LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas offensive lineman Jordan Shelley-Smith has decided to retire from football due to repeated concussions, the second player in the Big 12 to make that decision this week.
Shelley-Smith, a senior, missed three games last season after sustaining a concussion against Oklahoma State. He has played minimal snaps after another concussion before the season.
“We do take concussions very seriously around here,” Kansas coach David Beaty said Tuesday. “It was a very emotional day for him last week when he announced that to our team.”
Head trauma has been a major topic of discussion in the NFL and increasingly at the college level. Oklahoma sophomore linebacker Tay Evans decided to retire for similar reasons after he was injured against Ohio State earlier this season. And just last year, Kansas linebacker Jake Love made the same decision after dealing with several concussions.
“These kids’ health, not only for today but down the road, is so important,” Beaty said. “That’s somebody’s family treasure. It’s their one life. It’s their one life. It’s all they get.”
Beaty said there has been significant progress in how much attention is given to head injuries from the days when he was playing wide receiver for Lindenwood University in the early 1990s.
“We called them cobwebs back then,” he said. “We’ve seen all of the examples of men that are walking around right now that suffered from these types of injuries and we didn’t have the technology, we didn’t have the studies available to tell us how dangerous it really was.”
Shelley-Smith began his career as a tight end, playing in eight games as a freshman. But he became a key offensive lineman after making the transition his sophomore season, playing 12 games and starting against Iowa State. He also started the nine games he played last season.
Beaty said the Waco, Texas, native will continue to have a role with the team.
“Football’s a big industry and there’s a lot of things going on that would make you want to have a player out there regardless,” he said. “The truth of the matter is, not one of them is worth it.”