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Grant Calcaterra Believes Concussion Issues are Behind Him

Dr. Michael Collins gave Calcaterra the green light to re-start his football career

PHILADELPHIA - Grant Calcaterra tried life without football and pursued some altruistic endeavors like firefighting and emergency care, but the game was always the Southern California native’s first love.

First love is not always meant to be, however, and that’s how Calcaterra felt toward the end of his career at Oklahoma after a series of concussions gave him pause.

The long-term effects of head trauma became front-page news around the country and Calcaterra was a young man with a long future. Regrettably, he walked away from what he always wanted to do with an eye on his long-term health.

“I wouldn't say I was in a scary place. I just made a decision based on my knowledge at the time,” Calcaterra said at Eagles’ rookie camp on Friday.” ...I didn't have a lot of knowledge about concussions.”

In hindsight, Calcaterra read the headlines but didn’t dive into the underlying data.

“We all know the sigma about head injuries in football and so with the limited knowledge I had, I was just like ‘I'm gonna stop playing,’” he said. “I prided myself on a good career at Oklahoma and I was just ready to move on.”

The problem was from the minute Calcaterra moved on, he was looking back.

“I have so much passion for football,” he said. “It's all I've ever done since I was a kid. It's all I ever wanted to be is a football player and so that whole year I wasn't playing, that's all I could think about.”

The comeback was hatched watching the 2020 NFL Draft.

“The most pivotal moment when I was like ‘alright I gotta give this thing a shot.’ Like I know I'm good enough. I know I can do it,” he said. “After [that draft] I guess I just focused more on it. Started to try to get back into football shape, to my playing size and things like that so it was just when I started taking bigger steps to come back to play."

All of that took a backseat, however, to the man who essentially gave Calcaterra the green light to re-start his football career, Dr. Michael “Micky” Collins, an internationally renowned expert in sports-related concussion based in Pittsburgh.

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“A guy I went and saw was Mickey Collins, who is a concussion doctor up in Pittsburgh. He's a highly-respected guy in the industry so I went and saw him a couple times,” Calcaterra told SI.com’s Eagles Today. “He led me to be a lot more comfortable with me coming back to play. Reassured me that there's a lot of guys who play football who have head injuries like me or even more severe.

“My cases are really minor so he gave me some reassurance.”

Dr. Michael Collins

Dr. Michael Collins of UPMC

That reassurance led Calcaterra to restart his college career at SMU and that molded him into becoming a sixth-round pick of the Eagles with an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of a player he modeled his game after, former Philadelphia Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz.

“As I kid I watched a lot of Zach Ertz," he said. "I feel like him and I have similar body types. We're not huge guys, skilled in the passing game, skilled in the blocking game. That's a guy I watched a lot growing up so it's ironic that I'm here now."

All that’s left in the redemption story is putting the punctuation on it in the form of a 53-man roster spot in Philadelphia.

“I went through all of last season [at SMU] with no issues at all, taking hits, and all that concussion stuff is almost three years ago now,” Calcaterra said. “In my opinion, in my mind, that's in the past and I've played a full year healthy and I'm ready to be playing just like everybody else."

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-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen