Matthew Stafford, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford were all viewed as marquis college quarterbacks from the 2008 football season. Each was eligible for early entry into the NFL Draft, and each was projected to be a high-draft selection. With millions of dollars at stake, the temptation to go pro early could be very strong!
Matthew Stafford chose the NFL. As a reward for his decision, he received a contract with $41.7M in GUARANTEED money. On the down-side, he has to play quarterback for the Detroit Lions, a job that has already been tried and failed by the likes of Daunte Culpepper, Jon Kitna, Joey Harrington, Jeff Garcia, Charlie Batch, Gus Frerotte, Rodney Peete, Frank Reich, Ty Detmer, Stoney Case (who?!), Scott Mitchell, well… you get the point. Stafford’s job will not be an easy one, to say the least!
On the other hand, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford decided to return to their respective college teams for one more season, foregoing the immediate prospect of millions in salary to chase a different prize – a national championship (and the Heisman Trophy). The decision has not been a bad one for McCoy so far, whose Texas Longhorns are undefeated and sit third in the current BCS rankings. But, things have not worked out as well for his Oklahoma Sooners counterpart, Bradford. Bradford’s decision to stay in college may have been more costly, as he has only played in one full game all season due to shoulder injuries. It is true that he looked very impressive in the few instances where he played, but the lack of any substantial playing time may impact his long-term professional value. Likewise, his injury has cost his team several games, and subsequently cost them the opportunity to play for the BCS National Championship this season, a key reason Bradford returned in the first place.
It is a question that every NFL and NBA prospect especially must face during their time in college. For some, the decision to stay in the NCAA or go pro is simply a matter of trying to maximize their professional value. Staying in college is only worthwhile to them if it means the prospect of even more favorable ratings and reviews in the next NFL Draft, rather than the current one. For others, it is about not wanting to leave college behind without a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Former Ohio State safety Mike Doss was a standout football player at every level of the game. He won championships in his Pop Warner leagues and as a high school star at Ohio’s Canton McKinley (one of the schools in the GREATEST area for high school football in the country!!!). He was again part of a championship team as his high school Bulldogs won both the state and national titles. In 2002, Doss came back for his fifth year of eligibility at Ohio State so he could try one more time for a National Championship at the collegiate level. His decision paid off, as his Buckeyes went on to defeat the heavily favored Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl.
That same decision did not work out so well for several members of the 2007 Michigan Wolverines. After a very exciting season in 2006 where the Wolverines nearly reached the National Championship Game (if not for a loss to Ohio State in the final game of the season), running back Mike Hart, offensive lineman Jake Long, and quarterback Chad Henne all decided to return for one more season at Michigan in the hopes of winning the National Championship (or any bowl game for that matter) and to get a win over Ohio State. Instead of realizing the dream, the Wolverines lost the season opener to Appalachian State in one of the greatest upsets in college football history, as well as three other games that season (including another loss at the hands of the Buckeyes). There were no championship celebrations in Michigan that season, which left Long, Hart, and Henne frustrated and very disappointed.
There are risks and rewards to both options, but which is the better option to choose? If given the opportunity, should talented college players leave college early, as soon as they are eligible?
To tackle this issue, Sports Geek will argue that the better choice is to go pro early, while Loyal Homer will argue that players should return to college and finish their career before going to the next level.
To stay, or not to stay – THAT is the question!