Updated: Sep 4, 2019
By Shayler Richmond
The career length of professional athletes ranges dramatically, in football this disparity is especially profound; absent of liability the institution of football disproportionately affects student athletes and pros with short lived careers.
The journey of striving to make it into the National Football Leauge (NFL) is a lottery system, which demands high input from athletes and low output from the NFL.
Majority of athletes’ developmental years are dedicated to their sport, but only about five percent of high school players go on to play college football, and only one in 50 seniors playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) get drafted to the NFL, which equates to less than two percent.
The fascination and draw of the American audience to celebrity creates an appeal, but diminishes the value and implications of the process, especially in professional sports. We see stars like Odell Beckham Jr., and notice the role players, but often lose sight, or don’t grasp the implications this institution has on the millions of athletes whose careers don’t have the same star power nor longevity.
The transition from superstardom to life after sports is an easier transition because there is money in the bank, advertisements, sports commentary and opportunity for other appearances. However, for the average athlete this transition is not as smooth, especially for student athletes because they are unpaid, but their talent, time and effort stimulate the multimillion-dollar collegiate sports industry, and all NFL players are selected from colleges, like cattle from a farm with no assurance of sustainability.
“If you're in a postion of power and leverage use your celebrity to build whatever makes you happy because it can go away abruptly,” said Brett Petersmark, former Houston Oiler.
Once your time is up then your time is up, so athletes must be honest and present when assessing their own talent and abilities to consider what they're doing to prepare for life after being on the field.
Former New York Jet, Dr. Robert Turner’s recently published novel, “Not For Life,” shares the acronym NFL intentionally because so many players struggle with life after football. Dr.Turner unravels the life of being a high school and collegiate athlete, and reveals why and how former players struggle efficiently integrating into life without football.
For collegiate athletes a routine and schedule are provided for them, and in the NFL players have a team of staff they often grow to be dependent on, so when their athletic career is over players lose support, miss the commodore and feel ostracized.
“Those of us who are stakeholders in the game: parents, teachers, coaches, everyone involved in the lives of these young athletes need to arm ourselves with the knowledge of what is happening in the institution of sports,” said Dr. Turner.
“We are the ones responsible for figuring out how to make this game safer, better and protecting these athletes and their families, so that they can make positive contributions to society beyond just being great on the football field,” he continued.
EMU Alumni, and former Detroit Lion, Ron Rice, gathered several former NFL players to address an audience of students and student athletes to unpack Turner’s research and motivate students to think deeper now about later in order to have a plan for the future; featuring: Kevin Harrison, Buffalo Bills; Eric Hipple, Detroit Lions; Brett Petersmark, Houston Oilers; in addition to Dr. Robert Turner, New York Jets.
The former professional athletes took this as an opportunity to share their experiences, highlight their triumphs and capitalize on their pitfalls. They emphasized the importance of trying things in and out of sports to discover what you love to do and enjoying the experience along the way.
“Life is all about opportunity and how you react to things. When you come to a college have the end in mind, set yourself up to receive the ending you’ve been dreaming of,” said Rice.
Youth often feel somewhat invincible, so even when physically present must still challenge themself to stay engaged in order to absorb as much information and experience as possible, which will enrich and enhance their lives and assist them in making a plan that won’t fall out from under them.
“If you figure out who you are and appreciate yourself before your last play, then you will appreciate yourself for who you are and not for what you do. Then you will turn a not for long moment into a now for life opportunity,” said Hipple.