Minnesota Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill is concerned about the future of football and the effects of brain injuries on players. Hill is taking those concerns and turning them into action in his Kansas hometown.
Earlier this month, Hill announced the Parsons (Kan.) Recreation Commission’s youth football league for third- and fourth-graders will switch from a tackle football league to a flag football league this fall.
The main reason for the switch is the increased awareness of concussions suffered by football players and the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
“I had a meeting with the board of the rec center in January. That’s when the discussion got open,” Hill told Wichita, Kan., TV station KAKE this week. “The more we talked about it, the more it made sense.”
“I think there’s a lot about CTE that is still unknown, but I do know that it’s unnecessary to put them at risk at that age to play tackle football," Hill added.
Hill remains close to Parsons. Last summer, the commission announced that although Hill would not be able to attend a youth football camp in Parsons, he agreed to cover registration costs for all youth players who signed up to play in the fall season.
In an open letter published by the Parsons Sun, Hill wrote that he contacted two of his friends in the National Football League to get their opinion on when kids should start playing tackle football. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith told Hill he did not start playing tackle football until the eighth grade. Another player, offensive lineman Dylan Gandy, told Hill he did not start playing tackle football until the seventh grade.
According to the letter, Smith texted Hill with the message: “I’m really happy you’re battling this. I think it’s really important for parents to hear.”
Hill, who is entering his 15th season in the NFL, wrote that he did not play tackle football until the sixth grade. Like Smith and Gandy, Hill plans to keep his sons from playing tackle football until they are in middle school.
“That said, I am a huge proponent of the sport of football,” Hill wrote. “I believe that boys are meant to be outside, getting dirty, being physical and competing every day. I believe that football teaches so many things to the kids that play it. It is the ultimate team sport.”
Hill concluded his letter by writing: “Please understand that our unwavering decision is based on safety, inclusiveness, activity, development, and overall wellness for our children and this sport going forward. Thank you for your time.”