With only the National Championship left to play, the college football bowl season has essentially all come and gone. Thrilling finishes and sensational performances will certainly dominate headlines as they so often do, but this year, a new conversation topic can be thrown into the mix.
Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffery and Shock Linwood all opted to skip their respective teams’ bowl games in order to prepare for the NFL Draft. The decision made by each of the three stars is an interesting one, as it can be interpreted a number of different ways.
From a critical person’s viewpoint, each abstaining NFL hopeful is exhibiting sheer selfishness by sitting out, as they seem to be blatantly putting themselves ahead of their teams. It is a valid opinion and one I am sure many carry; however, it is important that people think a bit deeper.
These athletes are not just putting themselves ahead of the team, no, they are also putting their families and friends ahead of it, and for good measure. Let’s take the aforementioned Fournette for instance; a New Orleans native who arrived at LSU from an area in The Big Easy with the highest murder per capita rate in the United States. In an interview with ESPN’s Alex Scarborough, Fournette himself had this to say.
“All my family is killers, people my age are killers. They’re in jail or got life.”
Unfortunately, Fournette happens to be just one of the innumerable amount of athletes with a childhood filled with tears discharged in the battle against menacing hardship. Also similar to many other athletes, after escaping the doomed confines formally known as home, Fournette holds one person closer to heart than anyone else, his mother.
Let me be clear: if Leonard Fournette wants to declare for the NFL Draft as early as he can and skip his final game as a college football player because he believes that it is necessary towards achieving his lifelong goal and oh yeah, supporting the woman who raised him through conditions no one should ever have to endure, PLEASE be my guest; in fact, I am not just okay with it, I am all for it.
Yes, that was a mouthful, but it is sure as hell is the truth. What would have happened if Fournette played in the Citrus Bowl versus Louisville and say, got seriously injured? Let me tell you.
Assuming Fournette is a top-10 pick in April’s NFL Draft, he would be set to earn at least $15 million guaranteed from his first contract. This being the case if player contract inflation continues to occur, but just to give you some perspective, the odds of that happening are about as high as they were for the Browns to miss the playoffs this year. However, if Fournette plays and suffers a serious injury that keeps him out through the NFL combine, LSU pro day and perhaps even the start of next season, he is most likely looking at a Day 3 selection, which depending on what round that is, that $15 million-plus he is actually set to make would drop to zero in guarantees with the potential to peak at approximately $2-2.5 million.
I keep using Fournette as an example, but the overarching reality, far beyond just one football star, is that the mandated three-year wait set forth by the NFL is unfair. Obviously, talented players fill those three years playing at college, where both the NCAA and NFL benefit immensely, all at the expense of the players.
It is a very controversial topic; many would suggest that young athletes fresh out of high school do in fact need to attend college. They argue that college teaches these athletes how to manage money they are set to make. Supporters also say that college provides the young athlete with both skills and knowledge that the athlete can fall back on if his athletic career does not pan out.
That all happens to be a misconception: any top recruit out of high school already knows he is almost guaranteed big-bucks three years later when he is allowed to go pro (Just look at Robert Nkemdiche). With that said, the athlete usually does not take advantage of what college has to offer, educationally that is. Instead, he will often just get by doing nothing in the classroom because of all the money he rakes in for the university. It truly is unfortunate because it really does happen everywhere.
At the end of the day, I believe that the three NFL hopefuls may have outsmarted the system a little bit. Why risk an injury in your final game that can cost you and your family millions? Perhaps it really is not worth it. As the NFL continues to use the NCAA as its free minor league, Fournette, McCaffery and Linwood may or may not have marked the start of a new trend. For the sake of all NFL-destined college football players patiently waiting on their paydays, I can only hope that they have.