Tragic: College Football Player Robert Grays Dies From On Field Injury

Robert Grays of Midwestern State died from an injuries he sustained while making a tackle in the waning minutes of a football game. Grays, a cornerback, is the latest example of the visceral dangers of football, a sport America loves.

Robert was a 19-year-old kid with winning smile and infectious personality. The fact that a routine, in-game play can lead to death is a truth that the football community — fans, players, coaches, parents — must confront. As science continues to reinforce what we already know about football (that it’s a dangerous game), society has to figure out what an acceptable risk threshold for sports is.

Every study not funded by the NFL or other special interest group concludes the same thing: that the effects of playing football are damning on the mind and body. That’s not a conclusion you need doctors and scientists to help you arrive at. Anyone who’s played the game or watched it knows. Violence is inherent to the game.

The steps taken to mitigate this are well-intentioned, but not a cure. Eliminate the most brutal hits in the NFL by moving the kickoff spot up five yards so every kickoff is a touchback. Great. But that’s like putting a band-aid on an arm that’s been chopped of by an axe. It can’t hurt, but you’re missing the forest for the trees.

Make youth football a non-contact affair. Even better. Little kids shouldn’t be getting wonked on the noggin in the first place. But at some point, usually middle school or high school, the pads and helmets come out and the innate savagery of the game manifests itself. No one wants to watch non-contact football.

The big hits are what we love. But here’s the worst part: Robert Grays isn’t even the first college football player to die this week. College of Wooster offensive lineman Clayton Geib, 21, died Sunday, a day after the school said he was “complaining that he did not feel well” during a game.

The perils of football are well-documented. Whether we, collectively, reach an inflection point where the human cost of football becomes too much remains to be seen. What is clear is that tragic stories like Robert Gray’s will continue to make headlines until something changes.