Earlier this year Colorado coach Jon Embree said he would not allow redshirt freshman Will Harlos to continue playing football in Buff black and gold if the defender from Somerset, Texas, suffered another concussion.
Embree followed through on that promise Tuesday when he informed Harlos and his family that he and CU medical staffers consider it unsafe and unwise for Harlos to continue to play the sport after Harlos suffered another concussion on Monday.
Embree said Harlos has the option of remaining at CU on scholarship if he medically retires. Players who medically retire do not count toward the maximum of 85 scholarships allowed by the NCAA. Embree said Harlos is considering remaining at CU and running track. Embree wasn't sure how the scholarship would be handled in that case.
Harlos also can transfer if he has his heart set on continuing to play and he can find a program to transfer to.
"He's taking it hard and rightfully so," Embree said. "You know, we talk about guys who are passionate for the game and football is important to, it was important to him. It is important to him. He was upset this morning. Like I said, it's unfortunate, but as I explained to him, we all go out at some point, and for him, it's not like we're saying, 'Oh hey, it's an elbow or a knee and you're not going to walk good.'
"...Usually when one door closes like this, another opportunity is waiting for him. What he has to understand is this isn't the end of the world."
Embree returned to CU in late 2010 after five years spent in the NFL, where concussions have changed the game. The league is being sued by nearly 3,500 plaintiffs who claim it hid information linking concussions and football related head trauma to long-term brain injuries. Several former NFL stars have taken their own lives in recent years after battling depression and sometimes debilitating physical symptoms thought to be caused by multiple blows to the head over years playing football.
It is with those outcomes in mind that Embree decided to draw a line where he would no longer allow a player with a history of concussions to play for him at CU.
"I don't take that lightly," Embree said in the spring. "We have some guys who if they get one more concussion, they're done. It's not up for debate. If they want to play, they've got to go somewhere else. I'm not having it on my shoulders."
Harlos said in the spring during an interview with the Camera that he is aware of the dangers of continuing to play football with a history of concussions . But at that time, he said his love for the sport was too great for him to consider giving it up, even though continuing to play might put him at greater risk for long-term health problems.
"I love football more than I fear for a concussion," Harlos said in the spring "It really overcomes it. I'm not really worried about it. I just want to come out here and play ball and show these people what I can do."
Harlos came to CU as part of the 2011 recruiting class, the first of Embree's tenure, after making a name for himself as in high school as a hard-hitting player who excelled at special teams.
Harlos suffered two concussions within days of each other last year in training camp, he said in an interview during spring ball this year. He told team athletic trainers about the first and he was required to sit out until he was cleared just a few days later. He suffered another concussion soon after and didn't tell anyone.
Harlos said he played in the first four games of the season without ever informing the CU medical staff that he was suffering from concussion symptoms. He finally talked to trainers after a loss at Ohio State when his symptoms were causing extreme headaches and missed classed time. He missed the rest of the season. He did not record statistics on defense and finished with five special teams points.
In the spring. Harlos said he had learned his lesson and he planned to follow team policies and report any symptoms to trainers. The NCAA awarded him a medical redshirt season because he played in only four games. He still has four years of eligibility remaining. Perhaps it will be spent in the CU track program.