Will Smith is heading back to the big screen to tackle a serious subject. In 2009, GQ ran the article “Game Brain” that followed Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who was the first person to make the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in professional football players.
According to Variety, Smith will portray Omalu in the untitled movie that is described as a “whistleblower” tale. Omalu conducted the autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, which led to his discovery of CTE.
Webster played center in the National Football League from 1974 to 1990 with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs. After retirement, Webster suffered from amnesia, dementia, depression and acute bone and muscle pain. In 2002, at the age of 50, Webster died destitute. Although Omalu informed the NFL that the cause of death was due to concussions, his findings fell on deaf ears in the NFL. At least they did until Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was diagnosed with CTE shortly after his death at age 26 in 2009.
Omalu received his Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (doctor of medicine) from the University of Nigeria in 1991. He received his Master of Public Health in epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2004. He also received his Master of Business Administration from Carnegie Mellon University in 2008. Omalu is currently the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, Calif., and a professor in the University of California, Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.