MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The opposing running back from Jack Crowe's first game as a fulltime high school coach died after a hit later in the 1972 season. Auburn's starting fullback in 1983, Greg Pratt, collapsed and died after a preseason workout.
Those two deaths, 11 years apart, left their mark on Crowe.
Now, the former pre-med student who became head coach at Arkansas and Jacksonville State is trying to make his own mark in helping to reduce sports-related injuries among children.
"Both of them left you with a big 'Why?' in your head," said Crowe, Auburn's offensive coordinator when Pratt died. "I mean, a real big why. And you don't dwell on it, but you never forget it."
Crowe is working with Safe Kids Worldwide, prominent sports surgeon James Andrews' Research and Education Institute and other groups on tackling youth injuries after a 35-year coaching career. Crowe, who has started the Website www.coachsafely.com, attended President Barack Obama's recent summit on concussions and met with Alabama lawmakers.
Crowe and Andrews have helped Jacksonville State start an online course that launches in the fall to educate coaches on preventing and dealing with sports injuries.
Jacksonville State plans to offer the first course for high school and junior high coaches then open it up to coaches at the parks and recreations level with a wider launch in the spring. It's focused on concussions, heat-related illnesses, injuries caused by overtraining and sudden cardiac death.
"We want every kid — whether they're in high school sports or parks and recreation sports — to be safe, and for those coaches to be knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms of those injuries," said John Hammett, dean of Jacksonville State's College of Education and Professional Studies.
Hammett believes this is the first such youth injury prevention course at a university in the United States, though others like UCLA are conducting research. The U.S. Center For Disease Control reports that athletes in high school and younger suffer an estimated 5.5 million injuries annually, and says that more than half of those are preventable.
Like Crowe, Hammett was touched by the death of Jacksonville High's star running back Anthony "Speedy" Cannon, after the Wellborn game in October 1972. Crowe was a recent college graduate working nearby as Oxford High School's offensive coordinator and still considering attending medical school.