Concussion comeback ends for Gophers tackle Gjere

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2012 - 12:39 PM

The redshirt sophomore's symptoms returned, causing him to give up football for good.

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Gophers tackle Jimmy Gjere was sidelined by a concussion last October. His symptoms returned this fall, making him decide to give up football.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES, Star Tribune

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Jimmy Gjere spoke last week about how excited he was to be returning to football after nearly a year without it, how good it felt to be back in uniform with his Gophers teammates. But he added one caveat, too.

"I feel really good right now, have for a while," he said. "I'll be interested to see how I feel tomorrow."

The answer: Back in the concussion-induced discomfort that sidelined him in the first place.

"His headaches came back. The inability to sleep, the fuzziness, the lack of concentration," said Gregory Gjere, father of the 20-year-old offensive tackle. "All the same stuff from before."

So Gjere met with Jerry Kill on Sunday and, after consulting with the team's medical staff, told the Gophers coach that he had reluctantly decided to give up football for good.

"He just didn't feel comfortable with it," Kill said after Monday's two-a-day practices. Gjere had been symptom-free for months, but it took only a couple of days of practice to trigger the vertigo and migraines that afflicted him last fall.

"He's still struggling from it," Kill said. "I think he was excited, but after a couple of days of practice, kind of having some of the [symptoms] that he had had in the past, he said, 'I just don't feel comfortable about it, Coach.' You just feel bad for the kid."

Probably not as bad as he does himself, though. "I'm sure he's crushed," Gjere's father said. Football "has been his world for the last 12 years. He bled maroon and gold, and was so looking forward to it. He said the Gophers were going to have a great year, and he wanted to be a part of it."

Especially after all he had gone through in the past 10 months. Gjere, an All-State offensive lineman at Irondale who earned the starting right tackle job with the Gophers last fall, was injured during Minnesota's loss at Michigan in the season's fifth game in October, though he doesn't recall the blow that did the damage. The next three to four months were "just miserable," he said last week. "Your whole body is messed up. Everything is screwed up. You're in a haze. I'd get dizzy just standing there. It's hard to function."

Gjere's disappointment matches his coach's, since Kill had been impressed enough to start the 6-7, 325-pound lineman as a redshirt freshman. It's the first time in his three decades as a football coach, Kill said, that a player had been forced to walk away from the game because of a concussion.

"Sometimes things happen that are out of your control," Kill said. "You just don't want to take chances with something like this."

Coincidentally, Gjere's spot this year is being manned by another player who has been sidelined by a concussion, redshirt freshman Josh Campion. The Fergus Falls native was injured during training camp last August and was unable to practice or play all season. But he returned to action during spring practices, and his symptoms have not recurred.

Gjere, who was named Academic All-Big Ten last season, will keep his athletic scholarship, though the Gophers will be allowed to award another one to replace him. For the moment, they added walk-on wide receiver E.J. Sardinha, a 6-1, 185-pound freshman from Wellington, Fla., to the 105-man roster for fall camp.

And though Gjere will be leaving football, he won't be leaving the football team. Once he's up to it, the coach said, the 20-year-old will embark on a new role with the Gophers program, one that Kill left up to him.

"I said, 'Hey, your big assignment is, here are three or four situations you can do,'" Kill said. "And he goes, 'Coach, I'm all for that.' I said, 'You think about it and we'll get you plugged in.' We'll keep him busy."

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