Myth’s Busted: Honest answers about what it’s really like to be a “student” athlete by way of college football

Written by: Cal

It’s weird to read about and see how the media present the life of a college athlete. The major broadcasting networks have gotten very good at presenting a package that’s all rainbows and unicorns. The other side of the coin is TV shows with dramatized situations that makes it seem like everyone is corrupt and on the take because drama sells. The truth is somewhere in the middle and probably a lot more interesting than those crafted versions. I’ve compiled the questions I’ve gotten over the years….and sprinkled a few in that should be asked to maybe enlighten the masses. I started with the most obvious one…. 

Q: How many concussions have I had playing football? 

A: I only count 3 of them. I was 14 the first time I was unconscious on a field. From that point I decided to never lead with my helmet and still got dinged twice in college because sometimes you have no choice. 
Q: What does a concussion feel like? 

A: If I could use only two words to describe it. “Floaty” and “Drunk”. I just felt a bit stupid for a day. You know you’re in it. It was very weird (and great) to get out of the fog and back to normal. It is a bit scary while you’re in it and aware of it because I was always nervous I wouldn’t go back to “normal”
Q: What’s the most painful injury I’ve ever had?

A: It’s a tie. One time I had a full body cramp. I’ve never screamed so loud in my life. It started in my hamstrings, then quads, then down my calves and to my feet, then up my back, around to my abs and finally up to my neck by the time the dragged me into the training room and got an IV into my arm. Another time my finger got stuck in another player’s pads and my fingernail on my index finger got caught, lifted off of my skin and then folded over on itself. It hurt so much I couldn’t use words and I thought my finger exploded inside my glove. The trainer took the glove off, straightened out the fold, and taped it down so it wouldn’t flip again. It took a few weeks to grow out normal again. By comparison, I completely tore my patella tendon (my quad seized and pulled my kneecap into my thigh) 2 years ago and I thought it was funny. 
Q: What’s the biggest misconception about college athletes? 

A: That we’re students. We’re not. We’re contracted employees. Every year players get evaluated by the coach and their scholarship can be taken and given away to someone else they deem more worthy. Scholarships are renewed annually and it is a sad sight to see someone leave a school because their scholarship was revoked and they couldn’t afford to stay. 
Q: Employees? How much time is spent on football? 

A: There’s 4 schedules. In-Season, Off-Season, Spring Football and Summer Break. In-Season is 6 days a week with Monday off. Tuesday through Thursday is 6am for workouts, go to school from 8am – 2pm with training appointments for injury sprinkled throughout the day, film watching from 2pm until position meetings at 3 or 4pm, Practice starts at 5pm until 7pm, we eat as a team and usually stay until 9 or 10pm watching film (my first 3 years I had a coach mandate 4 hours of film watching per day outside of meetings), Friday is a walkthrough and travel day, Saturday is the game (if it’s an away game we don’t get back until early morning) and we’re up Sunday early morning for sprints to “help” with soreness (I hated these days), putting in game plans all afternoon and watching film on the next team. If we were lucky we’d catch part of the NFL night game. Spring Football’s schedule is similar except with more soreness because they don’t have to worry about saving us for the next week’s game. Off-Season and Summer are lighter schedules because the NCAA has rules limiting contact, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of optional yet still mandatory checklist of things we’re stuck going to. 
Q: What’s the biggest misconception about the coaches?  

A: They’re not the angels they pretend to be or are portrayed to be. Urban Meyer has quit on one team and left another before that, but ESPN will still do stories about how much he loves his kids etc. There are good ones, but there’s a lot more bad ones. There’s bullies. They have egos. Some of them will say absolutely anything to get you on their side. Most of them aren’t going to make sure your precious snowflake graduates unless there’s something in it for them. They preach loyalty except when they’re called upon to practice what they preach. If you have to deal with them make sure you’re getting something back. 
Q: Anything else? 

A: There’s a LOT of bad coaching . There’s bad coaching everywhere on TV…and the analysts are terrible too. I have one example to point out both groups. Play action pass. If you were an alien that came to earth and listen to football analysts you’d think PA pass is the most complicated concept that’s ever been discovered outside of dark matter. Where I was taught, if you don’t see high hats and the RB isn’t doing a draw set (Yes. There’s specific steps an RB does that only happens on a draw.) then why are you running towards the line of scrimmage like a drunk toddler chasing a puppy? Think about how often Ray Lewis was in passing lanes getting interceptions. It was because he knew how to read lineman and didn’t get fooled by a simple ass fake handoff. Defensive coaches now don’t teach core concepts of football. They only want to teach their specific defense which leads to a lot of dumb football players. 
Q: Trifecta? 

A: I’m happy Fournette and McCaffrey sat out those sorry ass bowl games to protect their draft status. You can see the hypocrisy in full bloom when ESPN sends their goons to attack the players for “being selfish”. They went harder at Fournette and McCaffrey than they did JoePa for housing a child molester. I personally think they should’ve taken away football for a year and for those “What about the innocent players??!!” argument, most of the time a school is punished it’s a few players that are the issue, but they still punish everyone else. When Reggie Bush’s thing came down he left to the NFL, Pete Carroll moonwalked to Seattle, and everyone else at USC was left holding the bag for years afterwards. What about those innocent players? And just to put emphasis on the point the NCAA lessened the penalty for Penn State, but didn’t reduce them for USC so the NCAA essentially said it’s cool to rape (Google how they’re handling the Baylor rape “investigation”), but illegal benefits are something they can’t forgive…..ok. I’m done. 
Q: Do colleges offer money under the table for recruits or players?  

A: Yes, not all of them, but they do. 
Q: Did I ever get offered money? 

A: Yep….technically they offered my dad money. 
Q: How much? 

A: 50k
Q: From where? and did I take it?

A: University of Nunyo Bidness and nope I didn’t take it. I wish I knew about it. My dad was smart enough to hide that part of the process so I could choose based on the school I actually liked. I wish he hadn’t because I would’ve jumped all over that money.
Q: Did I get money after I showed up on campus? 

A: Nope. We were under all sorts of probation. My school was squeaky clean to the point of annoyance, but I’ve heard stories at other schools. If you ever see wealthy folks around a program and a random burst of incoming 5 star recruits you may want to check some ATM receipts after games and during spring practice. 
Q: Did you get the girls, grades, and parties like in the movies? 

A: Grades? Not even close, but like above I heard stories at other schools. Girls? I’ll say this, college redefined my concept of sluts for both men and women. I was mostly a party like a mad man then retire with a select few guy, but my friends were the hitmen and it was very much like shooting fish in a barrel for them. They was fucking everything that moved. Parties? Yeah. I got it in. Me and my friends would pre-game with a fifth each before going to keg parties. My alcohol tolerance was biblical and I found out that I don’t get hangovers. I should be in the New Testament.

Q: Any other things?

A: Yes. I’m very happy twitter wasn’t around. Some teammates bought a Scream mask after the movie came out and chased people in dorms with the lights off. I had this brilliant idea to buy bb guns with the air cartridges and we were letting loose on anything with a pulse. We did a trip to Vegas and surfed on top of a limo with an Aussie rules rugby player after kicking it with Jeff Garcia for a minute (his wife was a DIME and he was cool as hell), had a game where folks got slapped with baby powder (Yep. We got it from how high). My SUV got flipped by one of my roommates…..and that was just one semester my junior year.
Q: What’s the secret no one knows about, but everyone should pay attention to? 

A: Right now, everyone in up in arms about concussions, but what everyone should really be watching is how college athletes manages their day to day pain. The day after games ranges from impossibly sore to drowning in pain for regular players. Some Sundays it basically hurts to exist and the training staff knows this so they’ll make it very hard to get anything higher than ibuprofen. Since college students aren’t drowning in money and can go to private doctors they turn to lots of alcohol, sometimes weed, and if they’re lucky a teammate has extra pain pills they stashed after a surgery or a weird mix of all three. The solutions aren’t elegant or pretty, but you do what you gotta do to get through a season.    

Q: Did you play in the NFL? 

A: Nope. 
Q: Do you regret it? 

A: Nope. 
Q: Do you still have lingering issues from playing? 

A: Yep. 4 herniated disks in my lower back, shoulders that require constant stretching and/or massaging, and joints that randomly pop. My brain is fine. I was smart before football and I’m smart now. 
Q: If you had a chance to do it all over again would you? 

A: Without a doubt. It was fun and I knew what I signed up for. Anyone that plays football knows what they’re signing up for. The first time you square up on someone you know very quickly whether you’re out or you’re ready for more…..even if you pancaked, even if it’s a teammate and especially if it’s one of your boys that got you……football is a addiction for those that are in it and the culture doesn’t suffer fools or tolerate cowardice. It’s love at first crunch. 
Q: Any advice for parents or younger players? 

A: Don’t be blind. Don’t be dumb. Football is a dangerous sport. Some high school coaches and even college coaches aren’t committed to teaching correctly so make sure to understand the “why?” of a drill. Don’t let your coach line you up and smash into each other because their coach did it to them or because they saw it on the Program (Best 90’s sports movie. Rudy sucked). You’re allowed to be selfish. You’re allowed to care about your physical well being. If you’re playing the sport for money (NFL) then take it seriously. If you’re playing it for love then make sure it’s giving you something back, a degree or connections, because it’s definitely going to take. 

Author: FTESWL

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