Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Many Early NFL Draft Entrants Were Better off Staying in School

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Many Early NFL Draft Entrants Were Better off Staying in School

Article excerpt

The dream starts in back yards and on neighborhood playgrounds.

It intensifies as a player progresses through the various levels of football - Pop Warner, middle school, junior varsity, high school varsity and, finally, college.

Those who play on Friday night can't wait for the chance to play on Saturday afternoon, then those who play on Saturdays can't wait for the chance to play on Sundays. The dream comes into focus as the player ages from child to man.

A record 98 college underclassmen are attempting to accelerate the dream by applying for early admission to the 2014 NFL draft. They include major award winners, All-Americans and wall-to-wall all-conference selections. They represent Saturday's best.

I just hope all have thought this decision through and are making the wise choice.

I'm sure all have been told by family, friends, coaches, teammates and agents that their games are ready for the next level. All expect to be drafted by the NFL and most expect to go high. Big money awaits.

Look at Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Ray Lewis, Tony Gonzalez, Randy Moss, Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt. The NFL loves underclassmen, right?

Not exactly. Not all underclassmen.

Reality often authors a different script.

Sanders paved the way for juniors in 1989 when he bucked the system and skipped his final season at Oklahoma State to become the third overall pick of the NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.

Then in 1990, the NFL officially opened the door to underclassmen. Thirty-eight applied for early admission that year, and eight became first-rounders, including quarterback Jeff George, the first overall choice by the Indianapolis Colts.

George would become the first of 15 juniors to go No. 1 overall in the 24 drafts since then. In 2012, a record 19 underclassmen were selected in the first round, including the first six overall picks.

But of the 1,071 underclassmen granted early entry since 1990, 342 went undrafted and only 274 became first-rounders. The dream became a nightmare for many.

Rufus French was an All-American tight end at Mississippi in 1998. A two-time all-SEC pick, he applied for early admission to the 1999 NFL draft. …

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