“In Vicki Mayk’s hands, the tragic story of Owen Thomas is simultaneously a cautionary tale about playing the game and a love letter to a sport that means so much to so many young players.”

- John Eisenberg, author of The League: How Rivals Created the NFL and Launched a Sports Empire

Growing Up On the Gridiron

One day I was invited to join a memorial page on Facebook for Owen Thomas, the son of a minister in my community near Allentown, Pa. Owen had tragically taken his own life. His memorial page would grow to have more than 3,000 members. Although I had never met him, I was immediately drawn to the stories his family and friends told about him on social media. I began to ask myself: “How had someone so young impacted so many other lives?” The question began a ten-year journey to capture the story of a young man who would turn out to be a significant person in football’s evolving concussion crisis.

As I researched Owen’s story, it was clear that this was not merely a book about the danger of head injuries. There is a reason why the word friendship is part of the book’s subtitle. The book also is the story of his friends and coaches on his high school team, the Parkland High School Trojans, and on the University of Pennsylvania Quakers. I learned that the relationships on those teams is fundamental to what ties boys and men to the sport of football. The shared experience binds fathers to sons, brothers to brothers, and friend to friend.

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Book cover of Growing Up on the Gridiron showing Owen Thomas

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