B.J. Catalon returned to the football field for the first time in more than six months Friday, and he couldn’t have been more excited stepping on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice fields at Valley Ranch.
Catalon has been brought in for a tryout with the local team, and the former TCU running back is hoping to make a positive impression after seeing his playing career derailed by concussion-like symptoms last November.
“Once I got hurt, it felt like I was locked away in a room,” Catalon said. “It’s been a long time. I would just like to come out here and show my abilities and prove that I can still come out and play the game and play the game effectively.”
Catalon was one of 10 TCU players — former defensive tackle Chucky Hunter is also with the Cowboys — from last year’s Peach Bowl-winning team who participated in NFL rookie minicamps this weekend.
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But Catalon’s path to professional football is different than most.
He burst onto the scene as a freshman for his return abilities, and then flourished even more as a running back his sophomore and junior seasons.
As a junior last season, though, Catalon suffered a season-ending concussion against West Virginia on Nov. 1.
Catalon carried a heavy load that game, gaining 105 rushing yards with two TDs on 20 carries. He played the entire game, too, gaining 2 yards on the play before TCU converted the go-ahead field goal on the offense’s final possession of a 31-30 victory.
The after-effects of the concussion took their toll on Catalon. He had repeated headaches and sat out the final two months.
Catalon had suffered an injury the week before the West Virginia game, as well, leaving against Texas Tech with what he called a shoulder injury.
“A lot of people thought I got a concussion that game, but it was my shoulder,” Catalon said.
The concussion the following week proved to be the end of his college career. He attempted to practice again before the Peach Bowl, but the TCU staff felt it was best for him to sit out.
“They were just concerned about the headaches, so that is what elongated the process and made me miss more games than expected,” Catalon said.
“It was pretty tough, but it’s a grown-man pill you’ve got to swallow. It was something that occurs in football.
“People get hurt and the team goes on. I’m glad they went on and did what they did. I’ll always be a part of that.”
Catalon joined the Horned Frogs on their trip to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl, a game in which TCU routed Ole Miss. It marked his first game on the sidelines since his concussion.
Now, Catalon hopes to get back on the field and live out his professional dreams. He felt leaving school after his junior season gave him the best chance to fulfill his professional dreams.
As he said, “If I played another year at TCU and suffered another [concussion], then they draw the line there and I may never be able to reach this point. [My family and I] wanted me to at least get the opportunity to try and be an NFL pro, so that was the mindset. And that’s why I made the decision I made.”
Walking away from the game, Catalon said, wasn’t an option, even though concussions and the long-term effects of head injuries from football are being more heavily publicized nowadays.
“This has always been a goal of mine, so I didn’t want to stop short of that goal,” Catalon said. “It’s my goal to give the next level a shot and hopefully be there and enjoy the experience.”
Catalon wants to show enough in the three-day audition with the Cowboys. They are lacking a kick returner, something he excelled at in college. And, of course, you can never have too much running back depth.
Even though he’s pegged as a long shot, Catalon at least has a shot. That’s all he can ask for.
“When I got the call from my agent and the Cowboys wanted to bring me in just to try out, that was very exciting,” Catalon said. “I was thrilled.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760