Taylor Gentry was close enough to his NFL dream, he could touch it.
When the Kansas City Chiefs opened training camp last Friday, the former N.C. State fullback was intent on earning a roster spot and beginning his pro career. By Tuesday, the former walk-on from Leesville Road was back in Raleigh.
Suffering from concussion-related migraines, Gentry was unable to pass his physical and get on the practice field. His NFL career will have to wait, if it’s not over before it started.
"I don’t think I’m done yet," Gentry said. "I’m looking at it as the same as a redshirt year. Maybe it happened for a reason."
Gentry, who played fullback and special teams at N.C. State, went undrafted after his injury-shortened senior season. He missed the final eight games of 2011 with ankle and foot injuries. He caught 38 passes, including five touchdowns, in four seasons and finished his career with 67 special-team tackles.
Gentry earned a scholarship at N.C. State after he walked-on in 2008. Early in practice, he showed a toughness on special teams and a willingness to sacrifice his body for teammates.
Gentry said he suffered two concussions during career at N.C. State, each time while covering a kickoff.
His father, Rick, said the root of his son’s migraines go back to high school, when Gentry suffered his first head injury, a Grade III concussion, in a freak accident after a baseball game.
During Gentry’s senior season, the players were covering the infield with a tarp. They used cinder blocks to keep the tarp from getting blown away. One player tossed a block toward the pitcher’s mound and accidentally hit Gentry, knocking him out.
"To this day, I think that was the setback that started all of his problems," Gentry’s dad said.
Gentry returned to Raleigh from Chiefs’ camp Tuesday. He earned his degree from N.C. State in May. He’d like to get into coaching, either as a graduate assistant with the Wolfpack or on the high school level.
Given the NFL’s recent tougher stance on head injuries, Gentry understands the odds of getting another chance in the NFL are against him. He’s not even sure it would be worth the risk.
"The doctors said I could come back and play football," Gentry said. "I’m going to stay in shape and see what happens."
Rick Gentry said maybe his son, an accomplished receiver in high school, could get a second chance at an NFL roster as a tight end or slot receiver.
The father said he has been trying to put the disappointment in perspective for his son.
"I’d rather have him like he is today then he have major physical issues down the road," Rick Gentry said. "Football has to end some time but I don’t think he’ll ever give up. It’s his dream."