Former Georgia Tech and NFL running back Dorsey Levens has begun a new career as filmmaker. His documentary, “Bell Rung,” draws on past professional experience, but it’s not exactly a highlights reel.
“The first thing is to bring more awareness to the concussion issue,” Levens said. His documentary, which he screened in Atlanta recently, features former colleagues who are dealing with the mental and physical consequences of sports injuries.
“We’re learning now that every time to get your bell rung it’s an actual concussion,” Levens said, explaining the title of his film. “It happens so often it becomes commonplace. You get a dinger, you shake it off and you go back in.”
Levens, who is hoping his work is picked up by a cable station for wider distribution, said his sport is becoming increasingly hard on its players.
“I think it’s the natural progression of football. Guys are getting bigger, faster and stronger,” he said. “There’s always newer and better training techniques, supplements, diets. Guys have always played hard. They’re going to continue to play hard.”
At the same time there’s a reason NFL is sardonically said to stand for “Not For Long.”
“There is no job security in this league,” Levens said. “We all know you’re only one play away from your career being over.”
Levens, who has a Super Bowl ring from his days with the Green Bay Packers, started work on “Bell Rung,” long before Ray Easterling and Junior Seau became the latest NFL alumni suicide victims. An autopsy revealed that Easterling, a former Atlanta Falcons safety, had a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated concussions. His death came eight months after the first in a flurry of concussion-related lawsuits against the NFL.
Levens, who is among the many players filing suit, said the league needs to take care of its players after their careers end.
“The NFL guys need lifetime health insurance,” he said. “Simple as that. Take care of the guys who need help.”
Levens said he shook off injuries while he was playing.
“I got my bell rung three or four times a game,” he said. “Back then that wasn’t a major injury. You shake it off and go back in.”
He hopes to raise awareness among everyone with his film, particularly young athletes who still feel invincible.
“Be a little more careful,” he urged. “Football is a gladiator sport. Especially within the game the mentality is to shake off any injury and get back into the game. At the end of the day that’s not the smartest thing you can do.”
This article contains previously reported information by AJC staff members Jeff Schultz and D. Orlando Ledbetter