Revs' Taylor Twellman retires
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Taylor Twellman is known for being one of the most effervescent storytellers within the New England Revolution locker room. So it was no surprise the decorated longtime forward and face of the franchise was full of colorful tales as he addressed the media Wednesday afternoon to announce his retirement from soccer.
There were plenty of nuggets in his speech, which lasted nearly 25 minutes, from thanking his mother for his good looks to recalling his father's favorite saying ("Give 'em hell, you never when it's going to be your last game").
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But when the floor opened to reporters following his speech and the topic turned to his history of concussions, which spelled the premature end of his career, Twellman, 30, teared up. He spoke of the pain of having to watch the game he loves and his teammates play without him, and the helplessness he felt during it all.
Twellman played just two games the past two seasons, none in 2010, after suffering a serious concussion in an August 2008 collision with L.A. Galaxy goalkeeper Steve Cronin. He officially called it quits this afternoon.
"It's the most frustrating thing to not do rehab for an injury you know you're rehabbing," said Twellman, who has suffered seven concussions in his soccer career. "And it's also the most frustrating thing to have people look at you and not know you're injured because you don't have a cast on your arm, you're not on crutches. It's an invisible injury -- Time magazine said it perfect. That's the frustrating thing, because no one can honestly look you in the eye and understand what you're going through unless [they've] been through a concussion problem."
As for the Revs?
"To come to every game, that is the hardest thing in the entire world," said Twellman, tearing up. "To come to every game, knowing you're not going to play, but somehow walk in that locker room and look every one of your teammates in the face -- and they'll tell you, I come in loud and obnoxious -- that's the hardest thing.
"Every single time, and I'm tearing up right now, I walk right in the car and I cry. Every time. Because I did nothing for them, and it was the one thing this team needed. We didn't make the playoffs this year, I'll tell you why, they needed a goal scorer. And I wasn't there. It's hard. Very humbling."
Twellman confessed the tipping point came at TD Garden in June during Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Twellman was with a friend and "had a complete memory lapse, and had no clue where I was." He recalls peering across to the benches, and noticing "Phil Jackson sitting two feet from Doc Rivers."
"That night, my peripheral vision was the worst I'd ever had," he recalled.
So he visited Dr. Robert Cantu of the Boston University School of Medicine, who bluntly asked him, "Do you want to live the rest of your life healthy?" When Twellman told him yes, Cantu told him, "Then soccer's over for you."
"Was it a relief? Kind of, because I had been fighting so hard at working out, but I am sick," Twellman said. "I have an injury that will be with me the rest of my life, and it's just the right way it's unfortunate. If there's a percentage of the chance for me to beat this and play, you know damn well that I'm doing it. And when you hear, 'If you want the rest of your life, quit soccer,' then it's pretty easy."
And so this is how it ends for the most recognizable name in the history of the Revolution franchise. The Revs' all-time leading scorer, he earned five MLS All-Star nods, the 2005 MVP and four MLS Cup appearances and was the fastest in league history to 100 goals (on just three PKs, mind you). But it's not ending by choice, and for that fans will forever wonder "What if?"
Twellman, who has agreed to donate his brain to science after his death, said he is looking forward to new business ventures. He said he's started a foundation to help rebuild cities' athletic fields, as well as a soccer camp that will begin in 2011. He also figures to invest plenty of time and energy into concussion research.
"I take it as a challenge," Twellman said. "I hate the fact that my career has ended on a brain injury, as a concussion. But I have an opportunity to educate parents and children on the dangers about concussions and the effects of concussions."
As for a potential future in broadcasting -- Twellman was impressive, and outspoken, in his commentary throughout the World Cup on television and radio -- he said he didn't know what lies ahead, but that he wants to be involved somehow in a league he feels is on the upswing.
"I think we're embarking on something that's pretty cool here," he said. "And I'm going to be a part of it."
Twellman has had a lot of time these past two years to take a step back and realize how lucky he was to get paid doing something he considered a passion.
"I've done it all, I've tried it all, I'm sick and I'm injured," he said. "But to do something you love, and to do something you were born to do I did something that I love, and I was born to do it, and I was paid to do it and have fun. I mean honestly, wrap your heads around that. All I can say is, are you kidding me?"
Brendan Hall is a reporter for ESPNBoston.com.