Jerry Kill has a mountain of a rebuilding job in front of him at Minnesota, and the one thing people know about Big Ten football is that success always starts on the line.
It stood to reason, then, that right tackle Jimmy Gjere would be the centerpiece—or perhaps "tacklepiece" would be a more fitting word—of that rebuilding effort.
Gjere was an Army All-American Game selection coming out of high school, one of Tim Brewster's last jewels in recruiting. He redshirted in 2010, then stepped right into the starting lineup in Week 1 last season, starting the first five games.
Then, against Michigan, Gjere went down with a concussion. Little did anyone know at the time, but that would be the last play of Gjere's career, as he has just ended his playing career. Here's more from the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
"Jimmy worked hard to get to where he wanted to play," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said after practice Monday. "As he went through the process, he was very patient. He wanted to make sure everything was OK. But he just didn't feel right. We understand, and we'll move on and certainly support him. He'll be part of the program working with us."
Kill said he met with Gjere, who told him Sunday about the decision to give up football after talking with the team's training staff. Kill had been in contact with Gjere's parents about the condition since it happened last year.
As offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover points out to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Minnesota's got a good deal of depth on its line. Plus, it has been without Gjere during the spring, so this loss isn't exactly catching the program off-guard or lacking for tackles.
For a 4-star player, ending your playing career at the age of 20—especially when you're lifting like everyone else, running like everyone else and doing drills like everyone else—is extremely difficult. It's a betrayal of the highest order.
And yet it's an issue of the highest importance, because as we've seen from multiple dead former athletes and dozens more who spend their days suffering, head injuries must be taken with the utmost of importance. Permanent brain damage is on the line for Gjere—if it's not something he has already.
It's refreshing to see the maturity all around here—maturity from Gjere to be honest about not feeling right, maturity from Jerry Kill to not return Gjere to contact before that day (which evidently never came) and maturity from the program to welcome Gjere to non-athletic activities as they'd do with anyone else who had to end his career due to injury.
Football's never not going to have concussions. Not the football we know. So this serious introspection and monitoring will always be part of it. It's just good that Gjere got out as quickly as he did, when the odds of him having the best quality of life afterwards were highest.
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