Childhood & Early Life
Christopher John Nowinski was born on September 24, 1978 in Arlington Heights, Illinois, USA. He was raised there, and graduated from John Hersey High School.
He attended Harvard University, from where he graduated cum laude with an A.B. in Sociology in 2000. He was an All-Ivy defensive tackle for his university football team.
In 2017, he did his Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from Boston University School of Medicine.
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Following his graduation from Harvard, Christopher Nowinski was hired by the life sciences consulting firm Trinity Partners, LLC. His fascination with the pharmaceutical development industry started during his time with the company.
He used to enjoy the physicality of getting into a good fight during his days as a footballer and hence he decided to try his luck as a professional wrestler. While still working at Trinity, he enrolled into Killer Kowalski’s Institute of Professional Wrestling and started taking classes at night.
In 2001, he participated in WWE’s first series of ‘Tough Enough’, a professional wrestling reality television series where the participants undergo training and eventually compete for a contract with WWE. He was one of the three finalists and finished runner-up to Maven Huffman.
Taking up the ring name Chris Harvard, he made independent appearance for the Frontier Wrestling Alliance promotion at the ‘Lights Camera Action’ show on December 14, 2001 in London, UK. He teamed up with Alex Shane and defeated Drew McDonald and Flash Barker in the main event of the show, showcasing one of his best performances outside WWE.
He was soon signed by WWE and debuted on ‘Monday Night RAW’ on June 10, 2002 and helped William Regal beat Bradshaw in a European Championship match. With Regal in his corner, he defeated Spike Dudley in his debut match in the following week.
He again teamed up with Regal to defeat Bradshaw and Dudley on the June 24 episode of ‘Raw’, and continued the feud in the next few weeks. However, he lost to Bradshaw and Trish Stratus in a rematch on the July 8, 2002 episode, for which he had teamed with Jackie Gayda.
Christopher Nowinski next won a feud with The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and Spike), followed by another with Tommy Dreamer on September 9, 2002 but was later attacked by Dreamer in a classroom.
On the October 14, 2002 episode of RAW, he ended the feud by once again defeating Dreamer, and went on to claim victories over Jeff Hardy and Booker T in the following weeks.
His next feud was with Al Snow, his former ‘Tough Enough’ trainer, who, following two consecutive defeats, teamed up with Maven on November 25, 2002 but the match ended in no-contest.
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He defeated Snow and Maven on two different occasions, alongside D'Lo Brown, but was defeated by Maven and Test on January 13, 2003 episode of Raw.
He participated in the Royal Rumble pay-per-view event, but was eliminated by Rey Mysterio. He then started a feud with Scott Steiner, but lost twice to him, both solo and with La Résistance (Rene Dupree and Sylvain Grenier), on March 31, 2003 and May 12, 2003, respectively.
Aligning himself with the African American wrestling stable Thuggin' And Buggin' Enterprises, he teamed up with Rodney Mack and Theodore Long in a losing effort against The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray, Devon and Spike).
On June 23, 2003 he teamed up with Mack to successfully defeat Bubba Ray and Devon at Bad Blood. On the same day, he lost to Maven and suffered a serious concussion, which turned into post-concussion syndrome, as he continued to train in the following weeks, not knowing the full extent of the damage.
He was subsequently forced to retire, but returned to WWE on December 12, 2005, and stated that the new General Manager of ‘Raw’ should be a “Harvard Graduate”, which he is.
Consussion Legacy Foundation
In October 2006, Christopher Nowinski recorded details of his career-ending injury and discussed the dangers of concussions in sports, primarily football, in his self-published book ‘Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis’. Apart from his experiences, the book also contained stories from other NFL players and wrestlers and had an introduction by former governor of Minnesota and professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura.
In November 2006, he took the initiative to begin an inquiry into the suicide of Andre Waters, a 44-year-old former NFL defensive back who committed suicide by shooting himself. He was instrumental in the discovery of the fourth case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former NFL player Justin Strzelczyk and dementia in Chris Benoit, who committed double-homicide of his family before committing suicide.
In June 2007, he co-founded the Sports Legacy Institute, which was rebranded as Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) in September 2015, to conduct research on sports-related head injuries and to increase awareness of safety in sports. On September 5, 2007, ESPN documented his work on the television program ‘Outside the Lines’.
In September 2008, CLF began a partnership with Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), forming its Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE Center). The following year, the foundation created the Coaches Concussion Clinic program to directly educate coaches, athletes and parents about sports injury.
In 2012, CLF co-founder Dr. Cantu wrote the foreword for an updated version of his book, which was also adapted into the documentary film, ‘Head Games’, directed by Steve James. The book, as well as the documentary, was updated in 2014 as ‘Head Games: the Global Concussion Crisis’.