School of hard knocks

Rick White

Ryan Denton’s headaches have not subsided and neither has the pain of not being able to play football again.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for the kid with the boy-next-door look who, like other boys in football-mad Clovis, grew up dreaming of playing for the purple and white.
He entered his senior season as the starting quarterback, clearly winning a two-way battle for the job last year behind a strong arm and quiet determination.
This was going to be his turn to shine, his team, his year to lead the Wildcats to another state playoff berth.
With a solid season and his 6-foot-4 frame, his dreams of playing college football appeared within reach as evidenced by the more than two dozen letters he’d received from college recruiters.
But fate intervened as the latest in a series of concussions has forced Denton to change his plans. Doctors strongly recommend Denton doesn’t play contact sports again because his health and even his life could be at risk.
The blow hit Denton and his family harder than a blitzing linebacker.
“We felt heartbroken just knowing what he would have to go through,” said Jim Denton, Ryan’s father. “As far as playing football again, his health is the important thing.”
Jim Denton said his oldest son has dreamed of playing football ever since he attended his first Clovis football game at 2 1/2.
“For years he slept with a football,” said the elder Denton, who has a photo of Ryan holding a football as a toddler hanging in his office.
The cause of Denton’s third concussion in three years remains a mystery. He told his girlfriend the morning after a season–opening loss at Mayfield he was feeling dizzy. Driving home from her house, he hit a parked vehicle after he apparently blacked out. Denton was told he likely had a seizure.
Denton doesn’t remember much about the accident.
He doesn’t remember getting hurt against Mayfield — he was sacked three times and hit several other times while throwing the ball – but he doesn’t remember much of the game either. His teammates said he was acting normal on the bus ride home
Denton revealed later he was waking up with headaches the week leading up to the Mayfield game.
Denton said he is trying to keep busy, trying to fill the huge crater in his young life football once occupied. Most days he watches practice from a distance, not sure of what else to do.
He said watching last week’s win at Roswell from the sidelines was hard, but he wants to show his support for his teammates — especially for the player who replaced him, junior John Props.
“I was glad to see Props do well,” Denton said. “I was really nervous for him.
“John asks me questions and I try to help the best I can.”
Denton said he understands the risks of playing football again are too huge and he is trying to move on.
He still has baseball, he said, where his strong bat helped him earn all-district honors. Beyond that, he’s not sure.
Maybe baseball is the perfect avenue for Denton. He’s already schooled in the world of hard knocks.

CNJ Sports Editor Rick White can be reached at: