A Football Coach Walks the Line on C.T.E.


“The game of football gave me a degree. I met my wife. I had a family because of it. It was my way out. But I also think that it’s important for me to walk the line between being a football coach while also being parent to a son diagnosed with C.T.E. Does it hurt that I lost my son — 100 percent it does. But I also will tell you truthfully that the game also gives a lot.” “That’s right, Meiko. You’re recording your album, right? All right.” “He was a sweet kid, very kind. Took piano lessons, wrote poetry. He was a big smile guy.” [applause] “First down and 10. Yeah, Meiko. Yeah, Meiko. Yeah!” “First time I saw Meiko in his football uniform, I thought he was adorable. He was so happy to put the eye black on, and the excitement made me happy.” “Sleeping in his uniform.” “Yeah. Yeah. He loved it.” “Yeah, Meiko. Way to drive. Keep driving. Keep driving.” “I wasn’t concerned. They were all so little. They were 7 and weighed nothing. And the hits, it almost looked like they just bounced off each other. I recall Meiko having a concussion. That was middle school. I’m calling it a concussion. Back then, I didn’t realize that’s what happened. But he had a major hit. And I guess, for me as a parent, ‘OK, you’re OK. I hear you talking, and you’re walking, a little wobbly, but you’re walking.’ So there’s no physical injury. There were more, you know, high school and college that we just did not address. We didn’t have the knowledge. He started talking about how he was depressed. He would tell me he heard voices in one of his teeth. He thought there was some sort of chip planted, and people were spying on him. It just wasn’t him. He wasn’t himself.” “It felt like he was a prisoner in his own brain. Like, I kept wanting to knock the wall down to say, ‘Come on out of there, man.’ Like, the old Meiko. Now, that’s what I wanted.” Announcer: “Police in Maryland say someone shot and killed 25-year-old Meiko Locksley around 10:20 Sunday night.” “I remember Mike coming to me in the midst of this pain that we were experiencing after we found out that Meiko was killed, and, I mean, it was within the next day. And he said, we should have his brain donated so it can be studied for C.T.E.” “I really wanted to know if the concussions played any part in the connection with his deteriorating mental health.” “And I think back, even now, my God, I could have done something differently. So — a little guilt.” “The tragedy of Meiko’s mental health inspired me, and he lives on through me because it’s a big part of my program. It definitely makes me think twice about how we practice, how often we are having contact. So I think this awareness has made the game safer. I’m judged Saturday on winning games. And that’s how we afford the life we live. And so I would want to do whatever is best that gives us and these players the best chance to, as I like to say, create value for themselves as football players. Football is a contact sport. Football could result in concussions. Football could result in concussions that lead possibly to C.T.E. But if you were to ask me today how I feel, like I said, I have grandsons now that love football and are playing contact football before high school. So, I’m walking it very truthfully.”


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