Think about this for a second. For 21 years, you work day in and day out for the love of the game of football. You tirelessly give everything you have, to be the best and to one day become a professional football player in the NFL. After four years of high school football, and a few more in college, you are putting your career in the hands of an agent, a total stranger. It’s at this point you realize, this isn’t just the sport you have give your heart for, this is business.
I visited a bunch of teams right out of the gate. As the draft got closer and closer, I started to hear the places I was supposed to go. Being a wide receiver, I wanted to go to a team where they threw the ball. You want to be somewhere where you will be utilized, and hearing all of the different places you could supposedly go is an exciting time.
When the day of the draft rolled around, I was at home. I was invited to be a part of the festivities in New York City, but I wanted to be home with my grandmother, so I had a BBQ and invited my family over.
I didn’t know I would go as high as I did to the Chicago Bears, but that didn’t change anything for me. I was excited to be going to a franchise with such historic tradition, and it really didn’t hit me until after I got the call. What hit me the most, however, was that I was trusting my agent with my career, everything that I had worked for, and that was a tough pill to swallow.
Leaping from college football into the NFL can be a tough adjustment from the start. No longer are you in the world of collegiate athletics, but you are in the professional sports world, one that is a business. It’s at this point where you have to press the reset button and start over. You are now an independent contractor, in control of your destiny and your career ahead of you. Everyday you are competing with other great players to put food on the table. You are putting it all on the line each week, knowing that at any point, it could all blow past you.
With all of these changes comes the realization that you have to grow up pretty quick. You may be 22 years old, but you have to act like you are 30 years old in all aspects of your life. You bury your nose in your playbook whenever you have free time, and you begin to manage your money in a mature way. More than that, you carry yourself maturely. Or at least that’s what you are supposed to do.
There is something that future NFL draft prospects need to know. There will come a time when you will have to hire an agent, someone that is going to hold your career in their hands, and at the end of the day, you want to be able to trust who ever that is. Just because an agent or agency has big names, doesn’t mean they are the right representation for who you are and what you want. You have to trust your agent, and if you can’t do that when things get tough, then you are going to find yourself worrying about the wrong things when you should be worried about your play.
For those that are getting ready to be drafted, remember where you came from. Be sure to stay close to your families because they were the ones that were with you before the money and the fame came. They wanted the best for you, and they will be there for you when the game is over, because one day, it will end. Be sure to reach out to NFL players that are good guys. There is a reason that they are successful in this industry, and getting insight from them on how they have been able to succeed while doing things the right way can only help you.
And for those that have been drafted, congratulations on making it this far. Now the question is, how are you going to stay?
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