Best Sustains 'Serious Concussion' After Scary Fall Against Oregon State

Photo: <b>Cal tailback Jahvid Best</b> is surrounded by team and medical personnel after his touchdown run in the second quarter on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Best sustained a concussion.
Nathan Yan/Staff
Cal tailback Jahvid Best is surrounded by team and medical personnel after his touchdown run in the second quarter on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Best sustained a concussion.

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Tailback Jahvid Best has been diagnosed with what coach Jeff Tedford called "a pretty serious concussion" after landing hard on the back of his head and neck during the Cal football team's 31-14 loss to Oregon State. He has full movement of all his extremities, and further tests have come back negative, Tedford said.

"He was out of it pretty good," Tedford said. "Our prayers are with him overnight as a team to make sure that he recovers fine."

For about 15 minutes, it looked like the injury could have been much worse.

On first-and-goal from the seven-yard line, Best took a direct snap to the left and hurdled a defender into the end zone. While he was in the air, he was upended by OSU safety Cameron Collins. The collision with the ground knocked Best's helmet off. Fullback Brian Holley immediately motioned to Cal's sideline for help.

Best lay on the field for about 15 minutes while being attended to by medical personnel. Holley and quarterback Kevin Riley -- two of the first players to reach Best -- said that the tailback's eyes were fixed in a blank stare and that he was unresponsive from the moment of impact, which came after Best had leaped nearly four feet in the air. Tedford confirmed that Best was unconscious.

"I went over to him and saw his face and nobody was there," Holley said.

"You knew right when he landed that there was something, like the wind knocked out of him," Riley said. "It was a scary picture."

Best was carted off the field and taken to the ER. Tedford said he didn't know if Best would spend the night there.

Several players said that, from the awkward way that Best landed, injury seemed inevitable. Holley said it looked like Best could have broken his neck; Riley's mind flashed back to 1999, when he was a ball boy for his father's high school team and he witnessed the paralyzing of a teammate during a game.

For tailback Shane Vereen, Best's closest friend on the team, the effect was "nothing short of devastating."

"I saw him get up and I was excited it was a touchdown, but I knew when he was coming down that it wasn't going to be good," Vereen said. "I'm just thankful that he's OK, thankful that I'm going to be able to see him again and everything like that."

The entire Cal team gathered near Best and took a knee while he was tended to. Some players said prayers. Students chanted Best's name for a short while, then joined the rest of Memorial Stadium in utter silence. For many, the uncertainty of the injury's severity made that waiting period even harder.

"It's easy to imagine that it could've been worse," Holley said. "You hear stories about people getting paralyzed on the field, and it is scary because as a football player you don't ever really think about it. You don't think about getting hurt, but when it does happen it's drastic."

Riley and receiver Verran Tucker both said that, after a few minutes, they did see Best moving his hands and legs. After Best was carted away, Tedford addressed the entire team and told them that the junior had movement of his extremities and would be all right.

"It's very sobering when it happens," Tedford said. "But the team was in the mindset once they knew that he was OK and he was moving around to regroup and play again. That was the mindset."

This is the second straight game in which Best has suffered a concussion -- he sustained a mild one against Arizona State last weekend that was not diagnosed until Monday. He did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday because of it.

It was also the second time in his career that Best has been injured on a fall. Last year against Colorado State, he tried to break a fall with his left arm, dislocating the elbow.

Two weeks ago, Best sat at the post-game podium following the Bears' win over Washington State and laughed when asked if he ever thought about trying to hurdle defenders -- as CoVaughn DeBoskie had done late in that game -- saying, "I'm not a jumper." Saturday night, Vereen sat in the same place, openly relieved that the results of Best's jump and frightening landing hadn't been more severe.

"It was pretty difficult, one of the hardest things probably that I've been through on the football field," Vereen said. "But I knew he was going to be OK. He's a strong kid and he's all right. He'll be all right."


Contact Matt Kawahara at [email protected]

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