Will Smith’s latest movie, Concussion, may not have hit the box office as hard as expected, but it left a lasting impression on one high school senior.
John Castello, a student from Pennsylvania, said that the film, which showcased the traumatic brain injuries that some NFL players experience, prompted him to decline 12 football scholarships at a dozen universities.
“The head injuries were a huge reason for my decision,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’ve liked both football and basketball for some time. I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do. Then, that movie Concussion came out and some interviews came out. I watched one interview with Dr. Omalu where he was talking about [former Steelers center] Mike Webster. After watching that, I said it’s not worth it.”
The movie, which was released this past Christmas, saw Smith star as Bennett Omalu, a Nigerian doctor who approached the NFL with information about the damaging effects of football. Castello said the possibility of dementia, confusion, memory loss, and aggression as a result of the rigorous field activity in exchange for a full-ride through school just wasn’t worth it.
“Yeah, it would be free college. But your whole life is in jeopardy. You’re putting your body in harm’s way every single week,” he said. “It was definitely a tough choice, but I think I made the right choice.”
Instead, the teen whose three siblings are currently in college, will play basketball, a decision he hopes will inspire others down the line.
“I know it’s unusual and strange, and some people might look at me and say some things, but maybe I can influence some other kids to pick basketball over football, just because of the injuries.”