by Keith Chisolm, recruit804
September 11 is a commemoration of the thousands of innocent citizens that perished in the attack that propelled this country into a decade and a half of war. But for an area professor, September 11 also marks another tragedy as well as a celebration. Virginia State University Assistant Professor and Richmond native, Dr. Shedrick McCall Jr. celebrates twenty years of life after a helmet-to-helmet collision that ended his football career and nearly cost him his life.
On that dreadful day, September 11, 1993, late in the fourth quarter in Division III’s Maryville College’s season opener against Kentucky Wesleyan, Shedrick was the lead blocker on a play they had run numerous times in practice and throughout the game. Shedrick collided with another player, helmet-to-helmet and immediately felt different. The standout running back, who had previously signed with the SEC’s Vanderbilt University, knew something was wrong. He continued to play for another two plays and on the third play after his collision, he took himself out the game.
Complaining of a burning sensation down the right side of his body, Shedrick knew he was in trouble when his fingers and toes began to curl and he lost feeling in his extremities. In one innocent-looking hit on a routine play, McCall had fractured his skull and suffered a subdural hematoma: bleeding and clotting between his skull and brain. As he was evacuated off the field and sent to surgery to repair the broken blood vessel, Shedrick was an inspiration to everyone in the stadium that afternoon.
After waking up from surgery, Shedrick was confronted with the fact that he would never play football again. He personified the old adage said by coaches all across the country “play your next play as though it is your last play.” Confronted with a doctor recommended 60 day recovery period, Shedrick was out of the hospital in just seven days. Fourteen days after his injury, Shedrick led his team onto the field with 25 stables in his head. Players, coaches, family, and fans drew inspiration from his speedy recovery. Faced with the realization of a never playing the game he loved and cared for, he immediately shifted focus to achieving academic success in the classroom.
Married, playing football as well as sporting a solid 3.3 grade point average, Shedrick went to graduate from Maryville College, Maryville Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Later, he earned a Master’s degree in Counseling from Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia as well as his Doctorate degree in Education and Counseling Psychology from Argosy University, American School of Professional Psychology, Sarasota, Florida. “I have always placed an emphasis on education. He attributes many of the life skills he learned from the game of football to his determination and eventual success as a college professor. “The game that nearly took my life has now saved my life” Shedrick said recently.
Shedrick had dreams and aspirations, as any young man does who plays football, of playing in the NFL. A lofty goal but it was that hope which kept him going through the two-a-day workouts, the Virginia, Texas, and Georgia heat, and the endless miles of running and tons of pounds of lifting. It was that hope that landed him first to Vanderbilt then to Merryville College. Shedrick’s son, Shedrick McCall III., is a freshman running back at Meadowbrook High School. And Shedrick’s (Jr.) dream of playing in the NFL drives Shedrick (III) today. “I want to finish what my dad started over 30 years ago.”
A father’s dream has become a passion for his son. But Shedrick cautions his son and every young man that plays football: “don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You never know when that basket will be lost.” Additionally, Shedrick stresses the importance of education and establishing the solid study habits early on in high school: “what young men do on the fields athletically as a freshman does not get them to college but what they do academically as a freshman can prevent them from going to college.”
Shedrick looks back with many great memories and is proud of the journey. ”A lot of times I think things in life happen to show people it’s time to put things in perspective and be realistic,” he said. ”Football isn’t everything.” ”I really wanted to finish my career, but I just thank God I’m able to walk, still have a family and a wife. Football is the furthest thing from my mind.”
Shedrick is also a public and motivational speaker. He enjoys telling his story in hopes that it will help someone avoid the pain and setbacks he experienced. He also has a book due out later this year titled From the Field to the Classroom: Life after Football a New Game to Play. It’s been twenty years since Shedrick began the rest of his life and he has plenty more to live.
– Keith Chisolm