I can't imagine how you must be feeling right now. When you committed to play football at Stanford University back in June of 2007, the team was coming off the worst season in school history. You and the rest of that group arrived in Palo Alto in the summer of 2008 with the stated intention of turning the program around, but I can't imagine that even your wildest dreams included a trip to the Orange Bowl in 2010 and a run at a national championship in 2011.
But here we are, only five games away from winning the ultimate prize. With a few more wins and some help elsewhere, your Stanford Cardinal -- that same team that was 1-11 just five years ago -- could end up in New Orleans playing in the BCS championship game.
Here's the hard part, though. As important as your presence would be in that game with your physical strength and game-breaking speed, I hope you aren't playing. In fact, I hope you never play another football game.
I understand that what I'm saying is ridiculous. I know that you desperately want to honor the commitment you made to your fellow Class of 2008 recruits, I know that you need to be there as your teammates take the last few steps towards achieving goals set this past summer, and I know you believe you are one of the best wide receivers in the nation. Beyond that, I know you dream of playing in the NFL and possess the talent to make that happen.
But football is a violent, unforgiving game, and recently it's been wrecking havoc on you. Your injury in Saturday afternoon's game at Oregon State sent tremors through Cardinal Nation, and not because people were worried about losing your production. As you lay motionless on the Reser Stadium turf, we flashed back to the hits you absorbed last year at Oregon and this year at Arizona and USC, and we worried about your safety. We looked to the future and wondered how many more hits you could take; we looked to the present and wondered if you would be able to get up.
We held our breaths as the ambulance came out onto the field, and we feared the worst. Suddenly you weren't a wide receiver anymore, you were a twenty-one-year-old young man in the prime of his life. We looked at you, and we saw our own children.
I know what I'm suggesting is preposterous. When I was your age, I wasn't on the way to the NFL, I was headed for a career teaching middle school English, so I can't begin to understand the magnitude of the decision that lies before you or the weight of the dreams you'd be giving up.
Here's what I do know, though. Each morning I wake up my three children and make them breakfast, and every night I tuck them in and say goodnight. In between I chase them around the house, coach their basketball teams, help them with their homework, and squeeze them as tightly as I can. It's all very tame compared to dodging linebackers in the NFL, but I wouldn't trade any of it for the world, and neither should you.
So do the right thing, Chris. Walk in to Coach Shaw's office on Monday morning and tell them that you'll bleed Cardinal red for the rest of your life. Tell him it's been an honor to play for him. Tell him that you'll stay on to work out with young receivers like Drew Terrell and Ty Montgomery.
Tell him all that, but also tell him that you want to raise a family some day. Tell him that you can't risk the long-term damage that another head injury might bring. Tell him that you're done. It's the right thing to do.
[Photo Credit: Dave Gonzales/Stanford Athletics]