Aug. 5—Nearly a year later, Jason Santuccio still has no memory of the concussion that ended his high school football career, or the moments leading up to or following it. He knows only what his Pinkerton Academy teammates and coaches have told him, and the struggles that followed.
"To this day I still don't personally know what happened to me," he said. "But coaches, teammates and even fans recall me tapping myself out (of the game) and coming off the field. My defensive line coach (Dave Bernaiche) recalled me telling him that 'I feel like I just woke up.' He thought that I was kidding at first, but I assured him I wasn't.
"Shortly after, my parents took me to the hospital as my symptoms were getting worse and worse. It wasn't until Sunday morning until I started to realize what was happening and what was going on."
Santuccio had suffered a serious concussion during Pinkerton's win over Bishop Guertin on Oct. 14, 2021 — which marked the end of his senior football season — and, he thought, his career on the gridiron.
But, now finally healthy, Santuccio will return to the field one final time, playing offensive and defensive line for the New Hampshire squad in the NH-Vermont Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl on Saturday (Noon) at Castleton (Vt.) University.
"It was very tough to have my senior season cut so short so fast," said Santuccio, who earned All-New Hampshire Division 1 honors last fall as a guard and defensive tackle, despite his injury.
"It felt like the world was ending for me in those moments. I know this will be my final football game ever, and I feel as though having one more chance to close out my career in such a meaningful game is very honorable and respectable, especially because I am able to play for the Shriners and raise money for the hospitals."
CONCUSSION, ROAD TO RECOVERY
The opportunity to play football again is one Santuccio didn't believe was possible as he struggled with his recovery from his concussion.
"It was a pretty scary, not just for me, but for my family as well," said Santuccio. "Later on in the hospital, after being able to text my teammates and coaches to let them know I'm doing OK, me and my mom were watching the game film to see if I had gotten hit really badly. The weirdest part was, we found nothing. No big hits. I didn't get laid out. Nothing like that. The doctors believed that it was small repeated head traumas, and one more small one sent me over the edge. It was truly a terrible way to end my senior season."
The challenges of the concussion only became worse as the days went on.
"There were definitely a lot of struggles with my recovery," he said. "For a while I felt fine, like nothing had happened, and that everyone was just overplaying it and babying me. It wasn't long after that when I got back to school I started noticing that it was getting really hard to focus and that the computers were giving me headaches.
"It started becoming more real for me, so I was able to understand more. The doctors were telling me to take it slow, so I took it slow. I wasn't able to do anything too strenuous for some time. It really was a pain, because I was so eager to get back on the field and play, but I knew if I lied and I rushed the recovery, that I could hurt myself for life, and it wouldn't be worth it in the end."
RETURNING TO THE FIELD
Despite being away from football for nearly 10 months, Santuccio said he had no issue finding his groove on the field again when Shrine practice kicked off on Monday. and he can't wait to play one final game.
"It's like football has never left me," said Santuccio, who works full-time for Griffin Electric. "For the linemen, we jumped right into hitting drills. Personally, I love hitting, so this was exactly what I needed after not having football for months on end. Football has always been my favorite sport, and always will be. I'm glad to be able to play one last game.
"I love the sport of football, and the way it brings the brotherhood out in people. People who don't play football don't understand. It's a different mentality and it's a different atmosphere. Football has taught me so much over the years. I wouldn't trade it for the world. If there's one piece of advice that I could give to parents, it's that you should get your kids into football, they'll thank you later."