Football High: Garrett Harper's Story, Part I

For many competitive high school football players like Garrett Harper, the intensity of this contact sport has its price.

[whistle and sounds from runners] [male speaker 1] For other seniors on Shiloh's team dreams of playing in the NFL are less realistic. [background music] [male speaker 1] Shiloh running back Garrett Harper has his own ambitions this year: getting a scholarship to play football in college. [Harper] That'd be a great experience, just to play college football. I think if I can play like I can then I would think for sure someone would take a chance on me, but it's up to the coaches, so. [crowd cheering] [male speaker 1] Garrett's father, Craig, the COO of a Fortune 500 Company could afford to send Garrett to college without a scholarship. [Craig cheering] [Craig] I'd love to see him get one just as sort of public acknowledgment of his hard work and the talent he has and the effort that he's put into it. [male speaker 1] Over the summer Craig hired a private track coach to help Garrett improve his speed. With a scholarship on the line, this season is Garrett's last chance to prove himself. At 5 foot 10 he is one of Shiloh's smaller players, but with a fierce style of play. [announcer] Garrett Harper gets the ball around the left side, and there goes Garrett Harper. He's to the 35, to the 40, he's got a blocker and one man to beat. [Dallas Jackson] He is a kid with reckless abandon. He's like a dog chasing a car. He just—he runs. He goes. He doesn't know when the car is going to start or stop. He doesn't know if he's going to get hit by a car, but he's going to keep chasing it. [male speaker 1] But Garrett's intensity has its price. Over the years he has had multiple injuries including 2 concussions. [crowd cheering] [male speaker 1] In his junior year he had to be helped off the field after being smashed between 2 players from the opposing team. He was hit again in the first game of his senior season. [announcer] Frazier keeps this, he's going to go to his left. Harper out in front trying to block. He lays a nice block there out across the 10. [Jamie Croley] You hear the big hit. I looked up to see Garrett laying there, and when he got up, you could tell there was something not quite right there. [male speaker 2] Garrett's hurting. Garrett's hurting. Get Garrett out of there. Bowman! Bowman! Bowman, go to 4. Go to 4. Come on. Come on. Get out. We got you. We got you. Come on. [Garrett] I can remember everything. I just got boosted. [male speaker 2] All right, let's just come right here for a second. [Garrett] The trainer said when I came off to the side I was like, "I know everything. I know everything." Because I didn't want him to think I had a concussion or anything. [crowd noises] [Croley] Year's passed we used to say, "He got his bell rung." but we've kind of shied away from that, and we actually call it what it is, and it's—it was a little bit of a head trauma. [announcer talking] [male speaker 1] There are at least 60,000 concussions like this one every year in high school football. Concussions have always been part of the game, but lately they've been met with far more scrutiny.
Posted on BrainLine December 10, 2013.

Excerpted from the documentary "Football High." Used with permission from Frontline, PBS.