmed Monday he has a back injury. Rumors are flying he has multiple cracked vertebrae. Nelson says he was only 65 percent healthy against Boise State. He has to take medication to endure the pain.
I’m not a doctor by any means but when I hear something is cracked in one’s back I know it can’t be a good thing. Fortunately I have never had back issues but I know many people, many of whom are former athletes, that have. They’re miserable. It affects them in everything they do. And sometimes it’s pain they have to endure for years.
When you’re young it’s sometimes hard to think long term. You’re living in the moment and when you’re the starting quarterback for a high profile college program there is no way you want to give that up. That’s why Mendenhall needs to step in and make the decision for him. Nelson needs to be protected from himself. As competitive as he is if he does trot out onto the field again you know he’ll still try to barrel over 300 pound plus defensive lineman. And how will that help that back? If anything one would think it could cause long term damage.
All football players know the risks of playing such a brutal sport. It can literally takes years off ones life. So in the end it’s not whether Nelson can throw the ball or that BYU needs to look to the future by starting Taysom Hill. It’s making a decision for a kid that has no future of playing professional football so he can continue to walk upright and have the ability to pick up his kids and eventually his grandchildren without pain. It’s the right thing to do. And for someone who puts football fifth on his program’s priority list, Mendenhall should know that as well.