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From punter to priest: A Georgia Tech player is giving up football

Georgia Tech punter Grant Aasen is giving up football to pursue a higher calling. He is forfeiting his final year of eligibility to, he hopes, become a priest.

The roots of Aasen’s decision lay in a serious injury he suffered as a high school sophomore in Fayetteville, Ga. Aasen, at the time a running back, was flattened by a stronger player and suffered an injury that nearly killed him.

“My head hit the ground, and I suffered what they call ‘whiplash of the brain,’ ” he told Trent Beattie of the National Catholic Register. “I sat out the rest of practice and the next day during a game I felt tired, walked to the sideline, took off my helmet, sat down on the bench and passed out.

“The medical people examined me and found my eyes were super-dilated, which was an indication of swelling of the brain. A helicopter was called, and I was airlifted to Atlanta Medical Center. My brain was bleeding, so my skull was cut open by Dr. Paul King, and he fixed the problem. It was very serious and I came close to dying, but after the surgery, I recovered a lot faster than expected.”

By early 2016, though, his mind was made up. “I told head Coach Paul Johnson before spring practices in 2016 that I was planning on playing one more year and then going to the seminary. I was tearing up at the time, because I was thinking of how much football meant to me and how much I had put into it,” Aasen said. “Coach told me he appreciated my honesty, but that he wanted me to stay with the team and to give it more time — to go through not only last season, but this most recent spring’s practices. I did that, and the calling remained throughout, so that’s where we are today.”

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, he said he hopes to learn by the end of June whether he will be accepted to enter a seminary.

“I want to bring people close to Christ, and the priesthood seems like the best way for me to do that. The priesthood is an amazing thing, but I don’t think I should get credit or some award for pursuing it,” he said. “If that’s my calling, that’s my calling, just like another young man might be called to marriage. If that’s the case for him, then he should pursue that vocation without expecting a pat on the back.”