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Concussions Cause Fullback To Become Coach

Dec. 28, 2000

AP Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS – At times this season, Will McPartland had to hidehispain. He knew if he didn’t, the doctors would never let him play again.

McPartland, Miami’s starting fullback, tried to return to actionseveraltimes after his fourth concussion in 15 months.

The first time, he lasted maybe a quarter. The second time, maybe anentireseries. Then it got to the point where he couldn’t go more than a play ortwowithout feeling what he calls “the symptoms.”

Headaches. Dizziness. Double vision. Queasiness.

“Every little shot, I start getting the symptoms,” said McPartland, a6-foot, 230-pound senior from Scranton, Pa., who walked onto the team in1996.

After several attempted comebacks, doctors finally had seen enough.Theytold McPartland he needed to rest six to eight months before playing again.Butby then it will be too late.

McPartland’s career is over. He’ll be on the sideline Tuesday againstFlorida in the Sugar Bowl, watching Najeh Davenport and D.J. Williams makeplays at his position. In the meantime, he continues to help coach them inpractice – doing all he can to help ease the pain of not playing.

“It’s hard to just say, ‘I’m done, I’m not going to play anymore,”‘McPartland said. “You don’t really think about the effects of injuries andstuff like that. You think it’s not going to happen to me. I’ll be allright.That’s the last time. I’ll be all right from here on out.

“When you have pads on, you feel like you’re invincible. You’re adifferentperson. When I came back, even the last time, I never worried about hurtingmyhead.”

McPartland earned the starting job this season during fall practice,readyto finally make an impact. He started the first two games and played well.Butagainst West Virginia on Sept. 23, McPartland received the worst hit of hiscareer and his fourth concussion.

He tried to play again, hiding how bad the symptoms were from doctorsandcoaches. So he was back on the field a few weeks later, but one hard hitsenthim to the sidelines with more dizziness. He tried again and again, but thehits kept coming. Even the routine ones started to hurt.

“The whole year has been tough,” McPartland said. “I worked all thistime, I finally got my shot. I was starting. To finish my senior year on thesidelines like this, I’m bumming.”

The effects lingered long after he played his last game. McPartland wastaking 10 to 12 Tylenol pills a day to help the headaches. But they neverwentaway. Even when he was studying for final exams two weeks ago, he would loseconcentration, start feeling sick and have to lie down to help ease thepain.

“It’s disappointing for us and for him to get to this kind of game andnotbe able to play,” said Miami coach Butch Davis. “It makes you want to crybecause of everything he’s put into it for five years”

McPartland started seven games, including the first three of thisseason. Hefinished his career with 21 carries for 75 yards, 17 receptions for 127yardsand two receiving touchdowns.

Now, he’s looking forward to a new career. He graduated with a degreeinenvironmental science and plans to start law school next fall to studyenvironmental law.

Ending his career was a tough decision, but McPartland knows it willpay offin the long run.

“It wasn’t like they could say after the season we can scope it or youcanhave surgery to fix it,” he said. “You need your head for the rest of yourlife. I feel like I’m somewhat intelligent. In 10 years or 15 years I don’twant to have serious problems where I can’t function or have trouble talkingtopeople.

“It’s hard, but I’m better off not playing. In five years I’ll lookbackand say I had a good time in college, I got to play, I missed a couplegames.But life goes on.”