FOXBORO -- After more than a season of being unable to play for the New England Revolution, Taylor Twellman announced Wednesday he is hanging up his cleats.
Twellman, the victim of concussion issues, has suffered an unwelcome fate for an athlete -- forced to watch his teammates struggle without him.
"To come to every game knowing you're not going to play and somehow walk into that locker room and look every one of your teammates in the face -- and they'll tell you I come in loud, obnoxious -- that's the hardest thing," said an emotional Twellman, who admitted that boisterous persona lasted as far as the parking lot.
"Every single time -- and I'm tearing up now -- I'd walk right in the car and I'd cry. Because I did nothing for them and it's the one thing this team needed," said Twellman, who scored 101 goals in his MLS career. "We didn't make the playoffs this year. I'll tell you why: They needed a goal scorer. And I wasn't there."
The pain of feeling he let his teammates down will fade with retirement. Sure, Twellman would have loved a farewell tour, a season during which each stop would feature a celebration of his highly-productive career. But it is not an option; this decision is out of his hands.
"It's unfortunate to lose a career to an injury," said Twellman. "I don't have a choice, unfortunately. When you're told that if you want to live your life and be healthy then soccer needs to stop, the decision's made for me."
For two years, Twellman has undergone different treatments in hopes of curing his ailment -- acupuncture, sitting in a dark room for months, and so on. But the effort was of no avail. The phrased peppered at Twellman by his father -- "Give 'em hell; you never know when it's your last game" -- proved an omen.
"I sure as hell didn't know New York last year was going to be my last game," said Twellman.
"The hardest part about this injury is I can do zero about it," said Twellman, calling it the most humbling experience of his life. "I've done it all, I've tried it all, I'm sick and I'm injured."
Despite the career-ending injury, Twellman wouldn't change much. Maybe he'd add a few outcome-changing goals in the disappointing MLS Cup matches. The overall experience, though, he would take again and again.
"I did something that I love and I was born to do it and I got paid to do and have fun," said Twellman. "Honestly, wrap your heads around that. All I can say is, 'Are you kidding me?' "
The next step
Twellman has started a foundation to rebuild Boston's athletic fields. He will also begin offering Twellman soccer camps in 2011, providing a place for the children to build their dreams, much like he had growing up around the professional soccer fields where his dad played.
Perhaps most important will be the challenge he is taking up to help educate on the topic of head injuries in sports.
"It's the most frustrating thing to have people look at you and not know you're injured -- you don't have a cast on your arm, you're not on crutches and it's an invisible injury," said Twellman. "I hate the fact my career has ended on a brain injury -- a concussion -- but I have an opportunity to educate parents and kids on the dangers about concussions and their effects."
Twellman is one of 300 athletes to join a Boston University medical program in which he is volunteering to donate his brain to research. By following through with his promise to educate on head injuries and making a postmortem donation to science, he'll be doing to concussions what his dad always advised -- he'll give 'em hell.