After growing up in Plymouth, Fla., starring at Apopka High and then the University of Miami before a 13-year career in the NFL, Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp has taken – and dished out – his share of hits.
Now, in addition to announcing he wants to donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, Sapp is proposing changes to youth football.
In a video posted to The Players’ Tribune, Sapp talked about his own history in the game and how much the NFL’s approach to head injuries has been incremental progress.
He admitted he’s having memory issues and will donate his brain, and that he doesn’t want the next generation to have that. He then calls for a drastic change in the youth ranks – getting rid of tackling in youth football until the high school level. You can see it at the 3:15 mark of the video.
“The game is getting better, let’s just make it all the way better for everybody involved, especially the youth,” Sapp said. “I’m talking about seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13. We eliminate the tackle football for all the kids, we put them on equal playing fields so all their brains develop and then, when high school, now let’s go. Now let’s pick out a four-year plan for you to find the college you want to go to, play the game you know and love, and be good at it. That’s the biggest thing. Make it safer for everybody that’s involved. Let’s get the research, let’s apply the knowledge, and let’s make it all better for everybody.”
As for what it was like when the seven-time All-Pro and Super Bowl XXXVII champion entered the league with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sapp noted that the game’s macho nature manifested itself daily.
“It was just bad, it was Neanderthals, we were dinosaurs,” Sapp said in the video. “We were doing Oklahoma drill, bull in the ring, all this crazy stuff that was just about a tough guy. It wasn’t about the skills you had. It was just the bare bones of bone-on-bone. That’s not what this game should be. It’s about skills.”
You can see the entire video below.