NFL Evolution will feature a guest columnist every Tuesday, each with a different viewpoint of player health and safety from the youth level to pro football.
By Amanda Rodriguez, NFL Evolution columnist
Let me share a little dinner conversation that went on in my home recently.
Me: How was school today guys?
Dude 2 (he's 10): Boring.
Dude 3 (he's 7): Fine.
Me: Boring and fine? Awesome. So, basically the same as every day?
Dude 2 & Dude 3: Yep.
Me: What about you pal (looking at my 13 year old who is trying to ignore us all)?
Dude 1: Can I have more pasta please?
Me: Sigh. I guess that means it was boring and fine for you too.
He rolls his eyes.
I dish another heaping spoonful of pasta onto everyone's plates.
Me: Well, the football registration came out today, everyone playing next season?
Dude 2: You know you don't have to ask me.
Dude 3: Yes. I can't wait. I'm trying to decide if I will be running back or quarterback this year.
Dude 1: I'm playing soccer.
Me: Just like I thought, two football one soccer. I will have to split myself in thirds to catch all of your games.
Dude 2: What will you do when we are playing in the NFL? You won't be able to go to all of our games unless we are on the same team.
Me: I'm not sure what I will do.
Dude 3: And then, during basketball season, you will have to come to our NBA games. Wait, are people allowed to be in the NFL and the NBA?
Me: I think that would be really hard.
Dude 3: Well, I guess I will have to choose one. We will see which teams I get drafted by and then I will decide.
Me: Or, maybe you won't play pro ball at all. Maybe you will have to do a job that doesn't involve sports.
They all burst into laughter.
Me: I don't know why you're laughing, it's not a guarantee that you will play professional sports, guys, most people don't.
Dude 3: Yeah, well we're not most people.
Only, you know what?
Even if they don't know it yet.
Most kids who are playing youth sports today, including the three I feed copious amounts of food to every day, will not play beyond high school. Most won't get a college scholarship. Most won't go pro.
The stats for youth football are particularly daunting. Some estimates predict that only 0.006 percent of youth football players will make an NFL roster. That's not a lot of percents.
But, it's enough to dream.
Especially when you're a kid.
There is not a single day in life that my boys are healthy that they are not somewhere throwing a ball at each other. They get their homework done, they polish off their nightly chores and, if they don't have an organized practice of some sort to be at, they are sitting in my living room, to my chagrin, tossing their football back and forth among my pretty, breakable things.
They say they're practicing.
For next season. For high school. For college. For life.
They need to be ready, they say. Because they have this elaborate, multi-year plan all laid out.
They will play together for one year in high school (they're three years apart ,which means my youngest will have to be so amazing that he's asked to skip the freshman team, and the JV team to join my middle son on the varsity team his senior year). Then, my middle son will go to The University of Oregon (don't ask, we live in Maryland, we're from California, they want to go to Oregon) where he will red shirt his first year so that his brother can join him there and they can get three solid years of playing together under their belts. Then, they will both be drafted to the NFL the same year (my youngest says I can calm down because he plans to finish college in just three years with his smart brain) on different teams. At which point, I will have to figure out how to get to all of their games every weekend. While also juggling my eldest son's MLS schedule (yes, he will be a professional soccer player, after all).
They say they will give me $500 a month so I won't have to work and can instead follow them around the country to cheer for them at their games.
Aside from the gross underestimation of the cost of living, both in 2025 when this plan comes to fruition and now, it sounds like an amazing plan. I guess we can work on the math later.
Only, I know we won't have to. Because I don't think any of these things will actually happen. Eventually, they will stop thinking these thing are going to happen too. In the meantime, I want them to dream their hearts out about these things actually happening.
Because that's what being a kid who loves this game is kind of all about. You get to let it fill up all of your heart and all of your mind sometimes. You get to let it power you through things you don't want to face and give you strength and drive and determination when nothing else will. It gets to be your thing for awhile, until adult things have to be your thing. Unless you're fortunate enough to be one of the 0.006 percent, and then you get to hold onto it for a teeny bit longer.
And live your dream.
Of course I want my boys to understand reality and have some sense of perspective when it comes to their future NFL careers, and life in general. I want them understand that the odds are against them. I want them to realize the value of a backup plan. I want them to keep their options open, and diversify their skill sets, and learn to set achievable goals with realistic and developed action plans. But, I also want them to know that it's okay to want something so hard and so much that they work their butts off to make it happen. I want them to believe in the power of faith, and to know that it's okay to be passionate about something, and to dedicate themselves to working hard to achieve their goals, lofty though they may be.
They are free to dream all of the dreams because it's my job, as a parent, to ensure that all of their eggs aren't in the NFL's basket. I get to encourage them while also ensuring that they are amply prepared to face whatever life throws at them.
So what do I say to my little dreamers who have no idea that there may come a day when wearing football pads and a helmet aren't part of their life?
Work really hard and become the very best football player your mind and body can make you, but also get good grades, and develop other skills, and be an all-around decent human. Know what you want out of life and do everything you can to make it happen. Learn from your failures. Win graciously. Have courage. Be kind.
And dream. Every day and often.
Reality will happen either way, and I know you'll be ready for it.
Amanda Rodriguez is a humor and lifestyle blogger at Dudemom.com. In addition to having a loose grip on reality, Amanda enjoys traveling to far off lands (or, not so far off lands) with her family and cheering herself hoarse on the sidelines of her sons' games. They will thank her one day, she's certain.