BOZEMAN – Buddy Curry took the stage in front of a room full of spectators, eager with what he had to say about his NFL career.
The Atlanta Falcons linebacker was one of the greatest in the team’s history. But in a meeting with football parents on Thursday night in Bozeman, he didn’t talk about his journey to the league, his 1980 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, or the fact that his 229 tackles in a single season still remains a Falcons record. It was about concussions.
Curry told the full room of parents who gathered in Bobcat Stadium that when he put on shoulder pads and a helmet, he felt a jolt of energy. He believed he was “the toughest guy on the field.” He wasn’t afraid of taking hits and dishing them out even harder.
After eight seasons in the NFL (1980-1987), he remains in outstanding health, but because of his long football career, Curry admits that he may be vulnerable to what he called “brain stuff going on.”
He is referring to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is a long way of saying brain trauma. But even if there is a sliver of a chance that the disease does affect him, he is confident with his decision to play football.
“Absolutely I would do it all again,” Curry said. “But I would do it and I would play the way they are teaching it today.”
With so much more data available on CTE, the Atlanta Falcons are making it their mission to educate communities on what they can do to keep children safe. By providing analytical statistics such as every one-percent of strength gained in your neck, prevents concussions by 10 percent. They also teach parents the proper way helmets and shoulder pads should fit.
“We want to make sure that the parents have the right information so they can make the right decisions for their kids,” said Chris Millman, Director of Community Relations for the Atlanta Falcons.
The parents learned everything from concussion symptoms to the use of supplements that you can find at any vitamin store. And it’s important to teach these parents while their kids are still young.
“I think no matter what you do, whether it’s going fishing or going to play football or playing any sport, you have to first learn the safety of it,” said Ben Garland, an offensive lineman for the Falcons. “And that’s the absolute most important. You got to make sure you’re safe and having fun.”
Concussions have come to the forefront of football concerns. And the Falcons, who have more resources than local high school teams, are wanting to bring the information they have to parents and coaches to instill in their football programs and in their lives.
“We want to make sure that coaches and parents are making the right decisions for their kids. The have to a lot of the time not worry so much about the wins and losses, they have to worry about the health and safety of their kids,” Millman said.
It’s not only teaching about things they need to do off the field, but the Falcons are making sure to teach kids what they need to do on the field.
“As an NFL player, it’s really important that we have perfect technique, so we constantly make sure we work on the fundamentals,” said Garland. “I recommend that to all the kids out there — play safe, get your head up and enjoy playing football.”
With all the new concussion information available to the public, some parents won’t let their kids play the sport. But the Falcons want to change that dynamic by preaching safety and what the game can provide the youth.
“I told my family if something happens to me tomorrow, I go goofy or whatever … I said, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve had the greatest life because of what football built in my life,'” said Curry.
Curry admits the game was more dangerous back in the 1980s, making him more susceptible to the long-term health affects. But he is confident that through education, properly fitted equipment and the right fundamentals, parents won’t need to worry about these servere injuries.
When all is said and done, all of the pro football players at the camp wouldn’t trade their NFL experience for anything in the world.
“Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my life — from the team dynamic, the hard work and dedication — I’ve learned from football. You can get hurt doing (all sports),” said Garland. “So it’s one of those things where you have to get out there and have fun, really learn to be part of a team environment. And those skills will last you forever, even if you don’t go on to play in the NFL.”