There was no way this would be the way Joe Zolper would have his football career end.
Being carried off on a stretcher and going to the hospital with what turned out to be a really bad stinger wasn't the lasting memory Zolper wanted from his final game at Schaumburg.
The scary moment didn't scare the Daily Herald All-Area pick from continuing to play football.
"I couldn't have that be my last play and my last game," Zolper said of the second-round playoff loss to Simeon. "I don't want to go through life thinking about ifs, ands and buts."
That's not Zolper's style. Not to people who watched the 5-foot-10, 187-pound relentlessly battle and frequently win those battles against the bigger boys upfront.
The reasons Zolper has decided to go to burgeoning Division III powerhouse North Central College do fit his profile.
He will be part of a successful football program after choosing North Central over reigning D-III champion Wisconsin-Whitewater and perennial power Mount Union.
"I was talking with a bunch of friends and North Central is probably going to win a national championship in two years. It's definitely a rising team."
Zolper eventually plans to become a history teacher and a football coach. But that will occur after a commitment larger than any he will make on a football field.
Zolper will go into North Central's ROTC program and will serve four years of active duty in the Army after he graduates. His father Joe was in the National Guard at Northern Illinois.
"My dad always pushed the National Guard on my brother and I as a way to pay for college," said Zolper, who has a 3.2 grade-point average, scored 23 on the ACT and is a National Honor Society member. "But I don't want to do it just to pay for college. I want to be in the military to serve my country.
"Ever since 9-11 (Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.), I had a feeling I wanted to go and serve my country and fight for everybody."
Not unlike the way he routinely fought through various injuries to help Schaumburg win a share of the Mid-Suburban West title.
"When I get hurt in a game it makes me play better," Zolper said. "I get my adrenaline going and it makes me madder."
No amount of adrenaline or anger could help Zolper after he was hit in the back of the head against Simeon. The fifth and sixth discs in his neck shot to the right side of his body, which caused numbness and made him unable to move that side.
But the following day he was able to move his right leg and the second day after the injury he was moving his right arm. He spent four days in the hospital and had to wear a neck brace for a couple of weeks.
"It's all good now," Zolper said. "There's no permanent damage."
Zolper has returned to regular workouts and has increased his weight to 195. He said North Central was the only school to give him a chance to play on the defensive line.
And that's important to a guy not afraid to fight on the front line on and off the field.