No Such Nonsense

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The brain of your average football player

Watching James Brown interview Pacman Jones on the NFL Today pregame Saturday* got me thinking about how the college system prepares its athletes for future success. Jones has three years of education from West Virginia University (he left early to enter the 2005 draft). He is also clearly ill-equiped to handle any life skill other than hitting guys really hard (sometimes on the field but mostly outside of strip clubs). The man is a mess. He would probably have been an even bigger mess had he not had some natural talent for football that gave him the tiniest chance to escape a pretty dreadful childhood. But as his opportunities in football dwindle, just what is this guy going to do with the rest of his life. It isn't a pretty picture.

The dirty little secret of college football hasn't really been a secret for decades - not since Dexter Manley admitted he graduated from Oklahoma State while functionally illiterate. Education is not part of the equation for the top athletes at Division 1 schools. So, it's pretty remarkable when a college athlete is able to accomplish something other than a screen pass. All the more impressive, then, that Florida State's Myron Rolle will put off entering the NFL draft this year to accept a Rhodes scholarship. Rolle is off to Oxford to pursue a master's in medical anthropology. He'll enter the draft - and is expected to go in the first few rounds - in 2010.

Of course, just how far those smarts will take him in the NFL is open to debate. Dan Marino scored a 16 on the Wonderlik Test - a measure of intelligence that all potential draftees take at the NHL Combine. At 16, one wonders how Marino managed to find the right test facility. But, damn, he could throw a football. Matt Leinart, on the other hand, scored a more-than -respectable 35 - and can't seem to get a start for the Cardinals. And I have no doubt that Leinart's post-NFL-career won't be anything like as successful as Marino. Book-learning, it seems, can only get you so far in the NFL.

*Note - the best part of the interview -possibly the best part of any interview, ever - was when Brown asked Jones why he can't seem to stay away from strips clubs. I so wanted Jones to say "Well, James, they have these naked ladies there..."


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