MORGANTOWN — “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” — C.S. Lewis
There are not many football players who quote C.S. Lewis, a British writer and lay theologian who taught at Cambridge, when announcing the end to their football careers, but there are not may Brendan Ferns’s playing football, either.
Ferns was West Virginia’s top recruit out of St. Clairsville, Ohio, in 2016, a rare mix of brawn and brains that seemed destined to be next in line of the gret linebackers who have played for the Mountaineers.
But while his body looked indestructible, it proved to be as vulnerable as anyone else’s and his career was marred by injuries and surgeries that forced him to decide to give up the sport on Wednesday.
“This was a tough decision, but I have accepted a medical scholarship and will not be able to play my final two years here at WVU,” he wrote on social media. “These past three years at WVU were not how I had envisioned them, but life happens.
“Eventually, every athlete will have to hang it up, but some do it sooner than others. Unfortunately, this is the end but I wouldn’t change anything about my final three years here at WVU.
“The past couple of years at WVU have taught me valuable life lessons that I will take with my and cherish the rest of my life. Finally, I want to thank Mountaineer Nation for welcoming me into your family and making my experience here one to remember.”
And then he offered the quote from C.S. Lewis that fit him like one of the many casts or bandages he had to wear.
In many ways, this was a shame. They had such high hopes for Ferns, even this year as he ought to come back. Healthy, he would have been probably the key defender out there, but health is one thing he never could count on.
He came to WVU with 4-stars on his rating, picked to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2016, the Big 22 Player of the Year in 2015, the year he also was AP’s All-Ohio Division IV Defensive Player of the Year.
“He’s long, he’s athletic, he can tackle, and he’s very, very, very smart,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said at the time. “Once his feet catch up with his brain, he’s going to be really good.
“He’s one new kid where when the (game) lights go on I don’t think it will affect him at all. He understands schemes, understands how to leverage the ball, understands fronts.”
He had a brother, Michael, who also played briefly at WVU and much was hoped for from both.
But Brendan Ferns blew out an ACL during that preseason of a freshman year.
The next year he played four games at mike linebacker before tearing up his shoulder and needing season-ending surgery.
Last year it was more knee surgery in the preseason that forced him to miss the first eight games, the staff getting him for the final four games while preserving the redshirt he never will use.
He tried to come back this year but never made it to the practice field.
Asked about Ferns’ absence last week, new coach Neal Brown would only say “He has not been medically cleared.” He did not expound upon that and that did not bode well.
And so now Ferns drops the athlete from his student-athlete status, going forward to get his degree and begin a new life, one for which he seems ready to succeed in, leaving behind the void of what might of have been.
So it is that we turn to C.S. Brown again to offer up another of his quotes that fit his ordeal.
“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”