Fans who haven’t been keeping a close eye on the news may do a double take during Texas Longhorns Pro Day on Tuesday. Former ‘Horns quarterback David Ash, who made most of his starts two coaching staffs ago, will be there taking part as he makes a comeback attempt.
Not that comebacks are so shocking, but in Ash’s case he made a formal retirement announcement more than two years ago on Sept. 22, 2014 due to concussions. Now he’s trying to get on the field either in the NFL or CFL as a punter or — if anyone will have him — even as a quarterback.
Ash granted the Fort Worth Star-Telegram an extended interview where he explained the roundabout way he got back into football and how he plans to tackle any lingering health issues.
The former ‘Horns signal caller claimed he was at peace with his retirement when he made the initial announcement, but that proved to be untrue as the months wore on. Ash, who played only sparingly during his last two years with the team, became a mortgage loan officer and went on mission trips to faraway lands.
But football did not leave his mind.
Ash says he was running away from the pain he felt and was in “kind of a rough place” during these times. As for the concussions, Ash says he’s been cleared by a neurosurgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, though he’s not identifying the doctor by name.
“There’s a lot of people who immediately are like, ‘What are you doing, it’s crazy, it’s just a game, why are you throwing your life away for a game?’ ” Ash said. “I understand where they’re coming from. Obviously our lives are sacred and you don’t want to just throw something so sacred away. ... but if you let fear win the day, you’re not going to make the most of it.”
He’s also aware that he’s cutting against a trend in coming back from a concussion-induced retirement. More and more often player are making headlines for doing just the opposite, retiring at a young age in hopes of avoiding health issues later on. Lawsuits from former players against both the NCAA and NFL have also become high-profile issues.
“Obviously everyone who’s playing football is taking a risk. You just have to be able to judge what that risk is,” Ash said. “He (the doctor) said there’s no greater risk for me to play than anybody else. So to me, it’s worth it.”
Now 24, Ash says the concussion issues subsided nearly a year ago and haven’t returned. Former Dallas Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt gives a positive assessment of Ash’s chances in pro football, at least as a punter, though Dallas-based NFL agent Jordan Woy told the newspaper a different story. Woy said it would be very difficult to get into the league after several years of not playing
Ash has not contacted an agent or spoken with any NFL teams. And while it might be a long shot, failure won’t discourage him. He already plans on trying again in 2018 if things don't work out this time around.
Even if Ash can’t make a return, he’s earned an undergraduate degree in corporate communications and a master’s in finance to provide a solid back-up plan. But he believes a higher power might be working in his favor when it comes to football.
“Whenever I stopped playing football and I decided I was going to try to go away from football, there were so many days I would just pray to God and ask him, ‘Could I just please play football again?’ ” Ash said. “And so I felt like maybe he was answering my prayers and I decided to follow it.”
He’s been training at local high schools and says both his parents and his doctors are behind the plan. ‘Horns fans will surely be behind him as well, and Ash might have an even better shot next time around following a whole year of training.