All football players should use extreme caution when dealing with head injuries.
Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter has gone through school on a pre-med track, so he understands both sides of it -- the danger of concussions and the advantages of keeping a clear head.
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Colter was knocked out of the Wildcats' season opener at California on the second offensive play. It wasn't a nasty collision or anything, but it was enough to keep backup Trevor Siemian behind center for the rest of the night.
A week later, Colter was back on the field and produced 203 yards of total offense as the Wildcats beat Syracuse 48-27. He completed 15 of 18 passes and was the team's top rusher with 87 yards on 11 carries.
"I'd say I felt 100 percent normal Sunday afternoon (after the Cal game)," Colter said. "Ever since then, I felt good. Nowadays, people are really worried about concussions and they don't want to push anything. So they have their protocol and had to follow that."
After the Syracuse game, NU coach Pat Fitzgerald dropped considerable praise on Colter. On a team where every player is a standout student, Fitzgerald singled out Colter for his knowledge.
"He's got an unbelievable grasp of our offense," Fitzgerald said.
That would make sense, since Colter has played both quarterback and receiver during his three years in Evanston. Asked to expand on his statement, Fitzgerald looked at Colter's depth of football experience.
"He enjoys the game. He embraces it in practice, has a great time. Terrific demeanor," the coach said. "He's from a great family. His dad played on a national-championship team. His uncle was a great player at 'SC. Football's in his blood. His dad's a high school coach. He's got just a great understanding of the game."
Colter's family history is interesting. His father, Spencer, was a safety on Colorado's 1990 national championship team and lettered a year later. Of course, future NU coach Gary Barnett was an assistant on those Colorado teams. Spencer Colter is now head coach at Denver East High School in Colorado.
Uncle Cleveland "Cadillac" Colter Jr. played safety next to ex-Bear Mark Carrier at USC in the late 1980s.
A knee injury helped curtail his NFL career and, at the time, Colter declined to have surgery on the knee, in part because his father died of a heart attack while under anesthesia at a dentist office.
In high school at Cherry Creek (Colo.), Kain suffered a torn labrum in the first game of his senior year. He eventually needed surgery but first strapped on a brace and played receiver for his high school squad.
"You can just tell he's played football for a long time," Fitzgerald said of Colter. "He's just comfortable playing the game. That's a little bit lost with kids today.
"They're not playing the game maybe as early sometimes, and it shows. We call it sometimes guys are a little bit raw when you watch them on high school tape, because maybe they picked the game up in eighth grade or freshman year. Kain, he knows the game inside out."
Known primarily for his running, Colter began the Syracuse game with 4 straight complete passes, moving the Wildcats 75 yards for the opening touchdown less than a minute after kickoff.
Whether or not his skills can translate into an NFL job isn't clear, but Colter has decided to put his medical school plans on hold. He spent the summer doing an internship with Goldman Sachs as a financial analyst.
"I guess as times went on, my commitment of going into medical school right after undergrad has kind of dwindled," Colter said. "I want to get some work experience. I'm going to leave that door open. I'm going to pursue, obviously, playing football as long as I can."
Northwestern continues its nonconference schedule with a home date against Western Michigan on Saturday (8 p.m., BTN).