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Special Report: Just Say No - 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas

Special Report: Just Say No

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In Texas, football is life. It's a culture, and at times it is madness.

It's also opportunity. Nederland Senior defensive lineman DeShawn Washington officially signed to play at the college level at Texas A&M

"It's one of the greatest feelings I could imagine. Knowing the past four years of my life, I didn't waste them," Washington said.

Washington racked up 74 tackles and 10 1/2 sacks during his senior season. The college recruit didn't step foot on a field until seventh grade and like any mom Marjorie Washington was hesitant.

"I was a little reluctant for him to play because his dad never played. There's always the possibility of him getting hurt. 

But it's paid off. DeShawn will soon be playing D1 college ball. 

"Just being able to play a sport with some contact. Being able to get out there and hit something," DeShawn said of his love for the game. 

Many Southeast Texas football players have gone down similar paths like former NFL Cornerback Mickey Washington who has no relation to DeShawn. 

Mickey Washington was a West Brook Bruin and an Aggie before going on to play 8 seasons in the NFL.

With the Buffalo Bills, he won an AFC championship in '94 and played in Super Bowl XXVIII which surprisingly was not the highlight of his career. 

"We thought that was all in life to play Friday nights in Beaumont. The Super Bowl just reminded me of Friday nights in Beaumont," Washington said.

Washington now practices law and is on the Executive Committee for the NFL Players Association. 

Now he joins the likes of Hall of Fame Quarterback Joe Namath in suggesting children choose a different sport.

Washington himself is a father to an 18th month old. 

"My son will not play. I will not tell him he cannot but I will not encourage him to play tackle football," he said. 

Washington has been heavily involved in the ongoing lawsuit against the NFL which questions the league's efforts to prevent concussions or provide care for players suffering from brain injuries. 

In January the NFL reached a 765 million dollar settlement for thousands of retired former players. 

But a federal judge denied the settlement's early approval, arguing that the sum might not be enough to cover all concussion-related claims.

But a North Texas cognitive neuroscientist is providing a new perspective in the debate. 

"Whether it's mild moderate or severe. The brain is able to be repaired if proper care is given whether it's mild moderate or severe," Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman said.

Dr. Chapman is the founder and chief director of UT Dallas' Center for Brain Health. After researching the brain for than 25 years she says the rewards of football outweigh the risks.

"It helps them (players) stay connected to their school. Helps them fight depression. It helps to fight off addiction," Dr. Chapman said.

It's a bright spot in what has lately been a bleak outlook on the future of youth, high school and professional football. 

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