Cornerback Cedric Collins committed to Texas A&M in August 2012, just before the start of his junior year at Skyline High School in Dallas.
After the playoffs that year, numbness in his legs led to a trip to the doctor; that trip to the doctor led to a haunting diagnosis: Collins had a rare congenital cervical abnormality.
He would never play football again.
However, even though Collins will never suit up for the Aggies in College Station, the school has decided to honor his scholarship, according to Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin said the following:
Per Hairopoulos, Collins lost feeling in his legs during a routine play against Plano in November 2012, during the Class 5A playoffs. He thought it was a normal, minor leg injury, but orthopedic surgeon Andrew Dossett diagnosed him with Klippel-Feil syndrome, "a rare congenital fusion of vertebrae."
"It’s exceptionally rare to have this abnormality," Dossett said, according to Hairopoulos, "and be that good of a football player."
Realizing his playing days were over, Collins still took a visit to Texas A&M in January 2013, at which point Sumlin notified the family that he would remain faithful to the scholarship offer. As long he attended Texas A&M, tuition payments would be taken care of.
According to Hairopoulos, the decision on whether to honor Collins' oral agreement was up to the discretion of the university, per the NCAA bylaws:
A&M has no stated policy on how to handle situations like Collins’, since oral commitments are nonbinding for the school and the athlete.
NCAA bylaw 184.108.40.206.1 allows that if an athlete suffers injury or illness before his athletic participation and won’t compete again, he does not count against the institution’s maximum financial aid award limitations for current and later years.
SEC schools are required to submit statements from the athlete’s physician when applying for medical exemption.
Collins, who was a 3-star prospect, according to 247Sports, will work as a student coach at Texas A&M, hoping to eventually get into coaching as a long-term endeavor.
He will still be part of the program and might still have a future in football, despite not being able to take the field. And Texas A&M did this despite not being forced to, dispelling the notion that all college programs are heartless, soulless guilds that only care about young men who can help them win football games.
That is a very cool thing.