COLUMBIA — On Sunday, exactly a month after his frightening injury during the Missouri football team’s final preseason scrimmage, Munir Prince’s football future was resolved. Prince, his family and doctors made their final decision about the cornerback’s career: His time on the field is finished.
“They (the doctors) think it would be wise for him not to play again,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said in the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference on Monday morning.
See how former MU players are doing this season in the NFL at the Missourian Sports Blog.
Prince’s injury Aug. 26 was almost an afterthought to local news media. Just minutes after team spokesman Chad Moller announced that starting running back Derrick Washington was suspended from the Missouri football program, the team took another hit.
Running down the south sideline of the field, the senior cornerback collided with defensive lineman Marcus Marlbrough. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound force that is Marlbrough was too much for Prince’s 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame. The hit was hard to miss, but play continued — for a few moments, at least.
“Guys get hit a lot,” Pinkel said after the injury. “We usually just continue practice. If we stopped practice every time a guy went down, we probably wouldn’t get done.”
However, Pinkel quickly realized that Prince’s injury was no light hit. The scrimmage dissolved into a haphazard crowd pacing the turf. The paramedics stationed by the entrance to the field, whose presence had almost seemed like a formality, rushed into action, and all semblance of a football scrimmage ended as the team tried to wrap its mind around everything that had happened.
Like the loss of Washington, this hit damaged the Tigers’ psyche, but it was also bone-chillingly physical. Team physician Dr. Pat Smith diagnosed Prince with transient quadriplegia, but after several x-rays and MRIs, results indicated there would not be permanent neurological damage. Prince regained feeling in his extremities and then his legs, and he left the hospital after several days of close observation by doctors.
"Munir's neurological status is improving and will continue to be monitored closely over several days," Smith said the next day. "We believe at this time that his prognosis is favorable."
In the weeks since Prince’s hit, the Missouri football team has carried on with little mention of the cornerback. Pinkel announced on Aug. 30 that Prince had returned to team meetings, and he said that he would be working closely with Prince’s family to determine his future. On Sunday, those discussions ended on a relatively positive note, despite Prince’s retirement from the football team.
“There will be no complications for him in any way forever,” Pinkel said. “He will live a happy, normal life like anybody else, but just the risk of putting him in again, they didn’t think it would be very wise from a medical standpoint.”
Ever since Prince arrived at Missouri in 2008, he has been described as a team leader. Pinkel added that just because Prince cannot lineup at the line of scrimmage or participate in practice does not mean that his relationship with the program is finished.
“He’s a great young man, a great person, and he’s part of the leadership of our team, our program,” Pinkel said. “He’s going to continue to do that, and he’ll continue to be around here.”