Indy’s Morning Sports List – Top 10 things I learned this morning from Antwaan Randle El

Antwan Randle El is one of IU's all-time greats, and Hoosier fans got a scare yesterday when his memory lapses become public.

Antwan Randle El is one of IU’s all-time greats, and Hoosier fans got a scare yesterday when his memory lapses become public.

Antwaan Randle El is the latest NFL player with memory loss?  It can’t be.  Such a great Hoosier, and only 36 years old.

I saw the piece on Yahoo!, but needed to find out for myself.

One of the very coolest things about working in the media is that when I get curious about something, the answer is only a phone call away.

After a couple of calls to acquaintances, I was on the phone with Antwaan asking him about the reports.

The entire interview will air today at 4:15p on CBS Sport 1430 in Indianapolis, but what I learned about one of the most dynamic players in NFL history and a football/basketball/baseball player while earning his degree at IU, you can read below.

Here are 10 things I learned from my conversation with Randle El:

10 – Antwaan is all about education today.  “I helped start Virginia Academy.  I’m out here 40 miles outside of DC.  It’s a private Christian school, so I get a chance to teach kids about Christ, and what it means to live for God.  Knowing God, having an opportunity to get a great education, and be able to play ball I think is an awesome equation to help kids get over the hump to understand life.”

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9 – He would enjoy a second chance at life that would allow him to pursue his other athletic loves. “It would be cool to see where baseball would have taken me.  Would I still be playing?  Would I be like a Curtis Granderson (who is one year younger than Randle El)?  I know the longevity in baseball is different obviously than football.  I would love to check that out and than hit the exit button if I had to to revert back to this life.

8 – Antwaan had more high school success in basketball than either baseball or football.  “I played in championship games throughout high school in basketball.  I never played in a championship game in high school football or baseball – the sport that I loved the most.  I played basketball at Indiana under Coach Knight and baseball for Bob Morgan, but obviously football took off for me.”

7 – Playing only one youth sport shouldn’t be forced on kids.  “Specialization for kids who only have a liking for one sport is fine, but if you have a kid who enjoys playing all of the sports, that kid needs to enjoy playing all of the sports.  Just because you focus so many hours on this one sport doesn’t mean you are going to become a great athlete in that one sport.

6 – He’s thankful for his experiences playing football.  “I don’t want people to think I’m not thankful for what I’ve done and what God has allowed me to do thus far, because I am.  I played for two storied franchises in the Steelers and the Redskins, and obviously played for one of the greatest universities in the world in Indiana University, so I’m thankful for the time that I’ve had. It’s just the pain that I’m dealing with now and some of the memory stuff that makes me wonder.”

5 – Antwaan wanted to play baseball.  “My first love was baseball, and getting drafted in the 14th round by the Cubs, I wanted to go play.  But my parents said, ‘You need to go to Indiana and get your degree.’  They didn’t say ‘Go to Indiana and play football,” but ‘Go to school and get your degree.’  So I ended up on that path which was chosen for me, and I’m thankful.”

4 – His oldest son plays football.  “I didn’t force him to play (football), but when he got into it, I made sure he understood the safety issues.  It’s not worth your life, especially at a young age.  You see all the different high school students who get paralyzed every year.  Football is a violent sport.”

3 – Teaching kids and parents about safety is a mission of his.  “I have to get out to the colleges, high schools, and youth organizations and tell the kids about playing football.  You have to understand the safety issues that are a part of it.  The parents have to understand the safety issues that come with it.  If you’re a player and you feel uncomfortable – that something is not right – don’t be afraid to come out of the game.  Don’t continue to press the issue and feel that competitive edge.  There are going to be other games.”

2 – Antwaan is concerned about brain injury.  “With me playing the game of football – playing it at a high level in college and in the pros – makes me think, wonder, and have concerns if my memory is failing me because of the game I played and the hits that I’ve taken.”

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1 – He’s OK.  “I’m doing good.  I have these days when I’m in pain when it comes to knees, ankles, elbows, and hands.  I forget different things as I’m talking to my wife.  She’ll give it to me, and we’ll talk about something two or three times and I’ll turn around and ask her some of the same things, but I just chalk it up to I’m so busy with six kids, helping at the school … maybe that stuff combined has made it so I forget here and there.”

As is always the case, Antwaan was engaging, funny, and wise.  He’s a great representative of Indiana University, and despite finding out he’s fine, will think good thoughts for him to continue to feel good.

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