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A Player Reaches For Football Field Despite Rare Condition

Aug. 26, 2010


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The start of seventh grade was for most of us both an exciting and nervous time. Generally, it meant moving into a new building, leaving elementary school behind, navigating new social situations, and a sense of growing up. Football is also a rite of 7th grade passage for many Texas students, as they get deeper into organized team ball and dream of playing on Friday nights. And for Brian Pullen, it should have been no different. But he started experiencing discomfort that changed everything.

It was there that Brian, along with his mother Shnequia Monroe and the rest of the family heard a term that was new to all of them but would become all too familiar in short order. A more common term is water on the brain. And this water on the brain was caused by a disorder that had a domino effect from his spine to his eyes.

Brian's mother, goes back to those days three years ago regularly. Her son, now a stoic, tough, high school football is pretty matter-of-fact about the whole thing. But the memories remain vivid. He experienced a level of pain that most seventh grades know nothing about.

Doctors recommended he go under the knife right away to avoid permanent blindness. A shunt was placed in his lower abdomen. This shunt collects excess spinal fluid and allows it to drain with normal bodily functions. But while his mother Shnequia and stepfather Michael Monroe worried about his vision and his future, he had something else on his mind.


Football probably seemed a pipe dream to anyone who might have stumbled upon the seventh graders' hospital room. Doctors told him not to even think about football. The surgery meant that doctors had to cut into his abdomen, greatly weakening the budding athlete. It was a heavy load for a kid. The remembers different aspects of the ordeal. Mom remembers the worry and the long hours. Stepfather Michael, looking back now on Brian's attitude at the time, speaks with pride on how his mature and tough stepson handled it.

Playing for a top area high-school football program was a dream that seemed pretty audacious. So audacious in fact, that perhaps it would take a non-chalant seventh-grader who just wanted to get on with his life to believe it could be true. After the surgery, he began the recovery process. And lo and behold, doctors who initially ruled out contact sports changed their tune. There was no dramatic moment. He simply worked towards his goal, and is now is a key backup for China Spring in his sophomore season. He plays in spite of lingering affects, including permanent poor vision in his right eye and peripherals. Longtime Cougar head coach Mark Bell now sees in Brian's attitutude the attributes that allowed him to overcome his obstacles and disability. Coach Bell sees a good kid and a fine football player. But when his mother sees her son in a big #74 jersey on Friday nights, she sees something else.

Brian and his China Spring teammates open up the season on the road against Mexia. You can see pictures of Brian Pullen and his family online at kwbu.org. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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