At first, Rod Tinsley wasn’t sure if he wanted to share his story about his disappointing final season as quarterback at Winston-Salem State.
Tinsley, a fifth-year senior who had already received his undergraduate degree, was coming back for his final season to be a teammate and a leader one last time. It was supposed to be a Hollywood-type of season, but college football doesn’t always go as planned.
Tinsley suffered his fifth known concussion toward the end of the Virginia Union game early in the season, and his career as a football player was over.
Fast forward to spring semester and Tinsley was given an opportunity to have his story detailed thanks to a documentary-style movie produced by students in the WSSU Department of Physical Therapy. “The Movies That Move” event was held April 25, and in front of about 50 people Tinsley’s struggles with his senior season were there to see on the big screen.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it, but then I got to thinking about doing this movie, and it made sense,” Tinsley said about his movie that’s titled “Suffering in Silence: a Personal Look at Concussion.”
“And when I saw it finished, I thought they all did a great job in explaining what happened and how it happened.”
Tinsley is the second-leading passer in school history with more than 4,000 yards and was a four-year starter. But he missed 10 games through his four seasons because of various injuries. He estimates he had three concussions at WSSU and two more in high school at Charlotte Olympic.
“The scary part, obviously, are the parts I don’t remember right after the Virginia Union game,” he said.
In the video there are interviews with Tinsley, running back Kerrion Moore and various coaches, team doctors and trainers who helped Tinsley soon after that final concussion.
One thing was certain, Tinsley said, was after the Virginia Union game, he knew his football career was over.
“My mom said I wasn’t playing anymore, and in my mind I knew she was right,” said Tinsley, who helped the Rams win CIAA titles in 2015 and 2016 and guided them to the Division II playoffs in the ’16 season.
What Tinsley likes about the film, which lasts close to 13 minutes, is it reveals what was going through his mind all season as the Rams went 5-4 and missed the CIAA championship game for the second straight season.
The students in the physical therapy department also produced documentaries about Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease as well as and multiple sclerosis.
Tinsley said the topic of concussions has come up a lot in football recently and he hopes that by putting his story out there it might help somebody down the road.
“I know what I signed up for when I first started playing football,” Tinsley said. “I know the risks, but looking back I would have done some things differently.”
In that Virginia Union game, he remembers late in the game getting hit while going for a first down around the 40-yard line. Later in the drive, he got hit again and realized something was wrong.
“After that first hit we were in the huddle, Kerrion said he noticed I wasn’t right because he looked into my eyes,” Tinsley said. “I should have gone out of the game there, but I didn’t.”
Tinsley was made unavailable to reporters after that game.
“It was pretty hazy after that game, and it’s a feeling you can’t really describe,” he said Tuesday.
For the rest of the season, Tinsley stayed on the sidelines and didn’t practice as coaches kept saying he was day-to-day. He was put in the concussion protocol right away after that Virginia Union game.
As a tribute to Tinsley and his hard work through the years at WSSU, he did enter one more game. In their final home game against Livingstone in mid-October and the Rams ahead, 34-19 Tinsley came in to take the game’s final snap.
“I appreciated that,” he said. “I know it wasn’t how I wanted to end my final year of football, but I’ve come to grips with it.”
Tinsley, who is back home in Charlotte, is going through the process to join the Winston-Salem Police Department. He said hopes to be enrolled in the academy later this month and is excited about his career after college. He has a degree in criminal justice.
The documentary that chronicled his final season is a good one, even if it doesn’t end up as a Hollywood movie.
“It helped me because I could open up about the concussions and everything that I went through,” Tinsley said, “so maybe it can help somebody else as well.”