Jake Rosebaugh’s dad bought him a $400 football helmet for protection on the gridiron.
But his dad said he never realized that the professional-quality helmet that he saved for would be used as a weapon by an opposing player to pummel his son’s head in a football game.
On Tuesday, Jake Rosebaugh and his opponent faced each other for the first time since that October game. This time, Colin Byrd, 18, apologized to Rosebaugh after pleading guilty in Platte County Circuit Court to misdemeanor assault. A rare situation, it marked the first time Platte County prosecutors had filed an assault charge for actions that happened in a high school sporting event.
Byrd of Platte County High School was placed on two years’ probation and ordered to complete a 12-week anger-management program and perform 100 hours of community service.
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“I want to sincerely apologize for what happened during the football game between our two schools,” he said. “I never intended for anything to happen to you or your season. I apologize that your season came to an abrupt end. I do hope that you are doing better and your concussion has finally subsided and any other trauma you might have endured as a result of the event has also gone away.”
Byrd twisted the helmet off Rosebaugh, a 17-year-old Winnetonka High School player, in a third-quarter play that ended with the two players tumbling out of bounds. Byrd then struck Rosebaugh in the head with the helmet, said Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd.
Rosebaugh sustained a severe concussion, which caused him to experience nausea and memory loss following the Oct. 18 game.
“This is a rare case where something that happens on an athletic field becomes criminal in nature,” Zahnd said. “But we believed that what happened that night was not within the bounds of a normal football game, that while the possibility of injury exists on every football play, a player does not consent to having his own helmet ripped from his head and be beaten by it.”
Platte County Judge Dennis Eckold ordered Byrd to complete the anger-management program, perform the community service, pay restitution to the victim and write an apology letter to him. If Byrd completes those terms, the conviction will be expunged from his record.
On Tuesday, Rosebaugh accepted Byrd’s apology. Both declined to comment following the hearing.
Rosebaugh resumed attending classes full-time last month. Before that, doctors only allowed him to attend for half a day.
“It’s been weird, sometimes I can’t recall stuff that I have already learned in school,” Rosebaugh said before the hearing. “I can’t concentrate that well, and getting back into sports has been tough. There are some things I just don’t remember how to do.”
Rosebaugh had to re-learn guitar chords to songs that he had memorized long before the concussion. He has had to take a number of medications and attend speech and physical therapy sessions.
In the three months following the incident, Rosebaugh said he wasn’t allowed to watch television, play Xbox or use a computer.
“Basically, the doctor told me not to think,” he said.
For Curtis Rosebaugh, seeing his son suffer was difficult. He gets happy and then suddenly gets depressed, Curtis Rosebaugh said.
Before the start of the high school football season, Curtis Rosebaugh bought his son that special football helmet, one similar to what is worn by the Kansas City Chiefs, he said.
“Being a single father and on disability, I saved up quite a lot,” Curtis Rosebaugh said. “I don’t have much, but what I do have I want Jake to have the best equipment possible to protect him.”
The play happened during a third-quarter Winnetonka Griffins punt return for a touchdown that was called back on a separate penalty with the Griffins leading 42-12. As the Winnetonka ball carrier approached the end zone, Rosebaugh cut in front of Byrd to block him, though Byrd trailed the ball carrier by at least 10 yards.
Byrd later told detectives that Rosebaugh’s helmet “just kind of ended up in my right hand” and that he didn’t hit the victim with the helmet intentionally.
Game footage showed Byrd bringing the helmet behind his back and swinging it forward.
Afterward, the video showed Rosebaugh clutching his head as trainers talked to him on the bench. No ambulance was called. Curtis Rosebaugh reported the incident to Platte City police four days after the game.
Rosebaugh has seen a video of the play and said he remembers little, if anything, about what happened.
“It was almost like a dream,” he said. “I really don’t remember that night. When I saw the video for the first time, I was dumbfounded.”
Rosebaugh still wants to play football this fall and recently began off-season conditioning.
“The first day was rough, it didn’t go smoothly, I got dizzy,” he said. “I tried running, but I puked.”