PHOENIX — Concussion concerns are a big issue both on and off the gridiron and now hundreds of former college football players from across the country are suing the NCAA, claiming the organization knew the risks, but did nothing.
Nathan Kimbrough was a wide receiver and punt returner for the Sun Devils from 2004-2009. He says he will always be grateful for his time at ASU and his brief stint in the Canadian Football League, but admits he would have done things differently had he known what life would be like now.
"I instantly fell in love with it," said Kimbrough. "I wanted to play it every day."
That love started when Kimbrough played Pop Warner football at just 10 years old. Over the years his passion only intensified and so did the hits.
"There's a lot of times where I would get hit and then I would see like a light, like a flashlight," he said. "There's been times where they would tell me I had a concussion and I would still play the game."
He says adrenaline and drive masked the symptoms of a brain injury. Issues such as memory loss, anxiety, anger issues, headaches and insomnia are now all daily struggles for both Kimbrough and his wife, Brittany.
"I've had to record him when he's upset so I can be like, 'Look, this is what you're saying and this is what you're doing when you're mad,'" Brittany Kimbrough said.
In January, Kimbrough filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA. He is the named plaintiff in the case, suing on behalf of other former ASU football players who are suffering similar symptoms. A former player for the University of Arizona and another from Northern Arizona University have also filed their own lawsuits.
All three of the class-action lawsuits from Arizona are now part of a consolidated, multi-district litigation, comprised of more than 300 lawsuits. It is set to go before a federal judge in Illinois with a status conference scheduled for April 4.
"The NCAA is directly responsible for the injuries that these athletes have sustained over the years," said Lead Counsel Rafey Balabanian. "The lack of care they've been given, it certainly falls at their doorstep."
Balabanian says the total amount of damages reaches into the billions. The suit itself claims that up until 2010, the NCAA "kept players and the public in the dark about an epidemic that was slowly killing college athletes." It says the NCAA prioritized profits over students' health and safety as players suffered the equivalent force of "repeated car accidents" on the field for years.
"They should have kept me out at least 2-3 weeks," said Kimbrough. "I would've sat out if someone would have told me. Younger kids, they need to know that if you're playing around in this sport, this is what you basically might have to deal with."
ABC15 reached out to ASU for comment and a spokesman said, "Arizona State University is not named as a party in this lawsuit and is therefore not in a position to comment."
ABC15 also reached out to the NCAA several times, in several ways, including the organization's media contact forms online, email and social media. So far we have not heard back.