MORRISTOWN, NJ– As he accepted the 2017 Contribution to Amateur Athletics Award from the Greater Morris County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame on March 16th, Kevin Saum looked out at the audience of young athletes and thought back to the last time he was at this podium.

It was nine years ago that Saum, then an 18-year-old high school football player, felt a great deal of insecurity. He had been told eight months before the banquet by his doctor that he would never again play football after suffering a traumatic brain injury called Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) during a game. SIS has a 50 percent mortality rate and nearly 100 percent morbidity rate. Kevin miraculously survived with full cognitive and physical abilities, but was no longer able to pursue his dream of playing college football.

“For 18 years the only outlet that I felt I had to prove my worth to the world and to myself was through the sport of football,” Saum recalled.  “My future was uncertain. I felt worthless and I felt hopeless and those feelings stuck around for a lot longer than I would wish on my worst enemy.”

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Instead of succumbing to that uncertainty, Saum turned his energies toward finding a new path. Saum started the Heads ‘N Tales podcast to prevent athletes from going through the same suffering and mental turmoil he went through. The podcast helps educate the community about sports related injuries and how to persevere through injury, illness and obstacle. In addition, the podcasts spark conversations on how to make sports safer to play. 

“It’s normal to have these feelings at times throughout your life and my hope is that it serves as a resource to you guys and to provide examples of all the amazing possibilities that exist outside of sports,” Saum told the young athletes at the award ceremony.

Saum, who graduated from Georgetown University with a master’s degree in sports industry management, is now a Research Associate with Atlantic Sports Health, part of Atlantic Health System, where he works to find ways to help athletes of all ages to be healthier and perform their best.

“Kevin’s story is a moving and poignant reminder for young athletes that their health is ultimately vital to their success,” said Matt Sellitto Board President of the Greater Morris County Chapter of the foundation. “We are honored to recognize him for his accomplishments on and off the field.”

The Morris chapter’s Twenty Third Scholar Athlete Dinner was held on March 16th at the Madison Hotel in Convent Station, New Jersey. In addition to the Contribution to Amateur Athletics Award, the Morris Chapter gives Scholar Athlete Awards to high school athletes from Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties in recognition of their academic and athletic achievements. Atlantic Health System and its Atlantic Sports Health program supported awards to 38 athletes this year. Kevin and the names of the other honorees at the event will have their names and recognition enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana.