Football season is upon us. Gregg and I have Rams season tickets and we have aways loved to watch football, especially Jason's ASU Sun Devils and his Chaminade Eagles. But, given that football may have been a major contributor in my son's death, how can I still love and watch this game? It is a challenge for me right now. We strongly believe that Jason had CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) as nothing else really explains his change in behavior and the symptoms he was demonstrating right before he passed. We also know that he suffered numerous concussions during his years of playing and, of course, probably thousand of hits to the head. Unfortunately, because of the timeframe to evaluate and diagnose Jason's brain at Boston University, we won't know for sure for about a year. Which, of course, is beyond frustrating. But we also know that Jason loved the sport of football from the core of his being and he would be devastated if he found me trying to do things to end the sport. It was a key part of defining who he was. He was a football player... he was a teammate... he was a leader on and off the field.... A friend of mine, who also lost a child, told me, in trying to move forward, do what Jason would want you to do. So, as I begin my search for a new purpose in my life, I have to keep in mind both what my son would have wanted me to do and my own feelings about the game and it's impact on our family. I am certain that I will work to seek changes in football, especially in the youth leagues (e.g. Flag Till 14). I will also help those that are trying to better understand, diagnose and treat the disease of CTE itself, and, of course, I want to help to further enhance concussion protocols, hit counts, treatment of scout players, and encourage and mandate better rules regarding forcing medical retirements. But to work to eliminate football entirely, that I cannot do. It would break my son's heart.
Some of our best memories come from Jason's years on the gridiron. He played pretty much every position, from quarterback to punter, from receiver to defender. He had such joy and excitement on the field. Every time he made a big play, he would get so excited pumping his arms, waving his hands, etc.. Half the time he would get warnings by officials to manage his celebrations but it was not in his nature. There was a saying we would all quote that was "Act like you've been there before." So, if you have a big tackle or score a big touchdown, just walk away from it like it was a usual thing for you. But that was not Jason. He would always get so excited. And, it always brought a smile to my face. In High School, Jason was known for his half time speeches to the team. I don't really know what he told them, but I am sure it not only motivated them, but, probably made them all giggle and smile more no matter what adversity there were facing in the second half.
He met so many of his friends thanks to football. Jason went to a high school (Chaminade College Prep) where he knew only one person going in. But the summer before high school, he started summer football practice. By the time school started, he had a huge group of friends. Most of those friends stayed with him throughout his life.
Jason had scholarship offers from small schools to play football, but he wanted to be a part of something bigger. So, instead, after being contacted by the linebacker coach from ASU, he chose to walk on to Arizona State. We supported his decision as we could see how much it meant to him to be a Sun Devil and to be playing for a team that was part of the Pac 12. It was his dream come true.
Jason was a teammate through and through. I think that is what really drew him to football. He loved the idea of team. Football is about unity and team first. It is the heart of the team playing as one that makes for success and Jason knew that better than most. In college, it was all about team. He was a scout player for much of his career in college. Most scout players quit because they get the crappy equipment, they are demeaned by the coaches, you name it. But, Jason did not. Jason knew his job was to make the team better. There was no glory in it for him individually. It was about his team. He also knew that the team would be better if they understood and appreciated each others differences more. So, to the dismay of many of the coaches, Jason would host parties where he would bring players together whether they were white, Polynesian, Hispanic, Black, you name it. He wanted them all to better understand each other's culture and what motivated them. He got in trouble for some of those parties. But the more I understood why he did what he did, the prouder I was of him for taking the heat while trying to build a better team. Of course, Jason was not completely selfless. He did yearn to be recognized for his efforts. So, when he received a scholarship In his Junior year, it meant so much to him. It was the first time he was recognized individually in college for what he was doing for his team.
Our last memory of Jason and football came at Jason's last ASU Football Banquet following his final season. During the banquet, the various MVP's were named. Throughout the evening, as various awards were given, there was applause throughout the event hall with a smattering of people standing for each award winner. And then came the Glen Hawkins Award for Scout Player of the Year. We could tell from the speech that the award winner was going to be Jason. We were so excited. Then they named him, we stood up and cheered and then to our utter amazement we saw the entire ASU football team stand up and cheer for Jason. They did not do that for any other player awarded that night. I will never forget that evening. It was evident that my son was so loved and respected by his teammates. He may not have been the star on the field, but he made such a positive difference for that team and that mattered most to him and us.
Go Rams and Go Sun Devils!! Jason will be watching and supporting you from above so let's make this a great year..
For more information about CTE and Flag Until 14 programs, see the links below:
Dude, I love you and always will and I will miss you dearly every day for the rest of my life.... mom
Hi, I'm Jan Franklin. I am and will always be Jason Franklin's mother. He was everything to me. He brought such joy to me and so many others in his short life. I will never ever forget him.