Sprinkles turns to an old friend | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Sprinkles turns to an old friend

Steve Yinging, Tribune sports editor

South Shore has seen its share of persevering athletes over the past decade. Young men and women who would rather eat brussels sprouts three times a day than submit to quitting — from Mike Crawford being unrecruited his senior year at Whittell High and going on to play in the NFL to skier Jonna Mendes taking her lumps for five years on the World Cup circuit before realizing her first podium this winter at the world championships.

Our town’s present “Rudy” is Tim Sprinkles. Although more athletically gifted than the movie hero who walked on to the Notre Dame football team and finally suited up for the final game of his senior year, Sprinkles’ unyielding desire to succeed in sports is just as moving.

Last fall while realizing a personal dream, Sprinkles’ collegiate football career at Humboldt State abruptly ended with what appeared to be one crushing blow to his head.

However, it was a compilation of hits that Sprinkles has absorbed since his freshman season at South Tahoe High that convinced him to quit the game he loves like a sibling.

The hit that rocked Sprinkles during the first half of Humboldt State’s game against Azusa Pacific gave him at least the 10th concussion of his football career.

“My head has taken a beating over the years,” Sprinkles said. “It hasn’t been one or two concussions that have sent me out of the game of football; it was quite a few.

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“When you can’t take hits like you used to, it’s time to leave the game.”

That concussion left Sprinkles dizzy and nauseous for at least two months. The week after the hit, Sprinkles nearly passed out on the field at UC Davis.

“The doctors told me that it was going to start taking lighter hits to do more and more damage,” Sprinkles said. “All I wanted to do in my career was start a game and throw a touchdown pass. I accomplished that, but I just didn’t get to do it to the extent I wanted. It was a real shock, kind of like running into a brick wall. Oh, well, I guess there are other things in life.”

It didn’t take Sprinkles long to overcome the depression that followed his painful loss. The former three-sport star at STHS, Sprinkles has revisited the game that gives him almost as much pleasure as football — baseball.

The former all-Northern Nevada League player is trying to resurrect a baseball career that ended at Washington State several years ago. Sprinkles tried to play football and baseball his freshman year in Pullman, but decided to focus on football when Humboldt State gave him the opportunity to become its starting quarterback.

After coming to terms with life without football while attending classes at Lake Tahoe Community College this winter, Sprinkles has been working himself into baseball shape. Sacramento State gave him a tryout and he’s also considering UC Davis, a program that Viking alums have prospered in in the past.

“I know it’s possible,” said Sprinkles, who wants to pitch or play outfield. “I just know I have a long road ahead of me.”

Whichever program takes a chance on Sprinkles really won’t be taking a risk at all. Sprinkles is one of the hardest-working and most dedicated athletes this area has ever seen.

“Rudy” never gave up on his football dream and Sprinkles isn’t about to let his college sports career die without a fight.

— Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010.