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Did our new football players make a good choice?

The title reads like I think some of these guys should have committed to play somewhere else. That is not the case. Actually, I believe these are the smart ones. I am guilty at times of thinking too deeply about things, and a rainy morning in eastern NC increases the likelihood of my thoughtful submersion.

We signed 18 young men to one year contracts to play football for Georgia Tech. In exchange we agreed to pay the full cost of one year of their post-secondary education. Granted, for most of these guys, we will renew this agreement for each of the next four years. They will get a great degree if they want to apply themselves in class. If they are lucky, work hard, and avoid serious injury, one or two may get a chance to play professionally after they leave Ga Tech.

I think it is still true today, as it was when I was a high school senior, that young athletes who were stars on their high school teams dream lofty dreams. I slipped under covers at night and had visions of myself in the NBA. That seems silly today, knowing how ill-equipped I was physically and just how little actual talent I possessed. Was I more wild-eyed than a 6-3, 220 pound high school lineman thinking he will someday be an NFL defensive end? That is about the same size as an NBA point guard.

Still, there are men who dream the dream so clearly, and so deeply, that they are willing to pay whatever price it takes. What few of them realize is the piper continues to collect far beyond anything they can envision. I hope all our newly acquired stars read this story on about the ongoing physical toll football takes on their minds and bodies.

I have fingers that do not bend as they should. My knees never suffered a serious injury, but cause severe pain going down stairs. I gave up running a few years ago. It was too painful. These ailments are possibly the result of aging, but my three years of high school basketball and two in college did not help. It's not the games. It's hours upon hours of pounding everyday in practice. I shutter to think about the pain ex-football players must feel twenty years after they quit playing. I only played basketball, which has never had anything close to football's every play physical punishment.

If you knew you would need physical therapy at age 50 to take part in normal, everyday activities, would you aim for an NFL career? I hope all eighteen of these kids get to play a lot at Tech. I also hope they get their degree and find careers as engineers or college professors or project managers or politicians. Or whatever their fallback dreams are. I know their real dreams are something far more glamorous. I had them, too.