Education of Some College Athletes Seems Deficient
By John Ventola
The three-day 2016 NFL Draft is in the books. Once again sports fans of the 32 league teams will have to wait and see if the selections of their favored franchises pan out over the next few years. Will a top pick turn into a bust (JaMarcus Russell, No. 1 overall, 2007 Draft, Oakland), or will a late-rounder become one of the best ever to play his position (Richard Sherman, fifth round, 2011 Draft, Seattle)? Always interesting to see how a NFL player’s productivity measures up against his potential.
As gratifying as it is to see hard-working athletes rewarded with lucrative contracts
because their God-given talent, work ethic, and honed skill sets fit the game of professional football, it is equally frustrating to see talented athletes thrust into public view ill-equipped to face the spotlight.
Such was the case during Thursday’s opening round of the draft. As expected Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams) of California and Carson Wentz (Philadelphia) of North Dakota State went 1-2. The two highly regarded quarterbacks were quickly followed by Ohio State’s best defensive and offensive players. Defensive end Joey Bosa and running back Ezekial Elliott were selected by the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys, respectively. Ohio State, in fact, had five of the first twenty picks. For the tenth straight year the Southeastern Conference led with 51 players drafted, four more than the Big Ten.
While the top four, along with the next eight choices, were selected because of their top-rated skill levels and team need, talking heads covering the draft seemed to dwell on the fact that Laremy Tunsil had fallen from possibly being one of the top three selections to No. 13.
It seems the talented offensive tackle from Ole Miss made himself the poster boy for “Knucklehead of the Year”, admitting that a Twitter video clip of him inhaling marijuana
through a gas mask bong, was indeed him. Tunsil then established himself as a Double Dunce when he threw Ole Miss and Coach Hugh Freeze under the bus by saying he took money while enrolled in Oxford.
Apparently common sense and loyalty are lacking in Tunsil’s tiny world of self-importance as he admitted Thursday to accepting money from Ole Miss assistant athletic director John Miller to pay the rent and electricity bills of his mother. This blogger is not suggesting Tunsil should have lied about the admitted illegal transaction, but he showed his immaturity and classless self by bringing it up.
A two-panel cartoon in Saturday’s Advocate drove home the difference that exists between a true student and some so called student athletes like Tunsil. The first, titled “The Rewards of An Exceptional College Student Athlete”, showed a helmeted football player (an NFL draft pick) holding two sacks of money as his “full ride” scholarship paper floats in the air. The second, “The Rewards of An Exceptional College Student”, “depicted a sad faced female student shackled with “Student Loan Debt” balls and chains attached to her legs.
There were 253 players selected in the seven rounds. Many handled the college process correctly, attending class and keeping up their grades while playing football.
Others, well, they did not fulfill their obligations as students, they remained eligible because certain schools and programs do those kind of things. Tutoring, questionable, less than challenging academic classes, and other “benefits” keeps them eligible.
One statistic out of the draft is truly sad. One hundred and seven college players gave up their eligibility to enter the NFL draft as underclassmen. Thirty of them overvalued their worth, or listened to some fast-talking “agent” that led them astray and resulted in them going undrafted. Sure, some will sign a free agent contract, but some will be working at odd jobs while watching upcoming 2016 college action that should include them. Another year of collegiate “seasoning” could have very well improved their draft status. Consequently, the decision to go early probably cost them a lot of money.
Tunsil is just one example, albeit one of the most foolish, to cost himself millions of dollars with some pre-draft shenanigans. His drop from being one of the top selections to 13th cost him financially. The Baltimore Ravens were set to draft Tunsil with the sixth pick, but passed when the video surfaced, costing him at least $7 million with the drop of seven spots.
Last year LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins lost millions when his named was smeared right before the draft because of the unsolved murder of a former girlfriend. Collins went
undrafted, and signed a free agent three year, $1.65 million contract with Dallas, far below what he would have earned if drafted where he was slotted.
The televised sight of families celebrating with their new millionaire loved one is heartwarming. However, so many are just a career-ending injury away from being destitute because they are not prepared to make solid financial decisions. If Tunsil handles his money like he took care of his first exposure to intense media scrutiny, he could be living underneath an overpass soon.
It is time that sports fans hold our athletes to a stricter code of conduct and refuse to go along with believing the make believe accounts put out by college coaches, sports information directors, and professional teams’ public relations departments. Face it, they are hired to fashion their own versions of events to cover up for a player’s lapse in judgment. Sadly, it is happening more often as player adulation and acceptance gives athletes the feeling of physical prowess on the field and social invincibility off of it (hello, Laremy Tunsil).
Lesson for all of us is to remember that we are watching pampered, glorified 18 to 22 year olds play collegiately, and that those older and fortunate enough to reach professional status have been coddled, given the benefit of any doubt, and basically
taken care of their entire lives by overzealous parents and coaches. Behavior problems, drug offenses, anti-societal tendencies are all overlooked or accepted. All in the quest for the almighty “W”. After all, winning coaches continue to coach, losing coaches look for another job, step down to an assistant position, or retire.
Poor Hugh Freeze, he attended the draft in Chicago knowing he had three talented football players that would probably go high in the draft. Wide receiver LaQuon Treadwell (No. 23, Minnesota Vikings) and eccentric defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (No. 29, Arizona Cardinals) joined Tunsil as Rebel picks in the first round. Nkemdiche moves to the desert with his own character issues. Extremely talented, he got drunk before the Rebels bowl game in Atlanta and fell 15 feet off a hotel balcony. Because marijuana was found in his room (he said it was not for him) he was charged with drug possession.
Too bad Nkemdiche was not drafted by Carolina, he claims he wants to buy a pet Panther to keep. One thing for sure, Ole Miss had an outstanding 2013 recruiting class, but Freeze had to accept a lot in order to get production on the field from Tunsil and Nkemdiche.
A life-long sports fan, it is a little tiring to see flawed characters give sports a bad rap and take away from the proper life lessons that can be learned by all of society. Team work, solid work ethics, and talent all contribute to winning efforts, but the fact remains that many players with more than their share of troubles dot college rosters across the country.[signoff}