Neil Rose of Lexington Christian Academy was expected to be one of the most imposing football linemen in the city this season. Instead, the 6-foot-6, 295-pound junior hasn't played a snap because he's still recovering from a severe concussion suffered months ago.
"He's likely gone for the season," said Jamie Rose, Neil's father.
Neil Rose's experience should serve as an alert to coaches, parents and players who don't appreciate the seriousness of an injury that used to be brushed off as relatively insignificant.
Jamie Rose played high school football at Laurel County 30 years ago. "As they used to say, I got my bell rung a few times and didn't think about it," he said. "But I've learned a lot the last couple of months how serious concussions can be."
Neil suffered his injury at a UK football camp in June, but nobody realized the severity of it. He took nearly three weeks off after that, including the two-week off period for high school athletics. Jamie Rose assumed his son was ready to resume football after all that time off.
But at LCA's team camp at Eastern Kentucky University in July, Neil passed out during an early-morning workout. That's when LCA Coach Ray Graham, and Neil's father, realized that something might be seriously wrong. Most notable, Neil was having constant headaches and trouble with his balance. "I'd bend down to scratch my dog and fall over," he said.
When school began, Neil's condition prevented him from doing class work.
"I'm disappointed as his dad that I didn't do a better job getting him tested back in July before I ever let him go back to playing," Jamie Rose said.
Neil's condition has improved considerably over the past month while being treated and tested at UK's Multidisciplinary Concussion Program. He was able to start driving again in early September, and he's successfully playing catch-up with his academics.
But he's still not ready for football.
Jamie Rose shared what he has learned about concussions, including:
■ Headaches and balance issues aren't the only symptoms. Loss of appetite, lack of energy and trouble sleeping can also occur.
■ "There's no vaccine, no surgery, no pill to fix a concussion," he said. "Doctors have to use the information they have from tests and research to say you're safe and clear to play."
■ The worst thing you can do is return to action too soon after a concussion. Research shows that a high school athlete who suffers a concussion is three times more likely to have another in that same season.
Jamie Rose is sure Neil will make a full recovery, but if he never puts on a helmet and pads again, the teen is fine with that. "He's a good kid, a mature kid, who understands there's more important things in life than football."
Golden Eagles' big win
■ Johnson Central Coach Jim Matney says his Golden Eagles are in "a rebuilding phase" after graduating a senior class that included J.J. Jude, the state's all-time leading rusher. But Matney admitted that last week's 44-31 victory over perennial power Ironton, Ohio, "was one of the biggest wins in our program's history."
Without a featured back like Jude, the Golden Eagles have gone back to the wishbone offense. The running load is shared by juniors Jordan Young and Josh Dillon, and sophomore Daymian Belcher. Junior quarterback Zach Gound is also a threat. Johnson Central is 5-1, with its loss coming to unbeaten Knox Central. Matney says he still doesn't know how good his team is, and won't know until it faces Ashland Blazer and Belfry the last two weeks of the season.
■ Bourbon County rolled over Estill County 64-14 to run its record to 6-0 for the first time in school history. The Colonels went 8-0-1 in 1966, but the tie came in their second game. Bourbon County's 1997 state title team won its first five games but lost to Danville the sixth week of the season. This year's Colonels, under first-year coach John Hodge, are averaging 52 points a game. Kentayvus Hopkins has 907 yards rushing and receiving, and has scored 17 TDs. Dalton Pope has 897 yards and 16 TDs passing and running. Bourbon County visits Garrard County in a 3A district game Friday night.
■ Highlands, which scored a state-record 849 points on its way to the 4A title last season, is close to that pace again. It has 328 points in six games, five fewer points than at this stage last year. The Bluebirds, on a 26-game win streak, play Pendleton County on Friday. They beat the Wildcats 79-0 last year.
■ Lexington Catholic senior QB Kyle Bolin, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Boyle County, ended his career with the fifth-most passing yards in Lexington history. Lucas Witt of Lexington Christian (2009) had 9,312 yards, followed by Justin Burke of Lexington Catholic (2005) with 8,770, Jacob Doss of Lexington Catholic (2003) with 8,034, and Chip Franklin of Paul Laurence Dunbar (2000) with 7,857. Bolin had 7,038.
■ Garrard County junior Noah Williams ran 44 times for 340 yards and three TDs in a 28-14 rain-soaked district win at Powell County. Providing the blocking were Noah's older brother, senior H-back Garrett Caudill, and linemen Dylon Worley, Ronnie Saylor, Layne Marsee, Shae Garcia, Bradley Rector and Davian Logan.
■ East Carter ended an 18-game losing streak and won for only the second time in 33 games when it beat archrival West Carter 27-22 last week.
■ Whitley County beat host Somerset 14-7 on a muddy field last week. The 5A Colonels got their scores on Zach Mills' TD run and two-point conversion, and Boston Bryant's 38-yard interception return. Whitley County's Josh Nichols picked off two passes in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory over 2A Somerset.
■ Campbell County's Tyler Durham ran for 222 yards and three TDs, threw for 128 yards, and got the game-winning two-point conversion in a 29-28 upset of previously unbeaten Simon Kenton. In the last two years (18 games) Durham has rushed for 2,428 yards and 25 TDs, and passed for 1,213 yards and four TDs.
■ Fort Campbell built a 33-0 halftime lead on its way to a 43-14 victory over 3A district rival Paducah Tilghman. Jaylen Williams and Triston Luke each had two TDs for the Falcons.
■ Beechwood is happy to have Max Nussbaum back after he missed the first few games recovering from minor knee surgery. The 6-1, 195-pound senior ran for 284 yards and four TDs in a 33-28 win over Dixie Heights.
■ Sloppy field conditions meant fewer touches for Franklin County star Ryan Timmons in the Flyers' 35-22 win at East Jessamine. Timmons had a 75-yard kickoff return for a TD, but only ran the ball seven times for 24 yards. He did not catch a pass. Franklin County's 6-foot-2, 260-pound junior Chris Roberts bulled his way to 123 yards and a TD.
■ James Quick had eight catches for 144 yards, including a 75-yard TD, to help Trinity beat St. Xavier 34-7. Quick pushed his career totals to 246 catches, 3,883 yards and 49 TDs. Trinity, riding a 31-game winning streak, visits Manual on Friday.
■ As a longtime high school football coach in Western Kentucky, Jack Haskins has been to the state finals with Paducah Tilghman, and his current team, Lone Oak. But Haskins has never won a state title. So he was thrilled to watch his granddaughter, Anna Hack, win the state golf title this week. "I've been coaching 40-some years and never won a state championship, but she's already got one," Haskins said. "It's fantastic. It's something you dream about. Good things happen to kids that work hard."
■ Sayre senior Ray Brewer has committed to play college baseball at Cornell. Brewer had Tommy John surgery in August and won't pitch for the Spartans next spring, but Coach Scott Sutton hopes Brewer will be able to serve as designated hitter. The 6-foot-7, 245-pound right-hander was 7-3 with a 2.27 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 54 innings last spring. He also hit .468 with eight home runs.
■ Sayre grad Ann Eason, a sophomore at EKU, was named the Ohio Valley Conference's female cross-country runner of the week after clocking the fastest 5K time in the league this season. Eason ran a 17:37.26 in the Greater Louisville Classic to finish 50th out of 267 runners.