Life after football is different for every gridiron star. Some possess the skills and work ethic to vault themselves to the highest level, to be watched on Sundays by millions around the country. Carson York fit that description, but a series of injuries led him down a different path.
York was one of the best offensive linemen to play at the University of Oregon. He started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman and was a mainstay up front for the next three years. He was named to watch lists, all-conference teams and national all-academic teams while laying the ground work for the best rushing offense in the country.
During the 2012 Rose Bowl, York tore the patellar tendon in his right knee, forcing him to miss the remainder of the game and putting his football future in doubt. A quick recovery enabled him to get back on the field for the beginning of his senior season. Unbeknownst to York, it would be the beginning of the end.
In Oregon’s second game of the 2013 season, York went down and hopped off the field on one leg. His right kneecap had split in half, an injury that would put an end to York’s football career.
“The fibers hadn’t really become functional enough yet,” York said. “The kneecap had to bear a lot of the stress that the patellar tendon normally would and so it just couldn’t bear that weight and it snapped in half.”
When asked about the possibility of rehabbing his knee and making a run at the NFL, York said the decision was fairly easy.
“It was a pretty unilateral decision between doctors and me and coaches,” York said. “There was just no chance that I was going to be able to play at an NFL level by August. It would have been a huge stretch to have been able to play at a Division I level by August.”
York’s teammates went on to have another wildly successful season, capped off by a Fiesta Bowl win. And although he couldn’t contribute on the field, he worked to help those who could.
“Carson definitely was still committed to his team and helping coach up young guys even when he knew he wasn’t going to be able to go back out on the field,” said Nick Cody, York’s teammate at Oregon from 2008-12. “It’s impossible to replace a guy like Carson because of the quality of character and drive he has.”
Now back in Oregon, York recently obtained a job as the program coordinator of the digital sport category at Nike+. York has been successful in the short time since his football career ended and naturally says he misses certain aspects of the game.
“I miss the guys. I miss the camaraderie. I miss what that feels like,” York said. “I don’t think there are many things in life where you can bond so many different kinds of people together behind one unilateral effort where everybody’s working together towards it. It’s a pretty rare experience and I feel pretty blessed to have had it.”
York is as big a supporter as anyone of his alma mater. He regularly attends home games and jokes that it’s nice to be able to sit back and watch outside of the trenches.
“I got to tell you, I think tailgating and watching a football game in the stands might be a little more fun than playing offensive line,” York said. “I’m so proud of these guys. It’s so fun to watch guys that came in as 17 year olds just getting to grow into awesome football players and awesome men. I couldn’t be more proud of all those guys.”