Millions of kids across the nation grow up playing football, but few have the talent and drive to play for Division I programs, and even fewer get the chance continue their careers in the pros. That number got even smaller this week, when two Pac-12 football defensive backs were dismissed from their universities, and another took a medical retirement.
UCLA Bruins junior safety Dietrich Riley‘s football career is over after he failed to gain medical clearance due to ongoing neck and shoulder concerns. Riley missed all of 2012 recovering from surgery to fuse two vertebrae after a vicious collision with Cal running back Isi Sofele during the 2011 season.
After his medical retirement was announced, Riley tweeted a photo of himself flashing the all-important thumbs-up while being carted off the field after the hit, with the poignant note:
Not a day goes by and I don’t think about October 29, 2011. I’ll miss the game of Football. pic.twitter.com/bUm4WP2wBB
— Dietrich Riley (@DietrichRiley) July 25, 2013
It’s an unfortunate ending to a once-promising career, and it makes the players who throw their own careers away for stupid reasons seem even more ungrateful.
Oregon State cornerback Tyler Hasty had his scholarship removed this week for an incident with police earlier in July, when he was taken into custody at gunpoint, according to OregonLive.com. Hasty, who refused to pull over for police while driving over the speed limit, faces felony charges of attempting to elude officers by vehicle and on foot. He reportedly attempted to drive away from the police, then pulled into a parking lot where he lost control, crashed his car and fled on foot.
Hasty used his redshirt last season, and it will be closest he’ll ever come to seeing the field for the Beavers.
In the Pac-12 South, Arizona safety Patrick Onwuasor was dismissed after his arrest on drug and weapon charges this week. A police search of the sophomore’s apartment revealed drugs and drug paraphernalia and a weapon. He faces four felony charges: possession of narcotics for sale, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of narcotics paraphernalia, and possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony drug offense, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
Onwuasor, who was recruited as a wide receiver, played all thirteen games in 2012 as a backup safety and recorded 36 tackles and one pass breakup.
Both Hasty and Onwuasor were in position to gain more playing time this season. Onwuasor, in particular, could have won a starting role this fall and perhaps become a defensive star in the Pac-12. Hasty was still buried on the depth chart as a redshirt freshman, but even if he never played a down for Oregon State, he still would have received a free education at a top university.
Regardless of their football futures, Divison I college football players are privileged to attend college on full scholarships to play a sport they (presumably) love, but as college football fans know all too well, many of them jeopardize that opportunity with poor, and sometimes dangerous, decisions.
Compared to a player like Dietrich Riley, who’s no longer physically able to play football, the players who waste their good fortune appear even more foolish.