A record number of underclassmen are declaring early for the NFL Draft this year, and a good number of those players will not be drafted by an NFL team. Some may not even receive a contract offer after the draft wraps up. Dan Rooney, chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, penned a column suggesting college football’s star players resist the urge to enter the NFL Draft before completing their college eligibility. Some of Rooney’s comments are debatable, but considering Rooney’s respect level in the NFL, it is an interesting point of view expressed.
Rooney suggests that players are receiving four-year scholarships that pay for their entire college experience, which of course has been argued to be a blatant lie on a number of levels. Rooney also suggests that many NFL teams do not want players leaving early, although if that were truly the case would they not tend to stray away from the underclassmen? NFL teams will pluck the top juniors if they will help their team win, but Rooney is likely directing his comments to those underclassmen that hope to be drafted in the late rounds.
According to Rooney, the NFL Player’s Association has conducted a study that suggests players who play their full four years in college go on to have longer careers in the NFL. That is actually a pretty interesting point. Why is that? Rooney explains.
“Because those men are more prepared to be professional players, both on and off the field,” Rooney says. “This is why the players union has always supported college players staying in school.”
Rooney may have his own league to blame in part for enticing more and more underclassmen to get in to the NFL. Or perhaps the agents are to blame. The way contracts escalate in the NFL, it is a financial incentive to get in to the league earlier and start making more money at an earlier age, as opposed to sticking around another year (or two) in the college game and fall behind in the payment structure of the league. Rooney challenges that idea as well and suggests the NFL has the best interests of the younger players in mind.
“College players should not be encouraged to make decisions contrary to their long-term interests by people who are motivated by a desire for short-term, and often illusory, gains,” Rooney says. “We will continue to work with colleges, the Players Association and others to encourage young men to stay in school. If they make it into the NFL, they have a better opportunity to enjoy long and productive careers and continue to live well for many years after their playing days turn into memories.”
You can read the full column from Rooney via Journal Sentinel.