Football & Academics

Step 1: What are your chances of joining the NFL?

About 100,000 high school senior boys played football last year. Of those, only about 200 will make it to the NFL. That’s 1 in 500. So there’s a 99.8% chance that your time in the classroom will ultimately be the driving force behind your future employment prospects. But, let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re headed to the NFL...

Step 2: Let's say you made the draft. You're set for life, right?

So you're 1 of the 200 Americans who makes it into the NFL this year. On average, your career will only last for 3 seasons. Moreover, most rookies only make about $200,000 a year. The average NFL salary, believe it or not, is only about $1 million. So let’s split the difference and say you get an NFL contract for $500,000 a year.

Step 3: The money goes way faster than anyone thinks...

So, after taxes (remember those?), you’ll actually only bring home about $200,000 annually (of your contracted $500k) for those three golden years. But wait, because you made the draft, everyone now suddenly thinks you’re rich. You kinda think that yourself, honestly. So you buy your Mom that suburban house you promised her ($120k). You also buy you and your young family a place in a gated community ($250k). You ditch your old car for something sportier ($55k) and you buy your young lady a diamond engagment ring ($5k).

Congratulations. You’ve already spent over 85% of your NFL income. You now have less than $24,000 a year to live on for the next three years. For a family of four, that’s actually below the poverty line. You’d be eligible for food stamps. And you still haven’t paid to insure any of this property. You haven’t paid an electric bill or a medical bill. You haven’t put aside money for your kids’ education, clothes, food, or gas. Instead, you’re a one car family that will be dead broke in less than three years.

Step 4: 78% of retired NFL players go absolutely broke.

So what if in the end, football is all you really know? What if you just treated college as an excuse to play football until you got picked up by the NFL on a half million dollar contract? Sounds great, right? You want statistics? How about this: a recent study shows that the vast majority of retiring NFL players will be absolutely broke within 2 years of leaving the NFL. So now you're 25, angy and broke, and completely without skills that don’t involve a football. (And remember, football coaches graduate college. So you don’t even have that to fall back on.) And when faced with that situation, no one will care because they will believe that if they had been in your shoes they would've spent their time in college and their money wiser than you. They will be jealous of your atheletic success and resent your requests for help after football. You’ll lose the house you can’t pay taxes on, and, depending on your spouse, you may lose your marriage as well. This sober view may not sell athletic shoes or sports drinks, but this is life after football for the majority of pros.

But there's another way to be a millionaire.

The key difference between the NFL dream and a college career is this: $1.5 million would be your take home pay over three years—if you were one of the very best in the draft. But think about this. As a college graduate, that's also about what you'd earn in 35 years making an average of $43,000 a year. And that comes with a paid off mortgage, strong community bonds, financial security, healthcare, and, with the right investments, a solid retirement for you and your spouse to enjoy.

The bottom line is this: even if you beat the incredible odds and are on your way to the NFL, a college degree is strongly recommended. You will need a career in your 30s, 40s, and 50s (ever wonder why Mike Tyson is in movies and George Foreman sells kitchen equipment?). And if you're one of the 99.8% of high school football players who won't make it to the NFL, then your college football scholarship affords you an amazing opportunity that many Americans can't afford---the opportunity to earn a college degree.

It's a cold, hard fact: the world is filled with frustrated men who used to play football who now can't land a decent job because they didn't put in enough effort while they were in school. Be better than that by remembering what your priorities are when you’re still in college.