Graduating to the NFL

If college education has a direct correlation to how a player will do on the field, and studies show that graduating seniors have less chance of injury, the San Diego Chargers are in for a treat with their new draft class.

Members of the 2004 NFL Draft Class will not be fazed by the size and scope of their new team's playbook. That's because its sophistication and thickness will remind them of their textbooks covering such subjects as biological anthropology, civil engineering, and molecular genetics.

Those majors and more are an impressive part of the dossiers of this year's draftees.

For instance, the Chicago Bears‚ fifth-round selection, Ohio State quarterback CRAIG KRENZEL, spent last summer on the Buckeyes‚ campus researching ways to fight leukemia as a molecular genetics major with a 3.6 GPA.

"It's always been my No. 1 goal and passion to play in the NFL," says Krenzel. "Someday after I'm done playing football, which hopefully isn't for a long time, I'll probably entertain the thought of going back to school, even if it's 10, 12, 15 years from now."

Buffalo Bills wide receiver LEE EVANS is another draftee who excelled academically. In 2002 as a medical redshirt, Evans was recovering from a leg injury after a standout 2001 junior season at Wisconsin. He decided not to enter the NFL early. He continued on to earn his degree in financial management with a computer science minor. The proud owner of a 3.3 GPA was selected No. 13 overall in the ‘04 Draft.

"For those two more years I stayed in school, I learned a lot of lessons, on and off the field," says Evans. "I got a great education. Back in 2002, was I ready for the NFL? No. My maturity level wasn't there yet. But it‚s there now."

A look at some of the newly-drafted NFL players scoring on and off the field:

• WR DEREK ABNEY, Kentucky/Baltimore Ravens: A civil engineering major, Abney is entering the final year of a five-year academic program that will enable him to earn a bachelor‚s degree in civil engineering and a master‚s in business administration.

• DE DAVE BALL, UCLA/San Diego Chargers: Earned a degree in history and also has worked as a stand-up comic. His twin brother, MAT, also earned a history degree from UCLA.

• DT RYON BINGHAM, Nebraska/San Diego Chargers: Graduated in December 2003 with a degree in criminal justice.

• WR KEARY COLBERT, Southern California/Carolina Panthers: Majored in sociology, and in 2002 was honored with USC's Bob Chandler Award, given annually to the top underclassmen and student-athlete.

• S GLENN EARL, Notre Dame/Houston Texans: Economics and computer applications major.

• DT DWAN EDWARDS, Oregon State/Baltimore Ravens: Graduated in December 2003 with a degree in business administration and a 3.1 GPA.

• WR LEE EVANS, Wisconsin/Buffalo Bills: Earned degree in financial management and minored in computer sciences.

• T ROBERT GALLERY, Iowa/Oakland Raiders: Graduated with a degree in elementary education.

• TE BEN HARTSOCK, Ohio State/Indianapolis Colts: Biology major and honor roll student who plans on a career in medicine after his playing career. Hartsock is a three-time Academic All-Big 10 Conference honoree.

• DE SHAWN JOHNSON, Delaware/Oakland Raiders: Graduated last May with a degree in biological anthropology and anatomy. Johnson is pursuing a master‚s degree at Delaware.

• DE TREVOR JOHNSON, Nebraska/New York Jets: Business administration major who earned school, conference and national academic honors with a 3.42 GPA.

• K NATE KAEDING, Iowa/San Diego Chargers: History and secondary education double major, earning school, conference and national academic honors.

• QB CRAIG KRENZEL, Ohio State/Chicago Bears: A molecular genetics major, Krenzel posted a 3.6 GPA, earning school, conference and national academic honors.

• QB J.P. LOSMAN, Tulane/Buffalo Bills: Classical studies major with a GPA of 3.3.

• QB MATT MAUCK, LSU/Denver Broncos: Graduated with a degree in kinesiology. Has plans to attend dental school.

• RB BRANDON MIREE, Pittsburgh/Denver Broncos: Graduated last May with a degree in public administration. Miree currently is enrolled in Pitt‚s Graduate School of Public & International Affairs.

• RB MEWELDE MOORE, Tulane/Minnesota Vikings: Majored in finance and accounting and was presented with the Community Service Award for Business Ethics at the Tulane Council of Entrepreneurs and Business School Council Awards Gala in the spring of 2003.

• S ETRIC PRUITT, Southern Mississippi/Atlanta Falcons: Graduated in May of 2003 with a bachelor‚s degree in sports administration. Pruitt is working on a second degree in business.

• QB PHILIP RIVERS, North Carolina State/San Diego Chargers: Graduated in December with a business degree.

• T MAX STARKS, Florida/Pittsburgh Steelers: A sociology major, Starks was elected as University of Florida Student Senator in his freshman year.

• LB DONTARRIOUS THOMAS, Auburn/Minnesota Vikings: Thomas was a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member and won the first Scholarship Athlete of the Year Award for football in the conference. He graduated last May with a degree in management information systems. "I'll be working on getting my master‚s in management information systems and then my MBA," says Thomas, who has interned at a Georgia hospital in its IT department. "I want to be well-balanced. I want to be not just an athlete, but a guy who can handle business in the classroom."

• LB JONATHAN VILMA, Miami/New York Jets: Finance major with a minor in management, maintained a 3.5 GPA and made dean‚s list every year. Vilma took a foreign language elective in German this past year "Just to brush up." Interned last summer in the client wealth management division of Lehman Brothers investment house in Miami. "I'd like to be in the NFL for the next 20 years," Vilma says, "but if that doesn't happen, I'll have a backup strategy."

• LB COURTNEY WATSON, Notre Dame/New Orleans Saints: Has already earned his degree from the Mendoza College of Business. Was named to the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team last September for his role in creating the Notre Dame football team‚s Tackle for the Arts program.

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