Jack Gorab uses his head on and off the soccer field at Corona del Mar High.
George Larsen calls Gorab one of the smartest players he has coached. Larsen said the junior has scored a 33 on the ACT and 2080 on the SAT.
What scares Gorab is being unable to use his head in the sport he loves.
While teammates tried to hold their heads up after the Sea Kings lost at Paramount, 2-1, in a CIF Southern Section Division III semifinal on Tuesday, Gorab has his own head issues.
A day after walking off the field for the final time this season, Gorab said he still deals with the side effects from suffering a second concussion. A month has passed since it happened and the defender gets headaches and nauseous.
Gorab said he does not remember much after he suffered the concussion. Teammates and coaches told Gorab what happened during that match on Feb. 2.
While leaping for a ball, Gorab collided with Brian Ford, a teammate. The side of Gorab's head hit Ford's forehead.
"My head hurt right away, then the pain went away and I didn't feel anything," said Gorab, adding that he stayed in the match and played the final 10 minutes.
When CdM lost to Woodbridge, 2-1, in the crucial Pacific Coast League match, Gorab asked strange questions on the car ride home with teammates.
He asked them more than once. The questions made it seem like Gorab was not involved in the match.
"Did we win?" Gorab said he asked. "What was the score?"
The teammates knew Gorab had suffered a concussion before and one player called his parents.
Gorab's parents are both doctors and they were concerned.
"They wanted to make sure I wasn't coming back [to soccer] too early and made sure I was healed," Gorab said of his father, Robert, an orthopedic surgeon, and mother, Lisa, a pediatrician. "Every sport is now dealing with this whole concussion thing seriously."
Gorab sat out for 2½ weeks, missing the final two league matches, costing CdM a chance at defending its league title. He returned in time for the playoffs looking like a different player.
On his head, Gorab wore an oversized black headband. Gorab said the padded headband made by Full90 protects his head and reduces the chances of getting a future concussion.
Getting used to the headgear was not easy.
"I've kind of directed headers in the wrong direction because there are gaps in the pads," Gorab said of the device that is designed to absorb 50% of the impact to the head. "It covers a little of the forehead, the side of the head and the back of it. It kind of looks funny."
The headband might look awkward, but Gorab understands a concussion is no joke.
"If I get another one, I could be out for a while, six months," Gorab said. "It could also lead to brain damage."
The one player he collided with is the one who suggested to Gorab to use the headband. Gorab saw Ford, a senior bound for UC Davis, play at a high level wearing the headband.
The headband gave Gorab comfort in coming back to play with the Sea Kings. He was still unsure of how the second concussion would affect his play.
Others had doubts about CdM. Some believed it was impossible for the team to make a run at a second straight section crown after winning in Division IV. The Sea Kings lost too much talent, half dozen starters from last season's historic championship team.
In the first two playoffs rounds at home, Gorab gave CdM a chance. The versatile player gave Larsen a spark, propelling the team past the first round.
On a rainy afternoon, the Sea Kings' lone goal was set up by Gorab on a set piece, helping CdM beat Garey of Pomona, 1-0. The following round, with the sun out, Gorab shined brighter.
Against Santa Ana Valley, Gorab, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, showed his range on a free kick. From 30 yards out, he beat the goalkeeper the only way he possibly could have on the play. Gorab found the upper-left corner of the net to break a tie late in the first half and give CdM the momentum for good.
The Sea Kings won, 4-2, and advanced to the quarterfinals, and then the semifinals after winning at Santa Maria, 1-0. That is as far as CdM (16-3-7) went, as it fell to fourth-seeded Paramount, the defending champion.
"I'm a little banged up and bruised," Gorab said.
One season ended for Gorab and then another one has just started. He joined his under-17 club team, the Newport Beach-based Slammers FC.
Gorab began practice late this week. In the back of his head, Gorab keeps in mind what he can do to help prevent another concussion.
"I have to be aware of going in for tackles and balls in the air," said Gorab, who plans to play soccer in college, hopefully at an Ivy League school. "On the next level, [suffering another concussion] would be pretty detrimental to my career."
Hometown: Newport Beach
Born: June 8, 1994
Weight: 150 pounds
Sport: Boys' soccer
Coach: George Larsen
Favorite food: Pasta
Favorite movie: "The Hangover"
Favorite athletic moment: "Winning CIF last year."
Week in review: Gorab scored a goal and assisted on another, helping the Sea Kings to two wins in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs and to reach the semifinals.