With national football signing day coming up Wednesday, thousands of high school football players will be signing letters of intent to play college football.
But does the reward of a free ride through college outweigh the risk of serious injury?
The game of football is dangerous, this is true. But if you take football away what would it do the lives of those who love to play the game and see it as a way to a better life?
"If you are talking about taking sports from these types of neighborhoods it's going to hurt these young men because they need that to keep striving to be the best they can be," said Fairly High School football head coach Rahnmann Slocum, who coaches in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Memphis.
In his 13 years with the school he has helped send more than 60 students to college on football scholarships, kids whose lives may have had a different ending without the game.
"If you take the game away I believe a lot of them would end up on the streets," he said. "The game of football is a street saver. Also the FCA is getting involved. Not only are they playing the game of football, they are getting the spiritual side as well."
Demaris Peppers is a senior at Fairly, thanks to football. On Wednesday he will sign a full scholarship to play at B1G Ten school, the University of Minnesota.
"The game helped me academically because I wasn't really about my grades," Peppers said. "So I came to Fairly and coach was like I got to get on top of my grades, and I did."
It's an opportunity he may not otherwise have had without the game, one he shares with his teammates.
"Some of my good friends I'm with on the team I really don't know where they would be without football because some of them are in messed up situations," Peppers said. "If it wasn't for football, some of them would be dead or in jail."
"Dedrick Guy, I think, he is the best linebacker in the state of Tennessee," Slocum said. "He needed football. It helped him with his frustration, helped him keep focus. If I had taken football from him there is no telling what would have happened."
Slocum knows first hand how the game can change lives. It's changed his and he has seen it change the lives of many others.
"I think sports is a great tool, not just with getting an free education but teaching them how to become strong men in this world," he said. "You have to have a good work ethic."
Studies estimate that over 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually. More than 62,000 concussions are sustained each year in high school contact sports, and among college football players, 34 percent have had one concussion and 20 percent, multiple concussions.
With the developing young brain after a head injury more time is needed to recover and if a player attempts to play while the brain is still vulnerable, he or she is putting themselves at greater risk for a serious brain injury.
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