With college football players blocked from joining the NFL until three years have passed since the player’s high school class has graduated, what should a college football player who has shown in only two years that he has the ability to thrive at the next level do?
The right answer, from a business standpoint, is to quit playing football for free. Or, technically, for a free education that the player may have never wanted and, if things go as planned, will never actually use.
But 20-year-old football players aren’t wired to be businessmen. They’re wired to play football. And to not worry about the worst-case scenario.
So the middle ground becomes buying insurance. According to ESPN.com, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has become the latest underclassmen to do so, purchasing $10 million in coverage against a career-ending injury.
But here’s the problem. If Bridgewater suffers a career-ending injury this year, $10 million won’t even begin to cover what he could have earned over the course of an NFL career, if he’s truly a top-five prospect for the 2014 draft. And if he doesn’t suffer a “career-ending injury” (but instead an injury that limits his career or greatly reduces his value), he’s not getting any of the insurance money.
The decision to buy the insurance reflects an understanding by the player that he’s taking a risk by playing for free. Still, players like Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney are taking only half measures to protect themselves.
If they really want to protect their future earning potential, they’ll go all the way and refuse to play another game of college football.
Fortunately for South Carolina and Louisville, the thing that helps make both players great is the thing that will keep them from ever choosing to not play.