NFL Players Head Back to College

NFL Players Head Back to College

Learn how NFL stars are using education to ease the transition from the NFL to real life.

Some professional football players have a rough time once they retire from the National Football League. Surveys of former NFL players have shown that 78 percent are bankrupt, unemployed or divorced after two years in retirement.

Studies have also shown that college graduates make almost double in salary compared to those who only graduated high school.

It’s easy to see why many players want to go back to school after playing in the NFL.

College and NFL Players

Currently, half of NFL players have college degrees, which is a much better ratio than other major sports leagues. The NFL has no minor-league system and recruits directly out of college. This means that many football players finish their degrees before being drafted to play for a team.

Brett Favre played for Southern Mississippi and Tom Brady played for Michigan. Both of these quarterbacks graduated from college with bachelor’s degrees before entering the league and becoming successful professional athletes.

Even if players don’t get a degree before joining the NFL, the league has recently spent a great deal of time educating players about the importance of attaining a college degree. With the sobering statistics about unemployment, many NFL players are trying to avoid the fate of the less fortunate players without college degrees.

The Importance of a College Degree

The average career in the league is less than four years, and while the league minimum in 2009 was $310,000, most players can’t save enough in their short careers to avoid working again. If you leave the league at 25, you have decades of good working years before retirement.

Mel Mitchell, who started with the New Orleans Saints, was one of many players without a college degree after leaving the NFL. He recently went back to Western Kentucky to finish his college education.

NFL Players and Life After the League

Most NFL players who finish their degrees do so after retiring from the NFL. Since they have extra time on their hands, they often attend college in person. Online courses, however, are also popular for ex-players who can’t go to class in a traditional fashion.

There are many different career options for retired athletes, but many prefer jobs in the sports industry. For example, many players want to coach football after they finish playing, but this requires earning a college degree.

Leon Lett, a former Cowboys player, earned a degree in university studies with a concentration in sociology and history from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He's held various coaching positions for college teams and completed NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship Program. His education and experience led to an assistant defensive line coaching position for the Dallas Cowboys in 2012.

Troy Vincent, who started with the Miami Dolphins, has a bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College. However, when he played for the Buffalo Bills he approached the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania about developing a program that would help retired NFL players gain skills to start their own businesses after their football careers.

Vincent is now the Vice President of Player Engagement for the organization, NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program, which has partnered with several schools across the country.

Among the many things Troy Vincent tries to teach all NFL players is the importance of managing money and earning a college degree.

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