Even with new rules and equipment, football still poses a danger


The A&M-C football helmet with a sticker of “24 Strong” representing support for Midwestern State after Grays’s death.

Zach Cottam, Staff Reporter

For years, people have been calling for a fundamental change in the way that football is played by demanding for an update in safety and to build in additional rules in order to protect those that play it, and rules such as a broader definition for “Roughing the Passer” and adding the ejection rule for intentional targeting have been created in response.

Helmets have also been improved, new ways of tackling with the shoulder rather than leading with the head have been introduced, and hired medical officials have been set in the booth in every NFL game in case of the event of a likely concussion.

Two weeks ago during a DII Lone Star Conference football game, Midwestern State’s cornerback Robert Grays suffered an injury that led to him being hospitalized immediately. On Sept. 19, Grays was declared dead after spending three days in a Houston area hospital. Robert Grays was a sophomore general business major and graduated from Hightower High school, a public school inside of Houston.

Grays had played in 11 games last year as a true freshman, finishing the season with 24 total tackles, including seven solo stops, a forced fumble recovery, and a pass breakup. As a sophomore earned a starting cornerback spot, and has already improved upon his 2016 stats, reaching ten tackles and three pass breakups in two games. Grays also spent time as a kick/ punt returner this year, averaging 28.3 yards per return this season.

I sat down with Texas A&M University-Commerce head football coach Colby Carthel and asked a few questions concerning the new safety regulations introduced into football in recent years. In the realm of clean tackling, Coach Carthel says they “address it at the beginning of two-a-days, and stressing teaching the hog tackling method that the Seahawks made famous.” This tackling method stresses tackling with the shoulder and keeping your eyes up, to lower the chance of neck injury. Coach Carthel has also talked to the offensive players and special team units about clean tackling and focusing on lowering head-to-head hits in case of turnovers or freak accidents.

However, despite all of this extra protection taken, football is still the toughest major sport in the United States, and there’s nothing that can be done without fundamentally ruining the game itself.

Grays’ passing is a sad event that shakes the entire football community, regardless of team loyalty. Everyone who plays/watches/enjoys football is a brotherhood, and to see a member of the brotherhood pass playing the game he loves is heartbreaking. Texas A&M Commerce plays against Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls following their bye, on October 7th. TAMUC will continue wearing the “24 Strong” sticker on the back of their helmets. The Lions will also consider moving No. 24 Chris Strong out of his number so that there will be no 24 on the field that day. Thoughts and condolences are extended from the Commerce community to the Midwestern State family.