NORMAN, Okla. — With the courts ruling about early eligibility for the NFL draft, many of us worry that we will see a great deal of freshman and sophomores jump at the chance to NFL. We even worry that a great freshman may feel like he is ready and jump to the NFL right out of high school.
Should we be all that worried? To find out we turned to an expert on college football and football in general — OU Head Football Coach Bob Stoops — who joins OUInsider.com for the Two Minute Drill.
JH: Bob, can an 18-year old young man play in the NFL, or can a guy that is only a freshman make the jump to the NFL?
BS: "We will find out, but there aren't many that are ready I believe. Most all of the players realize that and I don't think this is going to effect us a whole lot. To be quite honest, I think this is great to talk about and you guys love it, because it will fill up air time and newspaper space. But in the end, I don't know if it is going to effect anybody a whole lot.
"I don't believe the NFL is going to go and spend a whole bunch of money in regards to players that are unproven at the college level. If they are not proven at the college level, then they are not going to invest millions of dollars in guys to develop them, because in the NFL once you develop them it is over.
"The NFL stands for "Not For Long", and that is what everybody says. It is unlike baseball and it is unlike basketball. There are not going to develop a guy for five to six years in hopes of getting six years of productivity out of him following that. A guy will develop for five to six years and that is a long career in the NFL. So, I don't think it is going to be a big deal in the NFL."
JH: What you are saying is that the financial burden on the NFL is too great to scout and develop young players when they would probably not be getting any productivity out of them in the immediate future?
BS: "No, but the other thing is that they are not going to have a lot of information on these young players, and they are not going to pour money or invest in these kids for the ultimate money that they are worth. Lets say that a young guy who is a top prospect decides to go to the NFL. Well, they may pick him in the fifth or six round thinking why not we will just give it a shot, because who knows. That is fine and people will say that he made it because he got drafted, but in reality his signing bonus will be 40 thousand dollars, which isn't a lot of money. He will go play for a certain amount of time making minimum salary and then he will either sign a contract later or be finished. I don't believe, and I could be wrong, that there will not be many kids at all, if any, that are going to risk that and not give yourself an opportunity to make more money later and sign a big contract."
JH: You have brought up a great point that the NFL stands for 'Not For Long', while in baseball and basketball they can afford to wait on prospects to develop. What you are saying is that in football a player either has it or he doesn't. And that is now, right away?
BS: "Yes, exactly. They are not going to play a guy, or have him sign for five million dollars and have him sit on the bench for five years. Their rosters are to thin and too small and that is not how it works in that league. I don't believe that they are going to change their thinking."
JH: This doesn't sound like you are worried about recruiting a top level high school kid and lose him to the NFL before he ever gets to Oklahoma? Would you agree that your sport has more physical dynamics going into it than any other sports played professionally?
BS: "Yes, absolutely. And again, that is why I believe that all of these young guys realize that as well. I think the NFL people that do the drafting realize that. They worry about a guy that goes through a college career and gets banged up a little bit and can't finish a college season. They just don't throw around those millions of dollars for guys that are not proven. They want guys that they have seen and are sure of. I believe they will go through the colleges first and if there is a guy that wants to declare right out of high school, they may take a shot at something really late in the draft. When that guy gets there he better be ready to play right away. And if he isn't, they are not going to wait three to five years for him to get ready. They are not going to let him fill up a roster spot and then sit around and wait until he is ready."
JH: For the pros then, the key question is do we take a player who has never seen a football player like Ray Lewis or an experienced college player who plays similar competition, is that right?
BS: "They will always look at the college players first. Again, those guys want proven products and guys that they are as sure as they can be about. There are a lot of uncertainties about a young high school guy. You guys (media) would admit that when you look back through the years — the last five to 10 years — and you look at those Parade All-Americans or guys who were supposed to be all-world around the country, at least half of them play very little in college or don't make the impact in college that everybody thinks that will in college. Now, the NFL is not going to mess with that percentage, especially when half of them can't play in college. They are not going to go and invest millions in these guys when they are not sure if they can produce. So again, in the end I don't know if it is going to be a big deal."
JH: You know that the first day the freshmen go through the Oklahoma Drill at OU that they have to be scared to death. What if they had to jump right up to the NFL and again matchup with Roy Williams or Ray Lewis?
BS: "That's right, and it is not going to happen. I haven't seen a guy in 20 years of playing and coaching that was ready to play right out of high school. Now, that is guys that I have had on my teams in college, whether it has been at Iowa or all the other places that I have been. I haven't seen anybody ready right out of high school. Some people talk about Jevon Kearse, but people forget that Jevon was a free safety out of high school. Tommie Harris wasn't ready for the NFL as a true freshman right out of high school. There is a big difference between a guy that comes out of high school, who gets in our program, gets in the weight room and works really hard. They become more physical and their bodies get really stronger. There is a growing process there that they all take. I don't think, in the end, the NFL will act on it."
JH: You have started to educate all of your underclassmen on the perils of the NFL and what their draft status would be. This is something that all college coaches are going to have to get into, aren't they? Because at a program like Oklahoma's you are always going to have several players who are thinking about leaving early?
BS: "Sure, it is a petty simple process. A guy like Derrick Strait — if he would have left last year on most people's accounts — he would have been a late second or third round pick. This year most people all agree that he will be a first round pick. Derrick Strait more than tripled his money, so he has made a lot of money and he is going to graduate.
"Robert Gallery is a guy from Iowa who is a guy a year ago who most projected as a 10th to 15th pick in the first round, which is high. However, he felt he was better than that, stuck around another year and now is going to graduate and they are saying that he is going to be a top four pick. He has probably quadrupled his money. Now, that is a lot of money to quadruple or to double or triple.
"What they are realizing is that if you improve by sticking around, you mature a little bit and you improve your position in the draft then, you can make a lot of money. Everybody has to always remember as well that in the NFL your contract are not like basketball where you are guaranteed for so many years. Each contract is only guaranteed through that year that you play and they are all really just on year contracts. The only guarantee that you really get is that bonus money up front, so you need to maximize your opportunities to make money in that league because it doesn't last long for a lot of guys. The average career is only three years, I believe. And 50 percent of the league is circulated out of the league within three years. You have a small window of opportunity to make money and you need to maximize it."
JH: Barry Switzer was recently given the Life Time Achievement Award by the Jim Thorpe Organization. What does Coach Switzer mean to the University of Oklahoma football program?
BS: "We are so absolutely proud and so respectful and appreciative of the foundation that Coach Switzer built here along with Coach Bud Wilkinson. What they started and created here is what we are always very respectful of, and we always keep it in front of our players. We are proud that Coach Switzer received that award.
"Also, Derrick (Strait) received the Jim Thorpe Award and we are also very proud of him. In his four years here he started more games than any other Sooner in the history of this school and that says a lot. He has always had his best games against the best people and he is just an incredibly special player. He will probably, when you consider all the players we lost from last year, will be missed the most."
Stoops says Clarett ruling won't hurt football
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