May 8, 2012
Just as another NFL Draft season comes to a close and hundreds of draftees ponder their futures as professional football players, some current University of Texas players now begin their search for answers as to what their future playing careers could become.
For several years, Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown has invited former NFL personnel to educate draft eligible juniors and seniors on what to expect as they start heading into sometimes murky waters for a young player unsure of the entire process. The former NFL executives recently met with the players in the team meeting room at the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center.
“It is life skills and helping them try to reach their goals and their potential,” said Arthur Johnson, associate athletics director for football operations. “Obviously, every young man who plays college football is interested in going to the next level. Coach Brown put this in place several years back to help them get ready mentally for their senior season, to help them learn about agents, to learn about the draft process, and just doing what they need to do to prepare for the next level.”
One of the mainstays of the presentations has been former Dallas Cowboys player personnel executive Gil Brandt, who now covers the inner workings of the draft and offers player evalutions as a senior writer for NFL.com.
“I think the most important thing you are trying to do is make them realize that this next football season is very, very important to them,” said Brandt. “It is going to be a stepping-stone in life, whether it is as an NFL player or as somebody that is in business or whatever it may be. You can’t be distracted. You cannot do your job if you are thinking about something else or somebody else is trying to advise you of what to do.”
Brandt was joined by Charles Garcia, who was in the Cleveland Browns’ front office and by John Wooten, who has previously worked for the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens. The speakers’ theme for the presentation was to not stress about one’s draft status and to know that the way to a better draft position always is a product of the player’s perfomance on the football field.
“Go to school, do your classes, do everything that is expected of you, work hard, and the pro football part will fall into place,” Garcia told the players. “If you start thinking about pro football early and not thinking about what you are doing now, you are jumping the gun and somewhere along the line the puzzle will not fall together.”
“The biggest thing is to stay out of trouble, work hard, be ready for the final season and then go from there,” said Brandt. “Don’t get involved with people that want to befriend you because all of a sudden you are going to have some money. Be sure you are with the right people all the time.
“You try to tell them that because what happens is, we are in a business where there is a lot of money to be made by people outside of the business. You don’t find too many people graduating from college that have the opportunity to sign contracts where they get $11 million to sign their name and make a minimum salary of $350,000 a year. You have a lot of people who want to get a piece of the action, so to speak. Those are the people that you have to worry about.”
For the players in attendance, many appreciated the candor with which the “NFL as a business” was presented to them. And they appreciated Coach Brown and the football staff for making this program available to them.
“I actually learned a lot of things,” said senior RB D.J. Monroe. “Just sitting here and listening to these guys, it was not all about the process of getting the money or all about the fame. It was more about you being yourself and focusing on what is more important.”
And as student-athletes at a top-tier university, keeping focus on their studies is a guarantee that no matter how their professional football careers unfold, with their degrees in hand, they have already ensured their future success.
“Like [they] said multiple times, school is something that you always want to have as something to fall back on,” said Monroe. “The average [NFL career] is three and a half years, and if you are lucky you get to play longer. I took that hard. I was just thinking that I am almost done and it feels pretty good to have something to lean back on, in case I don’t make it in the NFL.”