Steffy Made Biggest Call of His Career Off the Field

Maryland quarterback Jordan Steffy befriended 12-year-old Jason Waldman and the two helped each other cope with trying times brought on by injury.
Maryland quarterback Jordan Steffy befriended 12-year-old Jason Waldman and the two helped each other cope with trying times brought on by injury. (Family Photo)

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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 27, 2008

This past summer, Jordan Steffy was preparing for graduate school at Maryland and hoping for a last chance to regain the starting quarterback job after a well-publicized, injury-plagued career. At the same time, a spry adolescent in Virginia named Jason Waldman was thinking about fantasy football drafts, the start of sixth grade and the 30 minutes of video games he usually plays each day.

Neither one had heard of the other. But in the months that followed, experiences with concussions brought together a 12- and 23-year-old in a union predicated on healing. Out of that unique bond, both found a friendship and an unexpected catharsis.

"In different ways," Steffy said, "we both have gained a lot from this relationship."

Many know about Steffy's work with his charity, Children Deserve a Chance, the main reason he will be one of 22 players honored at halftime of the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl as part of Allstate's AFCA Good Works Team. An in-depth feature on Steffy will also be televised on Fox's broadcast.

But few know about Steffy's goodwill phone call in September that led to more calls, a Sunday home visit, a handful of casual get-togethers, and even a Thanksgiving dinner invitation.

Four months ago, Steffy tried to raise Jason's spirits. What resulted gave each of them a needed lift.

'Perspective'

A month after suffering a concussion because of a head-to-head collision in basketball camp, the usually cheery, energetic Jason was what his father called "a blob." The short-term memory loss, the debilitating headaches, the extreme exhaustion -- all of the normal effects of a concussion were bad enough.

But Jason's symptoms worsened so much he could not attend school full-time in September. He could not visit a movie theater because of the noise. When he went fishing, his head drooped, and he fell asleep after 20 minutes. Doctors told his parents the effects would eventually pass, that the brain takes time to heal, but the Waldmans wondered if Jason would ever be the same.

"It shook his whole world," said Jason's father, Jeff Waldman. "He went from 90 miles per hour to in park. He was a totally different person and didn't have a lot to look forward to."

In College Park, Steffy should have been enjoying himself. The fifth-year senior, whose 2007 season was ended by a concussion after just five games, had regained the starting quarterback job and had helped Maryland beat Delaware, 14-7, in its Aug. 30 season opener.

But Steffy fractured his thumb in the victory and suddenly faced the prospect of losing his starting job to injury for the second straight year. Moreover, the Terrapins' offense had sputtered, and Steffy, whose selection as the starter over Chris Turner was not popular with some of the fan base, heard a loud chorus of boos in the third quarter. Even the usually stoic Steffy acknowledged the injury angered and frustrated him at first and that hearing the fan reaction was initially hard to take.

"But a few days later, I get an e-mail from a woman who says her son is going through something [with a concussion], and he is very depressed," Steffy said. "Something like that helps me put my situation in perspective."


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