Dream of Playing in the NFL Not For Everyone

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, and the rest of the 2012 NFL Draft Class now have the opportunity that many of them dreamed about their entire lives–fame and fortune. Griffin even had another year of collegiate eligibility, but passed it up for the chance to earn millions and, who knows, maybe even win a Super Bowl someday.

Believe it or not, there are some college football players who have said, “No,” to the NFL dream. Players who had passed all the tests and had the talent to compete at the next level chose to do something else. Hard for layperson to swallow, but for Andrew Sweat, Jeff Demps, Albert Rocker, and Jacob Hickman, their choices were easy.

Hickman started 36 straight games at center for the University of Nebraska, a school notorious for developing the nation’s best offensive linemen. After his senior season in 2009, Hickman was invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis where the top prospects in the country are put through a battery of tests to determine their draft status. Hickman declined the invitation.

“I had a great experience,” Hickman said. “I didn’t feel the need to continue playing. It just didn’t feel like it’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

Injuries played a part in Hickman’s decision. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder has 14 screws and two metal plates piecing together his body as well some early arthritis. He was projected to be No. 10 center taken in the draft in 2010. Instead he chose to use his degree in construction management and the opportunity to chase his future kids around when the time comes.

College football fans will remember Jeff Demps and how dangerous he was for opposing defenses every time he stepped on the field for the University of Florida Gators. Demps was a running back and kick returner for the Gators whose speed led him to choose the track over the fortunes of the NFL.

Demps is on a quest to make the U.S. Olympic track team. After rushing for 2,470 yards and 23 touchdowns in his four-year career on the football field, Demps passed on the college all-star games and the NFL draft workouts in order to compete on the Florida track team. Demps is a four-time national champion on the track and holds the junior world record in the 100 meters (10.01) which he ran at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.

The Gator star could still return to football at some point, but even if he fails to make the US Olympic team this year, there is still a lucrative career ahead of him on the world track & field circuit.

Albert Rocker is not very well-known across the college football land. But, at Microsoft…well, that’s a different story.

Rocker was an outside linebacker for Georgia Tech, playing in a total of 38 games, all 13 games during his junior year in 2010, and was set to be the starter for the upcoming 2011 season, his senior campaign.

Rocker had decided that he was going to be a success; he was going to be successful in business or he was going to the NFL for a successful career. He approached both with tenacity. His days often started at 4:30 AM and ended well after 11:00 PM. There were football workouts and there were long hours spent hitting the books.

His drive paid off. Rocker attended a career fair where a former Georgia Tech alum passed on Rocker’s resume to a Microsoft recruiter. Ultimately, Rocker skipped his senior season to accept a job as a technical account manager with Microsoft in Irvine, CA.

“Your future’s not really secure in anything, but it’s a gamble as far as the NFL goes,” said Rocker. “I felt like I had to do what would be better for me in the long run.”

Andrew Sweat had to make the choice that would benefit him the most in the long run also. It was much easier after he slipped in the shower and hit his head.

Sweat started his junior and senior seasons at LB for Ohio State earning Academic All-Big Ten honors three times and was a four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete award winner. He was hoping the phone might ring during April’s NFL Draft, but that didn’t happen. But, when the Cleveland Browns called and offered a free-agent contract, Sweat had realized his dream.

After reporting the Browns, Sweat was staying at the team hotel and just hours before his first official workout with the team, slipped, fell, and hit his head in the shower. Sweat had suffered three concussions while playing for the Buckeyes the most recent midway through his senior year.

When the concussion symptoms returned after the shower mishap, Sweat made a decision. He is going to law school. Sweat graduated from OSU with a degree in finance and was accepted into five different law schools. Instead of choosing his Cleveland Browns uniform number, Sweat will be deciding on which law school to attend.

While the fame and fortune of the NFL is enticing, most will never have the opportunity. And for some that do get that opportunity, the fame and fortune just isn’t enough. For some, the choice is something other that football.

One thought on “Dream of Playing in the NFL Not For Everyone

  1. Wow, these are some tremendous stories! I can’t really blame Jacob Hickman, can’t believe he sustained all of those injuries at such a young age. You see some of these retired NFL players today, and they’re pretty banged up.

    Still, I don’t know if I could walk away from MILLIONS of dollars if I had the chance. 🙂

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