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SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger . . . . . . George Visger (former NFL SF 49er)

SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger George Visger (former NFL SF 49er)

Short, Choppy Steps


Boy Blogger thAnyone who has ever spent time on the gridiron will know what those words mean. But their meaning holds truth far beyond the playing field and can be applied to everything we do in life.

In football, the object of the game is to win. But to win, you must score. To score, you need to punch the ball across the goal line.

But what if the goal line is 99 yards away?

Short, choppy steps will get you there – not long strides and an occasional 50-yard run.

In football, everything starts with a good stance. You need balance. Just like in life. You need to get yourself into position to succeed before you can succeed. A bad stance, and you’re beat before the ball’s snapped. When playing defense, if you have too much weight on your right foot, you’ll never be able step with that foot, and the offensive linemen will easily be able to cut you off if the play is going that way. If you have too much weight forward, like you have during a passing situation, you can never react quickly enough if they call a run to the inside.

A good stance is a balanced stance. Try it.

No, I mean try it. Everyone who can, stand up.

Stand up tall – feet, shoulder-width apart, and toes, even. Move your dominant foot back about 10-12 inches so your right toes (if right-handed) are even with the instep of your left foot. Now push your chest out and your butt back. Slowly squat down until your elbows touch your knees. Once your elbows make contact, lean forward a bit and place your hand on the ground with your thumb directly under your nose.

That’s a balanced stance. You can easily move in any direction from that position.

#74 NFL San Francisco 49er, George Visger @ 1981

#74 NFL San Francisco 49er, George Visger @ 1981

On offense, if you don’t score, you can’t win. To score, you have to move the ball. If the offensive lineman fires out with a long stride – like you would do when sprinting, it’s very easy for the defensive player to knock him on his butt. Holding your head up and looking 90 yards down the field at the goal line is a great way to get your cranium removed. Considering the cranium is a fairly important organ, it’s best you hang on to it. You need to keep your butt down, your face up, and your neck bowed and to take short, choppy steps.

Try it.

A long stride with your head up is a narrow stride. Any pressure from the side will knock you on your butt. To maintain the most strength, you want short, choppy steps. Fire out, and keep your butt down and your face up. Stick your face into the numbers, and, with your butt under you, drive with short (12-16 inch) strides. That’s where you get your power. Not a long, narrow, unbalanced stride with your neck craned up and your head looking downfield. Focus on the short, choppy steps.

If a football team got only 4 yards every play on offense – no more, no less, they would never lose.

Think about it.

Only 4 yards a play, and you would NEVER LOSE!

George Visger #74  4th row from bottom, 2nd from right  @ 1981

George Visger #74
4th row from bottom, 2nd from right
@ 1981

That’s a first down every 3 plays. You would score every time you had the ball. NO ONE could stop you.

Every one has a cross to bear. Some crosses are much heavier than others. I have met people on my journey, who have silently carried crosses I could never even lift. Yet they pack them – everyone.

And never complain.

If we looked downfield every day – gazing at where we want to be in life and thinking about what we have to deal with to get there, we’d never score. You need to keep that goal line in the back of your mind every day of your life – every play, but to get there, you need to focus on each step. One day at a time. One step at a time.

A single short, choppy step each day wins games.

Set a short-term goal each day, and focus on that.

In 1986, at the age of 28, I returned to school to complete my Biology degree, after an Orange Bowl, a Super Bowl, three emergency VP (ventriculoperitoneal) shunt brain surgeries, and several gran mal seizures. I needed four semesters of Chemistry (Chem 1A, Chem 1B, Organic Chem, and Bio Chem), two semesters of Physics, two semesters of Pre-Calculus, and other fun classes to complete my degree in Biological Conservation and to attain my second dream in life – to be a wildlife biologist. (My first dream was to be the greatest NFL player of all time.) At the time, I was working construction during the day, earning a Class B General Contractors license in the evenings, and bouncing at bars at night to survive. (No, all NFL players are not millionaires. I was a 6th-round pick in 1980 and signed for $35,000.)

After I returned to school in 1986, I survived five additional emergency brain surgeries during a 9-month period in ‘86-’87, while taking Organic Chem, Physics, and other classes. I was in Organic Chem three times when my shunt blew out. I had emergency brain surgery, and I dropped out of school. After the first, I came back and took the class again. Another shunt blow out and another brain surgery, and I dropped out of school again. Happened a third time. This time, I was determined not to drop out. Brain surgery on Saturday, and I left the hospital on Sunday, 23 hours later. I was sitting in Organic on Monday when I had a >50-minute gran mal seizure. I was hospitalized for a week. It seemed I had developed an infection in my shunt on that one. They sent me home with a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) in my arm, with a pump taped to my bicep, and with a tube that ran directly into my heart to deliver antibiotics. I packed that around for 10 days and had to drop out of school again.

I came back the next semester, but by then I had developed dyslexia and major short-term memory issues from my surgeries and gran mal seizure meds. (I’ve been on Dilantin, Depacote, Phenobarbital, Kepra, Zonegran, and now Lamictil.) After discovering through my own investigations that each one causes short-term memory problems, I had my doctors change the meds because I didn’t like the side effects. I had to write on my notebook where I parked my truck each day, or I would spend an hour or two walking up and down each row of cars in each parking lot on each side of Sacramento State University looking for my truck.

I came back the next semester so frustrated I met with my counselor, Mr. Sterling Ebel, a man who had as much influence on my life as anyone other than my father. Mr. Ebel was a man who quietly gave me information on how best to achieve my goals and connected with me as a person and a man. He was a man who wore the same tiny tie clasp every day I knew him. It had two words:


“Sterling, I can’t keep doing this crap. I can’t even remember where I parked my truck, much less Organic Chemistry. I just want a degree. I don’t care what it’s in. Just find me a degree. I need to get on with my life,” I ranted one day, as I barged into his office without an appointment, ready to quit.

“You’re 12 units from a Social Science degree,” he calmly replied after studying my transcript and telling his receptionist to hold his next appointment.

“OK, I’m a Social Science major,” I said.

That semester I took 6 units towards my Social Science degree, and passed both classes. The next semester, just 6 units shy of a BA in Social Science, I decided I’d give Organic Chem one more shot. I’d never quit on anything in my life, and words of my father, Big Jack Visger, the greatest man I’ve ever known, rang in my ears:

“Shoot your best shot.”

If I didn’t make it through Organic on this one, God didn’t mean for me to be a biologist. I was shooting the last round in my chamber.

On the fourth try, I powered through Organic – a “Short, Choppy Step.”

Physics 1B – Short, Choppy Step

Pre-Calculus – Short, Choppy Step

Bio Chem – Short, Choppy Step

In 1990, at the ripe old age of 32, with 172 units completed, gran mal seizures, and eight VP shunt brain surgeries under my belt, I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Conservation. Graduating made playing in the NFL look like child’s play.Visger, George

Another Short, Choppy Step.

And I continue to take short, choppy steps each day.


Thank you, George.

Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.



SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger * Lauren

                                 SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger *Lauren*

Girl Blogger cartoon_picture_of_girl_writing


It’s been 18 months since I acquired my TBI and I want to give you an overview of those 18 months in this post. It’s of course impossible to include everything (that would take up a book!), but I hope that there’s something in what I write that resonates with you or comforts you or helps you understand what you or your loved one may be going through.

My journey started in October 2012 when I woke up in hospital. I had no idea why I was there or even where I was. It turns out I’d been in a medical coma for 4 days, which would explain my confusion about what day it was! I’d had a subdural bleed whilst I was playing roller derby. It happened very suddenly and I was rushed off to hospital. I’d had a craniotomy and I spent 9 days in hospital in total, which I believe is pretty quick for TBI admission. I just wanted to get home. I was bored in hospital and was utterly convinced everything was fine.

I got home and carried on as usual. I went for nights out. I travelled to see my family in England. (I had just moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland, at this point.) I figured all I’d need would be a few good nights sleep and I’d be OK again. This stage, which I now recognise as denial, lasted for about 8 months. I was in reality quite sick. I looked dreadful, but there was no way anyone could tell me that. I just didn’t believe it.

It was about 8 months post-op that things started to feel “not right.” I started feeling incredibly tired all the time. I was starting to get scared and anxious and avoiding people. I stopped leaving the house. Luckily, I have an excellent GP who I went to see, and he referred me to the Community Brain Injury Team, something that I didn’t even know existed. I was never told about this on discharge from hospital. Through the Brain Injury team, I got access to a neuropsychologist and an occupational therapist, as well as a physiotherapist, who would be a great help later in my journey. This set the scene for what was to become the hardest 10 months of my life so far. I became very low and depressed, very anxious and spent many days crying and wanting to not exist anymore. I had a stage where I didn’t get out of bed for a month. I couldn’t; I was scared of “out there.” Everything felt so overwhelming and hopeless I thought I would never get better. I got very bad health anxiety where I was convinced every sniffle and ache was cancer or some incurable disease. I was incredibly lost and alone. This didn’t just affect me; it affected my partner too, who lost his independent and busy girlfriend.

The thing with TBI is that it’s a traumatic event. You lose who you are; you completely disappear overnight. What I was experiencing was a grieving process. I was grieving the loss of my hopes, my health, and my beliefs about the world. That is a huge blow and takes a long time to process. I cannot adequately describe the rollercoaster that I have been through, but if you have experienced a TBI, you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Where am I now 18 months later? Well, my energy is still not 100%, but it’s better than it was. I can stay up past 4 pm now! I am able to leave the house without my heart pounding and without my bursting into tears. I’m starting to think about reinventing my life again. I still get a little anxious at times. I still cry (not every day anymore), but the difference is now I can see that it’s OK to feel sad. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to get angry, to be mad at the world sometimes because this is all part of the process and to truly heal you need to GO THROUGH these feelings. They hurt like heck and they can make your day a bit less fun, but if you don’t go to those dark places, when you feel them they will be suppressed and pop up another time. What else did I do to help myself? I read. A lot – books about trauma, grief, mindfulness, gratitude and neuroscience. I wanted to understand my enemy. I started to meditate daily; it gave me a place to calm the mind and just let those thoughts and feelings drift on by. I leant on my partner and family. I forced myself to face those fears about the scary outside. I now hope to study again. I want to learn to be a Counsellor or Psychologist and help others through trauma and grief.

TBI recovery is not a straight road. It goes backwards and forwards and up and down. You need heaps of patience and to learn to be kind to yourself. You have to know there will be slip-ups and stumbles, but remember the most important thing I tell myself nearly every day:

THIS IS NORMAL AND IT WILL PASS.Vandal, Lauren Blogger Photo IMG_20131024_132051


Lauren is 37 and lives in Northern Ireland. She is currently finding her way back to the big wide world and writes about her TBI journey at Braingirl and Next Doors Cat.


Thank you, Lauren.

Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.


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