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Neck injury ends career for WSU football player

PULLMAN – Washington State University sophomore LeAndre Daniels’ football career is over, the school announced Friday.

The safety from San Leandro, Calif., suffered a neck injury at practice last week, which at first was thought to be minor. Imagining tests taken at the time failed to reveal the extent of the damage.

Daniels seemed to be improving and was allowed to run during practice last Friday. But he awoke Saturday with pain in his neck and more tests were ordered. They revealed a fracture in the the first cervical vertebra where the spine joins the skull.

“That’s why follow-up tests are done,” said Bill Drake, WSU head trainer. “Sometimes, when things aren’t getting better, and signs indicate, you do a multitude of tests to keep chasing it down.”

A spinal injury that high has too many risks, Drake said, and that’s why, after multiple consultations with neurosurgical spine specialists, the decision was made to halt Daniels’ career.

“That area has lots to do with very important life-sustaining functions,” Drake said.

The 20-year-old will wear a halo collar for 8 to 10 weeks and still may have to undergo surgery depending on how the injury heals.

He was unavailable for comment Friday.

“It’s a tough situation, but I think he’s handling it pretty well,” said safety Tyree Toomer, Daniels’ roommate. “He’s down, he’s going through a rough time but I think he’s handling it pretty good.

“He has a good attitude about stuff. He’s not thinking negative. That’s what I like, he’s trying to stay positive the best he can.”

Daniels was expected to be the Cougars’ third safety, playing in their nickel package.

“We had big plans for this year, to just own the secondary,” Toomer said. “This experience hits close to home. For this to happen, it’s a huge eye-opener. I know they always tell you to play every snap like it’s your last, but sometimes that goes through one ear and out the other.

“Now, since it is so close to me and I can see it right in my face, it’s just engraved in my brain.”