My uncles are big into fantasy sports. At a certain point in the Super Bowl, as in the college football bowl games, my uncles usually take seats at different parts of the house at family gatherings, quietly contemplating their alma mater or favorite teams’ victories — or losses — and tracking how their predictions are turning out.
The college football bowl games (and college football playoffs) are an incredible, and growing, celebration of the best college football players in the country. (There is an interesting article on Forbes about the business of college football bowl games, if that’s something that’s interesting to you.)
But as much as I want to revel, like my uncles, in the glory of these top football players, this time of year always makes me me think about the numbers of college football.
Specifically, that only 1 percent of athletes will play at the Division I level. Only 6.5% of high school football players will play at any college division — and there’s only a .08% chance that a high school player could go onto the NFL, according to the NCAA.
Those numbers always blow my mind.
But the thing about our fascination with comparing ourselves to the Super Bowl, or the college football bowl games, or top recruits like Tre Simms, or the top running backs or Class of 2017 football players — is that sometimes we forget about all the other opportunities passionate high school football players have to play in college.
Maybe it’s at a DI-AA school. Maybe it’s at a DIII school, where you aren’t receiving a football scholarship, but you landed an amazing merit scholarship because of your gift in your major. Maybe it’s in the NAIA.
Or maybe it’s in junior college.
Want to read more? Here’s Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield saying he’s glad he had such a rough recruiting experience on ESPN.
There’s more to playing at the next level than the college football bowl games show.
Mark Thompson, who is ranked the number one junior college running back in the country, recently signed a letter of intent to join the University of Florida.
And Mark – who had a 1.7 GPA and didn’t actually walk at graduation because of an incident at school — wouldn’t have even been playing at the next level were it not for junior college.
“I didn’t even know anything about junior college until one of my coaches suggested it to me,” Mark told SECCountry.com, after he didn’t meet the qualifications to attend his top choice.
But it still wasn’t easy for Mark; after the coach who recruited him to Nassau Community College in New York was fired, he started looking for other opportunities. Here’s what he told SECcountry.com:
“After that, I pretty much gave up all hope,” he said. “I started looking around again. I had some high school film and I was a little more wise than I was at the age of 17, so I contacted coaches on my own and put myself out there. All I needed was an opportunity.
“I got in contact with the coaches at Dodge City (junior college). They thought I was real talented and offered me a partial scholarship. The rest from there is history.”
What Mark Thompson’s story means for aspiring high school football players
Here’s why I’m sharing this story.
Of course watch the college football bowl games. And have a blast doing it. The men who are playing at that level are incredible, and there’s nothing better than watching the upsets and the triumphs that inevitable occur.
But don’t think that it’s Division I or bust. Don’t think that it’s getting to play on TV or bust. It’s not. Sometimes junior college is the best choice — just as sometimes Division III or the NAIA is the best choice. Or even listening to your body and finding ways to stay involved in the game, even if you’re not playing, is the best choice.
The beauty of college football is that we all have a chance to pursue our own set of dreams — and hopefully play the sport we love while we’re getting there to them.
We’d love to talk to you about your goals in your sport. And if helping you match with college coaches to find the right college program for you is one of those goals, we can help with that too. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.