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Posted on Mon, Jan 28, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Ex-Michigan running back Leroy Hoard struggling with mental, physical toll of 10-year NFL career

By Pete Cunningham


Former Michigan running back Leroy Hoard, pictured above during the 1989 Rose Bowl, recently shared talked with ESPN about the physical and emotional toll his football career has taken on him.

Ann Arbor News file photo

Ex-Michigan fullback Leroy Hoard was a bruising runner when he played for the Wolverines from 1987-89 and during his 10-year NFL career. But after all those years of abusing would-be tacklers, now it's Hoard who is feeing the pain from all of those hits.

Hoard recently told ESPN about the physical and mental toll the game has played on him on the Sunday morning show "Outside the Lines." One of the ailments Hoard suffers is memory loss, so he keeps a notepad handy to write down things he fears he may forget.

Hoard battles emotional demons as well, and to combat his struggles, writes the names of former NFL players Junior Seau, Andre Waters and Dave Duerson on the inside of every one of his notebooks. All three former players suffered brain trauma during their NFL careers from repeated blows to the head and all three committed suicide by shooting themselves.

"I don't know why I wasn't one of them. I worry all the time, like, 'how close was I to that?'" Hoard told Outside the Lines.

Check out Hoard's emotional story:

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

not only do these players suffer from concussions they also suffer from the incredible loss of anyone who was once cheered and revered and now has to live like a normal citizen. they no longer feel the adrenaline rush of playing for the crowd and the feeling of being a part of a team with a common goal. must be very difficult to deal with that as well as the physical aspects of the pounding that sports like football put you through.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

While we're at it lets compare the football player to the Soldier. Football player gets paid millions and can quit any time as Barry Sanders did. The Soldier is in danger of same or even more serious injuries and possibly death. What does he or she get in compensation? Anyone care to guess how great there care is after they return and theire usefullness is no longer as asset? Care for Soldiers or football players is in large controlled by the insurance companies with the huge buildings and incomes.

J. A. Pieper

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 10:57 a.m.

My heart goes out to the football players who are realizing that there is a cost to the glory they enjoy over the years. But I can't quite equate it with putting their life on the line, which is what our military people do in their job.

David Briegel

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 4:15 a.m.

Max, they have completely removed the compassion from compassionate conservative. They have exposed the true philosophy of greed that is conservatism!


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 3:29 a.m.

The usual compassionate crowd, it seems. The lack of humanity among some commentators is truly frightening.

Tim Hornton

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 3:03 a.m.

This story is Hoardable.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

Even mild traumatic brain injuries in children take much longer to heal than previously thought (more than 4 months), putting them at increased risk for further and worsening damage to their brains if they sustain a subsequent trauma, even a mild one. Looked at objectively, football as it is currently practiced and played today is highly irresponsible in the way it subjects our children to the risks of present and future brain injury. Sure, no one forces ADULT players to subject themselves to such risks. Society, though (and parents in particular), has a responsibility to proscribe behaviors that put its children at risk for significant lifelong sequelae.

Kyle Austin

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 12:52 p.m.

Interesting point, especially in the light of President Obama coming out the other day and saying he'd have reservations about having a son play football.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 12:09 a.m.

I think we're finding out that many NFL players, especially running backs, accumulate brain trauma over the course of a career. For their millions, they pay a steep price. Yes, the game will have to change, since technology only allows protection from the impact of a blow to the head, not the resulting shaking of the brain inside the skull. Hopefully Huard is in frequent contact with medical professionals. I can't imagine the NFL or the NFLPA doesn't provide access to the best medical coverage available.

Don B

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

All of which has nothing to do with your point that I was commenting on: "Hopefully Huard [sic] is in frequent contact with medical professionals. I can't imagine the NFL or the NFLPA doesn't provide access to the best medical coverage available.." Neither the NFL nor, shamefully, active players who make up the NFLPA, has made retired players any kind of priority.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 5:10 a.m.

I've read many books on the subject of the finances of the NFL. They are well aware that the league means nothing if it doesn't attract the best athletes in the country. They are well aware that other sports are beginning to draw kids away from football because of the concussion issue. They are also well aware that every star player who has to retire early because of concussions (like Troy Aikman) greatly diminishes the value of their product. Changes are coming. We might see kickoffs disappear entirely in the next few years. We're going to see more expansive rules discouraging hits to the head. And more attention paid to the medical care of former players. Briegel is consistently a left-wing agitator who never passes up the opportunity for an anti-establishment rant. The bottom line is that it's in the NFL's financial interest to address this issue as thoroughly as possible, and they understand that.

Don B

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 3:52 a.m.

Start imagining it. You may know the game of football better than David Briegel but he has a better handle on the business side. The technology and research are evolving but the NFL cares only with regard to current players. What's even sadder is that the NFLPA has been very grudging when it comes to supporting the interests of retired players. FYI, it's easy to verify what I just wrote with a little research.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 2:37 a.m.

I don't think you know a lot about football, and how the technology and research is evolving. But why get in the way of a good anti-establishment rant?

David Briegel

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.

You are dreaming, right? It's a business and he is an employee. Who cares???

Sharon Moskwiak

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : midnight

I watched Leroy on the field every Saturday in the Big House and also on the road. He was a leader and he is a Michigan Man! Football may be a sport, but for those who play in the NFL, it is their job and they put their life on the line every time they run on the field. We all have jobs that take a toll on our bodies/minds, but that doesn't minimize Leroy's problems, nor should it! He deserves the same respect as anyone else fighting for their lives.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

I agree he deserves the same no less no more.

David Briegel

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 : 11:46 p.m.

"He lost his health insurance"! In civilized, christian America. Gee, how does that happen? How does that happen to a Michigan Man? How much pleasure and joy did Leroy Hoard provide to all the fans of Michigan and his professional teams?


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 3 p.m.

Because the doctors and insurance companies own this country. 26,000 die every year for lack of health care. We are 1st in per capita spending (by a huge margin) but rank 37th behind Costa Rica and just ahead of Slovenia in health care. Stand up Americans- show your doctor the contempt he deserves- if you do have insurance. If you don't- you just have to die or have enough in the bank to leave the country.

Homeland Conspiracy

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 : 11:31 p.m.

Nobody forces anyone to play football or any other sports for that matter. I've had the same job for over 40 yrs & it has taken it's toll on my body, & I'm not paid any where near what a pro is paid.

Kyle Mattson

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.

Wow what a story. I recall reading an interview w/ Mark Cuban recently regarding why he 'bet' on the NBA instead of the powerhouse that is American football and explained something along the lines of how football's long term physical affects like those in Hoard's case could potentially result in major changes for the sport in the semi-near future. Obviously football is big $$$ in the US, so it will be interesting to watch how society and key organizations like the NFL and NCAA respond as this is discussed more frequently.


Mon, Jan 28, 2013 : 11:05 p.m.

"Memory lose"? Looks like the writer of this article suffers from it too

Pete Cunningham

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 3:12 p.m.

Squirrel, The correction has been made. Please pass it along to Moose.