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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Owusu chasing his NFL dreams, but teams will think twice about him


Chris Owusu is taken off the field after suffering a concussion at Oregon State. (US Presswire)  
Chris Owusu is taken off the field after suffering a concussion at Oregon State. (US Presswire)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- How can you tell a kid to quit chasing his dream?

You almost can't.

That's why Chris Owusu is here at the NFL combine, even though he had three concussions in 13 months, including two last season at Stanford. You would think that might deter his desire to play on, but Andrew Luck's top receiver isn't ready to shut it down.

"You're close to a dream that you've been dreaming about since you first put on pads, since you first caught the football with your dad," Owusu said. "All those things factor. You don't want to quit. I just didn't want to give up this game. I don't want to live with any regrets."

Owusu's two concussions last season ended his college career three games short and put his football future in serious jeopardy. But he was recently cleared by a top neurosurgeon after a thorough evaluation. His agent has sent out that report to all the teams, according to a league source.

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"I wanted to make sure I was perfectly fine before I came back to football," Owusu said. "I love this game too much to give it up. I think concussions are a hot topic, especially in the NFL. The doctor I saw is on the committee in terms of spine, neck and back. He's one of the best out there. He said I have no more susceptibility to concussions than anyone else. It kind of eased my mind a little bit and helped me come back to the sport."

Owusu sat at a table with a handful of reporters a short ways from where Luck met the media at a podium surrounded by hundreds moments earlier. Luck seems to have it made, expected to be the first player taken with a bright future in front of him while his receiver is just fighting for a chance.

Concussion safety has become a hot-button topic in the NFL, which makes Owasu's decision even more noteworthy. There have been suits recently filed by ex-players for what the players perceive were concussion abuses during their careers.

The NFL has taken safety steps to help curtail the concussion issues. Owusu said he has spoken to several former players who had concussions while in the NFL, seeking their advice on what to do.

They told him if is he cleared and he wants to play, then go ahead and play.

Football is hard to get out of your system. That's why Owusu plays on.

I remember seeing his second concussion when it happened against Oregon State and thinking to myself he wasn't going to get up. That's how bad the hit was. I also thought it would be the last time I saw him on a football field, which would have been a shame. Owusu was a good player on a good offense and at 6-feet, 200 pounds he has the ability to be a quality NFL receiver.

Owusu said he remembers both hits that caused the concussions last season. He hasn't watched them and won't.

"I don't want to do that," he said. "Kind of just look forward and not look back."

Owusu said he had no short-term memory loss from the concussions and was back to normal quickly after both of them. But three in 13 months has to be concerning for his family and friends.

Is it worth the risk?

"My mom at the beginning was telling me to think about it and see what I want to do," Owusu said. "Once I made my decision, if I was able to come back, she fully supported me 100 percent."

NFL teams asked him about the concussions during his interviews here this week. In talking to league sources, he can expect even more scrutiny and more testing before the draft -- even with the information the teams have already received from his agent.

Teams don't want to take any chances.

You have to love the kid's determination and desire to play again. But at the same time, you could understand how some would question it. What about possible long-term problems when he's older?

Owusu said he is on schedule to graduate in the spring. A degree from Stanford can open a lot of doors, safer doors.

But this is his dream.

How can you tell him to quit chasing it?

"I don't have any plans [if football doesn't work out]," he said. "Football is on my mind. The future? We'll see what happens."

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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