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January 24th, 2012
03:20 PM ET

Human Factor: Living and thriving after the NFL

In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle - injury, illness or other hardship - they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week, former NFL player Lamar Campbell explains why he's dedicated his life to helping educate high school football players about the dangers of the game.

In 2005, I was given an opportunity to work in the scouting department for the Detroit Lions, the only team that I had played for professionally.

I was still fairly young and energetic, a little heavier but seemingly healthy, and ready to attack this opportunity head on with the tenacity that I played the game. What I didn’t expect was a chance to spend a training camp with my childhood football idol Andre Waters.

Andre “Dirty” Waters, as he was dubbed by the local Philadelphia media, was considered one of the most feared hitters ever to play in the NFL.  To stand in his presence made me feel like a little kid again; craving his war stories, advice on life, coaching and how to evaluate talent.

After one of the first practices, I told him: “You made me want to play safety in the NFL. I modeled my game after you every time that I stepped on the field.”

His response haunts me today [Waters committed suicide in November 2006], but pushes me forward in our fight to understanding the importance of player safety and concussions. With a smile he answered, "But how do you feel?” At that time I enthusiastically replied, “I feel good.”
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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