MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Who are we except an accumulation of our memories?
That's the question former Gopher and seven-year NFL veteran Ben Utecht had to ask himself after four concussions suffered playing the game he loves.
"Experiencing for the first time the effects that those concussions can have on those memories, that made me realize how important my mind and my memories are to the makeup of who I am," he said at a press conference Thursday.
Now he's teaming up with Hennepin County Medical Center's Dr. Uzma Samadini to raise money for brain injury research.
They're calling their efforts "Superbrain 2018," focusing on coordinated eye movement that Dr. Samadini says can be used to accurately detect brain injuries and check in on the healing process as time passes. And it's not just athletes she plans to study, hoping to make baseline assessments by studying healthy siblings and other family members to serve as controls.
For Utecht, he wouldn't have given his time in the NFL for anything, but at the same time hope to make the game safer for future generations.
"When you take away the money and you take away the business, you still have a bunch of grown little boys out there playing the game they love," he said. "And it all starts in the backyard, like it did for me."