Ep. 5: ‘The definition of toughness’

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What is toughness?

For a 17-year-old Kevin Saum, toughness meant going head-on against his opponents on the football field and bashing them into submission, both on defense as a linebacker and on offense as a fullback. At 6–1, 205 pounds, he didn’t evade defenders, he sought them out, frequently trying to bury them with a shoulder to the jaw.

But everything changed in the fourth game of the season during his senior year. Kevin suffered terrible injuries in that game, injuries that ended his dream of playing college football, and very nearly ended his life as well.

He was lucky to survive that night, perhaps even luckier to avoid any long-term cognitive damage. But even 11 years later, his emotional recovery has been perhaps more difficult, as he works to move forward after having his dreams dashed, his identity as an athlete taken from him.

That’s how he came to start the “Heads ‘N Tales” podcast. It was an effort to help athletes learn that they can — and must — find identities beyond sports, and it was an effort to heal himself.

Along the way, Kevin discovered new ways to define toughness.

Click the player above to hear Kevin Saum’s story in Episode 5: “The Definition of Toughness.”

Also make sure to check out “Heads ‘N Tales.” You can also follow Kevin on Twitter and Instagram.


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Episode 5 music credits (in order of appearance):

Theme song: “Rip My Jeans” — dl-sounds.com

The Insider — “Tension is Rising” (license)

BOPD — “ain’t no thing” (license)

Soularflair — “It’s the Smiles that Keep Us Going” (license)

Kai Engel — “Cendres” (license)

(All music edited for time purposes)