After years of practice and endurance, former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Russell Allen’s professional football dreams are tragically coming to an end.
Allen, 27, has officially announced his retirement following an on-field stroke in December, explaining that a brain injury will permanently prevent him from playing professional football.
But despite the unfortunate circumstances that led Allen, a devout Christian, to prematurely exit the field, he says he’s keeping his spirits high and relying on God to guide him.
“My family [and] I want to thank everyone for the love [and] support,” Allen tweeted Tuesday. “It’s been a tough time but we serve a God who is bigger than our struggles.”
Problems for Allen began Dec. 15, 2013, when he had a routine, on-field clash with another player during a game between the Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills.
But what he thought was a minor football injury ended up leaving a small, dime-size portion of his cerebellum “dead,” according to Sports Illustrated’s MMQB.
“It was strange because it was so routine. We hit, I got off the block, no big deal,” Allen told the outlet. “I felt something flash — like they say when you get your bell rung. I didn’t lose consciousness. I walked back to the huddle and finished the drive.”
Later in the game, though, he started having double vision and a headache persisted into the next day. Allen then reached out to the team and let physicians know about the minor clash, having little idea just how serious the injury was — one that would end his five-season NFL career.
After an MRI and a subsequent visit to the emergency room, Allen learned of his brain damage and that he had suffered a stroke on the field.
Flash forward a few months: The Jaguars recently announced that Allen failed his physical and he was cut from the team.
The former player has been open about his experience in recent days, sharing how the injury that initially seemed so simple has now derailed his football career.
Despite the tragic news, Allen is keeping positive. He’s hoping to help other players recognize and speak out about their injuries before they become too serious. Additionally, he wants to coach high school football in the San Diego area.
In his interview with MMQB, Allen also spoke about meeting Robert and Stefanie Herbert, a pastor and his wife, who had a major impact on Allen and his wife Ali.
Robert Herbert married the couple in 2010 and, after considering the impact the pastor and his wife has had on his life, the former Jaguars player realized that he, too, can have a positive effect on others, mainly young people.
“God changed our life through those people. It started to sink in for me what it was all about. I feel like high school is such an important time for kids to learn what football is about,” Allen told MMQB. “You play the game because you love it, and you want to honor it. You treat people with respect and do things the right way, and you keep it in perspective, keeping family and faith up front.”
He added, “Those were lessons I learned down the road. I didn’t always have that perspective. I learned my lesson.”
Despite concluding his NFL career, Allen seems determined to turn something negative into an opportunity to positively impact others’ lives.
(H/T: Christian Today)