A friend recently approached David Ash after hearing the former Texas quarterback had decided to resume his football career.
“You’re going to die,” his friend said.
So are you, Ash thought.
I get it. You only live once. Ash won’t be young forever and the chance to play pro football has been a lifelong dream that he’s completely within his rights to pursue despite a history that suggests he should never strap on a helmet ever again.
Ash, Texas’ former quarterback who had to quit football in 2014, returned to the field Tuesday for UT’s pro timing day. He threw to former teammates as assembled scouts from every NFL team watched.
Ash said his head injury problems have been fixed and that he hasn’t had an issue in nearly two years.
That time frame, of course, coincides with him not being hit.
Ash, now 24, has decided his life isn’t complete without the sport he’s played since he was a child. Tuesday’s plan was to throw in the workout bubble before going outside to punt for scouts. He still has some good zip on his throws and hit on a couple of eye openers, one a perfectly lofted wheel route to running back D’Onta Foreman, who’s the Longhorns’ best draft prospect.
But then, throwing the football has never been an issue for Ash. The spirals were always crisp, and accuracy wasn’t a problem. He completed 29 of his 36 throws on Tuesday, with two of those incompletions coming on throws that were easily catchable.
His 15 minutes of punting at Denius Fields were far below the boomers that once came off his foot at Belton High School. Scouts hardly paid attention. Many of them left. So if he overcomes the odds and makes it into an NFL camp, it will be as a quarterback.
“It’s so hard to tell because he’s always been a good player,” said former Dallas Cowboys player personnel director Gil Brandt, who now is an analyst for the NFL Network. “The biggest thing is being away from the game for three years.”
And that thing with the head injuries, too.
After playing the first game of the Charlie Strong era — the 2014 season opener against North Texas at Royal Memorial Stadium — Ash, who skipped the post-game press conference, called trainers later that night to complain of nausea and headaches. The symptoms lasted for the better part of a week.
Three weeks after that game, Ash announced his retirement.
He’d taken a wicked shot late in the fourth quarter of the 2013 loss to BYU and played only one game the rest of that season. All told, Ash played only five out of a possible 26 games in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He had 22 career starts.
It had become an accepted part of his story that Ash was a concussion waiting to happen. We applauded him for making the smart decision to step away from football, a sport that doesn’t have the best long-term effects on the human brain.
But now he’s back.
Ash, a man of faith, believes God led him back to football. He was planning a trip to a Third World country as part of his plan to become a youth minister, but said a meeting in Chicago with a neurologist and then doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center revealed that his problems were linked to migraines more than concussions. He says he’s under medication, which includes holistic treatment.
The Ash we spoke to Tuesday was upbeat after having worked out for a month. He sounded excited about a future in football after he says his doctors told him to “go for it.”
“My testimony is I was in a lot of pain when I had to stop playing,” Ash said. “But I just leaned (on) my faith and I kept on praying and I kept on looking for God and trying to follow him. He says go to some Third World country or somewhere else, and I was going. Little by little he led me to figure out what was wrong. I really think it was just a God thing.”
I don’t fear for Ash’s long-term health because he’s a long shot to make it to the NFL.
“It’s easy to go out there and throw against air with no pass rush,” an NFL scout who was there Tuesday told me. “We wouldn’t have anything to do with him because of his medical history.”
While that scout’s viewpoint is likely to be shared by more than most, Ash pushes on. He told us his dad was the first to suggest he return to football as a punter, and that then after watching several games, the bug bit him. That and the belief that he isn’t more susceptible to head injuries than other players was enough to convince him to give it another go.
Join me in wishing Ash well. He represented the university well and was always a stand-up guy when it came to answering questions from the media. It’s my sincere hope that he’ll find true happiness in life when the reality hits that he won’t be a professional football player.