by Dan Roth, special to Breaking Burgundy
High-school graduates flock to college for a number of reasons beyond just expectations of debauchery clichêd by movies like "Animal House" and "Old School." Ostensibly, they also matriculate to establish a career path and gain the foundational knowledge to navigate it while transitioning to “adulthood” in the process.
The realities of adulthood, however, often don’t set in until after college, when the majority of students--formerly supported by financial aid, their parents or some combination therein--take on complete fiscal responsibility for their own existence. Though their larger-than-life personas that we see on television may lead us to think otherwise, NFL rookies are no different.
Running back Matt Jones, who was held out of Washington’s final three games with a hip pointer injury, watched from the sidelines as his rookie campaign officially ended with the Redskins’ playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, 35-18. Jones, who is just one semester removed from the University of Florida, reflected on the responsibilities that come with being a young professional in any field during the team’s final media availability session Monday.
“I feel like I grew up as a man off the field, "said the father of a young daughter, "and definitely on the field. Throughout college, you kind of learn that, too. But in the NFL, now you’re really on your own. You’re not living off of financial aid or stuff like that. It’s your money and you’ve got to learn how to spend it. You’ve got to set a budget for yourself.”
Outside the realm of professional sports, few can relate to the experience of having an enormous audience analyzing their job performance every week. Jones’ career development even became the topic of water-cooler conversations after he exploded for 146 total yards and two touchdowns in Week 2. Though his job is unique in many ways, Jones’ maturation as both a person and a professional necessitated the same rudimentary discipline that precedes success for anybody in the general work force.
“On the field, its showing up on time and stuff like that,” Jones said.
Jones’ offseason priorities are two-fold. First, he plans to get fully healthy, which starts with an appointment to see a hip specialist in Philadelphia next week. Second, Jones emphasized that, once healthy, he’ll use the rest of the offseason to “train like I am a starter.” With Alfred Morris heading into free agency, that certainly a possibility.
It’s worth noting that Jones saw maturation in another aspect of himself, the one that helps him pay those bills.
“I grew up as a running back, too,” Jones said.
Dan Roth is a freelance sportswriter and Breaking Burgundy contributor. Follow Dan on Twitter @danrothdc.
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