ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - The devastating hit sustained by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph last Sunday has struck a chord with many close to the Northwestern High School football program in Rock Hill.
Rudolph, a second-year pro for the Steelers, starred as quarterback for Northwestern before taking his game to the collegiate and professional ranks. He helped lead the Northwestern Trojans to a state championship in 2013.
Tom Sparks, the interim athletic director at Northwestern, still keeps several pieces of Rudolph memorabilia in his office. He has an autographed football helmet and magazine cover from Rudolph placed side-by-side.
“In the classroom, in the school, he was a leader,” said Sparks in an interview Tuesday night.
Rudolph was the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they faced the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday. In the third quarter of the game, Rudolph took a serious helmet-to-helmet hit. His body went limp and instantly fell to the ground. Sparks said he was watching the game on TV as this happened.
“Anybody can get hurt on any play and Mason just happen to get hit in the right spot,” said Sparks.
The quarterback’s body fell flat on the field. Teammates signaled to the sidelines for help.
Page Wofford, the current Northwestern High School football coach, knows Rudolph well and has also seen the highlight of Rudolph taking the hit.
“I saw when it happened and it was really one of the more scary hits I’ve seen in the NFL in some time,” said Wofford.
Both he and Sparks were concerned for the former Northwestern quarterback.
“We were just scared to death because Mason is one of our favorite people here,” said Sparks.
Both men are confident Rudolph will come back to the field healthy and ready to play.
“Being a football coach the first thing I think is he’s probably got a concussion. That’s the first thing, and then you worry about his future - the way things are going these days and the way head injuries are being treated, and the way they ought to be treated with seriousness and just being as safe as we can be,” elaborated Wofford.
Rudolph was placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol. It’s unclear when he will be able to return to the field.