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Derwin James, an NFL talent stuck in college, suffers knee injury

ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 05:  Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

One of the worst things about college football is seeing a player who’s good enough that he could be playing on Sundays get hurt on a Saturday, especially if that player is stuck playing for free in the NCAA because he’s not yet eligible for the NFL draft.

Such an injury occurred today.

Derwin James, a Florida State sophomore defensive back who’s so talented that he surely could have left college and been drafted after his freshman year, was carted off the field with a knee injury today. There’s no word on the severity of James’s injury, but even if he turns out to be OK, his injury is a reminder of the kind of risks that talented college football players are taking every time they step on the field. Every player on the field is one play away from being a Marcus Lattimore, a very talented player who plays the last football game of his life while he’s still playing for free.

If you haven’t seen James play, think of an athlete comparable to the late, great Sean Taylor. Think of a guy who has the tenacity and nose for the football of Tyrann Mathieu, but six inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than Mathieu. That’s the kind of player James is. Because he’s a true sophomore, he won’t even be eligible for next year’s draft, but he’s sure to be a Top 10 pick in 2018.

That is, he’s sure to be a Top 10 pick in 2018 if he’s healthy. A serious injury is the one thing that can make even a can’t-miss prospect miss. Unfortunately for those can’t-miss prospects, they’re stuck playing in the NCAA for free for three years before they can make a living in the NFL. Eventually, some can’t-miss prospect may decide that once he’s put enough of his talents on tape for the NFL to see, he’ll simply sit out until he can stop making money for the NCAA and start making money for himself.

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37 Responses to “Derwin James, an NFL talent stuck in college, suffers knee injury”
  1. codiablo says: Sep 10, 2016 4:00 PM

    Great, now my team isn’t on the books for his contract…his insurance company is. See ya next year, Derwin!

  2. codiablo says: Sep 10, 2016 4:02 PM

    I’m very successful in my field – where’s my free tuition for all 3 of the schools i went to….#sickofthisgarbage!

  3. smartanis says: Sep 10, 2016 4:03 PM

    …you mean like Maurice Clarett did all those years ago?

  4. harshedmellow says: Sep 10, 2016 4:18 PM

    Even just letting them declare a year earlier would make a big difference.

    Codiablo… you aren’t nearly as rare a talent as these guys are… no offense.

  5. jimnaizeeum says: Sep 10, 2016 4:19 PM

    Or could just get a regular job right out of high school until he can be drafted. See how high he gets picked if can’t show how good he is against college competition.

  6. Zach Miles says: Sep 10, 2016 4:20 PM

    codiablo says:
    Sep 10, 2016 4:02 PM

    I’m very successful in my field – where’s my free tuition for all 3 of the schools i went to….#sickofthisgarbage!

    _________________________________________

    Regardless of your success, I can guarantee you do not bring in the money to your job like these guys do with the NCAA. Pay the players, not the old men in suits.

  7. liontuss says: Sep 10, 2016 4:23 PM

    A quarter million in school and perks costs is not free.

  8. corky2141 says: Sep 10, 2016 4:26 PM

    God, he has to go play in college for free!!!!
    After spending 4 years in High School not getting paid!!!!
    It’s a travesty….. too bad 30 of the 96 in 2016, 24 of the 84 in 2015, & 36 of the 98 in 2014 (30.1% over these years) of declared underclassmen went undrafted. Because telling all of these guys they can make at such a young age is going to improve these numbers.
    I think they should have even less education going into a career that averages roughly only 3 years of employment. It’ll help them exponentially in the long run.

  9. owlbania says: Sep 10, 2016 4:27 PM

    Unfortunately for those can’t-miss prospects, they’re stuck playing in the NCAA for free for three years before they can make a living in the NFL.
    The scholarships the top players get is worth up to 200 grand…not really playing for free when you don’t have to pay for a college education.

  10. realfootballfan says: Sep 10, 2016 4:43 PM

    I love this kid. I hope he’s okay.

  11. downtoearth1972 says: Sep 10, 2016 5:04 PM

    He’s playing for free? I didn’t realize Florida State was a D3 school.

  12. truthfactory says: Sep 10, 2016 5:17 PM

    My first job out of college required a 4 year degree (even though I could have easily done it without a degree). This is so stupid. No one holds a gun to their head and forces them to play college ball.

  13. honkeyt says: Sep 10, 2016 5:18 PM

    The three year rule keeps the NFL from getting watered down like the pathetic NBA. Men enter the NFL and under developed boys go into the NBA.Why in the hell would anyone want that to happen to the NFL? This article makes you look like a damn fool.

  14. poguemahonepft says: Sep 10, 2016 5:22 PM

    That’s LIFE – you win or lose – not everybody gets a trophy – I am sorry for the guy – but how many others are taking the same path – things do not always work out – geez…

  15. sandman34rt says: Sep 10, 2016 5:22 PM

    Luckily he’s not playing for free and will have a college degree to help him get through life

  16. rcali says: Sep 10, 2016 5:45 PM

    Florida State is no longer paying their players, now that’s a headline! They should at least get full ride scholarships!

  17. derekgorgonstar says: Sep 10, 2016 5:58 PM

    Maurice Clarrett.

  18. JSpicoli says: Sep 10, 2016 6:28 PM

    Insurance

  19. abninf says: Sep 10, 2016 6:50 PM

    Millions of people would like to be “stuck in college” tuition free. The last thing we need is a bunch of teenagers playing in the NFL.

  20. sopadegato says: Sep 10, 2016 6:55 PM

    The only way players should be able to declare any earlier than they already are is if the NFL had a minor league. A lot of them are unprepared not only mentally for the jump, but are lacking in fundamental skills due to the nature of the college game.

  21. maddenisfordorks says: Sep 10, 2016 6:55 PM

    Whoa there Bud.

    “Stuck in college” …?

    “Playing for free” ….?

    These guys aren’t stuck. There are people who dream to have a shot at college but never get to go because of health, finances, family circumstances … etc.

    I teach in a university where the student athletes are treated like gladiators. Many of these kids have full rides, free housing and meals, health insurance, text books and transportation all covered. Other students who aren’t athletes, but equally gifted in other pursuits have to pay a tremendous amount to be able to have the same college experience, many of which pile up a lifetime worth of debt for 4 to 6 years of schooling.

    And before anyone chimes in with something like “These students and coaches bring in THE MONEY” please think again. My universities athletic department (which is 1 – 0 in football already … yay?) loses $40,000 per year. This balance is covered by OTHER students via student fees, that gets larger and larger on an annual basis. Not to mention the stadium upgrades that seem to just keep on coming … involuntarily paid for by the non-athlete student body.

    The only way forward is the complete separation of football and colleges. A system like what MLB has established would solve everything.

  22. willycents says: Sep 10, 2016 7:15 PM

    How many of these “can’t miss” prospects picked by the media fall on their butts in the NFL?
    I suggest that the NFL expand to 33 teams, with the expansion team ran by the sports writers; drafting, coaching, gm’s, water boys, every position on the staff.

    Imagine a team with Bayless doing the draft board, Florio managing the salary cap and contracts, and Siragusa calling plays.

    Perenial SB champs, I’m sure. LOL

  23. genericcommenter says: Sep 10, 2016 7:18 PM

    honkeyt says:
    Sep 10, 2016 5:18 PM
    The three year rule keeps the NFL from getting watered down like the pathetic NBA. Men enter the NFL and under developed boys go into the NBA.Why in the hell would anyone want that to happen to the NFL? This article makes you look like a damn fool.
    ——————

    There are more options for basketball players, though. No one really makes a living in the D League, but many many D1 players make lifelong careers playing professionally for 6-7 figures overseas. I know a Division 3 basketball player who played professionally at a high salary for around 18 years.

    Football players have very short careers and – no offense to Canada – if you can’t play in the NFL your options are limited.

    I think people are ignoring or severely underestimating just how much the NFL benefit$ (not to mention the league and owners are among the foremost Welfare Queens in the United States) cartel system. I doubt any of the people commenting about their jobs here work for such an organization.

  24. terryleather says: Sep 10, 2016 7:24 PM

    He probably could have been drafted after his freshman year…but that doesn’t mean that he would ever be a good pro. The draft is a crapshoot with juniors and seniors. If you let in sophmores and freshmen it would get even worse, to the point that teams would be better off neglecting to use their first round pick to avoid paying somebody, and just stock up on the even better value undrafted players.

  25. idiaznet says: Sep 10, 2016 7:59 PM

    I have to agree with Maddenisfordorks. Where as I too work for a major university and yes Athletics does bring in a lot of money to the universities, but there is also more money that comes from research and other grants to the college.

    I was among one of the ones that thought that these kids needed to be paid till I discovered that athletics brings in but a fraction of the amount of money to the university. We don’t even have a stadium and are talking about building one. So we don’t have the expenses yet a stadium can cost.

    I have also coached in high school and have seen what these kids get with a major college. From free clothes, housing, books, 4 year rides valued at easily 50- 60k per year on a conservative average. My son is going D3 and we have to pay 20k per year since they don’t give rides.

    So don’t tell me that they are not getting paid. It is a shame when these kids leave college early or just waste the change to get the education. I have seen too many families push the players to leave for the money rather than value the education. Nothing is a certainty in life and the education will take you farther than playing any sport will. For every Bret Farve who plays for 20 years there are 100 players who don’t make it 1-3 years in the NFL and are home broke talking about what was or could have been!!!

  26. tizomps says: Sep 10, 2016 8:01 PM

    Let’s stop the misleading message of, “playing for free.” Yes, these young men work their butts off and sacrifice their free time other college students take advantage of and their health. However, they have zero expenses. They don’t pay for classes, food, rent, books, etc. You even receive a monthly check that covers your rent 2 times over. Oh, and by the way; it’s their choice to play the game.

  27. dynastyposeiden says: Sep 10, 2016 9:24 PM

    if the schools were not whoring themselves out for every dollar then perhaps less people would have an objection about the kids “playing for free” . How it works is a bunch of pencil pushing talentless jackasses bankroll their grand lifestyle on the kids efforts . Not to mention they foot the bill for all the club sports that are lucky if the parents and girlfriends show up .
    It is so obvious when people come on here sniveling about the cost of their education that they A) took a decade to complete said education or lived beyond their means while getting “educated”. A quick way to make college more affordable would be to get rid of the pyramid scheme that is the national student loan program and force these institutions to charge what the market will bear rather than how much the government will subsidize in people’s debt .
    In other words treat every school gust like ITT . See how fast the cuts start with all the adminstrators and luxury lifesytles of those involved in the professional education racket

  28. alphadux2u says: Sep 10, 2016 9:26 PM

    Don’t worry, Trent Baalke will draft him.

  29. redskinfan1126 says: Sep 10, 2016 9:56 PM

    College is not something you are “stuck in” it’s to get your degree, while also playing football. Now if you don’t understand that with “student-athlete” student comes first, maybe you should go back to college, cause you clearly can’t put things in the correct order.

  30. nothingbuttthetruth says: Sep 10, 2016 10:01 PM

    MDS: You nailed it! If this kid was great at ANYTHING else, (outside of sports) he could become professional in that field at any age AND get a free education (full-ride scholarship). If he was a great pianist – he’d get a full ride to Juliard (on another top music school) AND be able to hold concerts, sign a multi-million dollar contract to be part of an orchestra and make big bucks doing personal appearances.

    College athletes (football players in particular) are slaves to a system that keeps athlete programs afloat and administrators living the high life.

    It can’t go on like this much longer. This system will crumble soon.

  31. getyourownname says: Sep 10, 2016 10:01 PM

    Folks posting here should not expect to see any change of heart by pft. If there is one thing pft is good at, it’s righteous indignation and oponion intransigence. Ok, that’s two things, they are more skilled than I first thought.

  32. onebuffalove716 says: Sep 10, 2016 10:02 PM

    So if he wasn’t talented enough to play on Sunday he would not get a story?

  33. backintheday99 says: Sep 10, 2016 10:26 PM

    For every guy you see throwing a fastball on TV, there are 10 guys who can’t sleep at night. I am one of those guys.

    I feel bad for the kid but it is way more common in baseball for pitchers.

  34. kpizzow says: Sep 11, 2016 7:01 AM

    This rule is Un-American. If you are skilled at something you should be able to make a living at it. If you are great computer programmer – you can go work at Google at 16…or whenever. NFL careers are short – to make them wait a year or 2 costs them money. Let the teams decide whether to draft them. I would guess most would not get drafted out of high school – but there would be the rare talent that does. And PS – they can always go back to college to get their degree. If you were great at something – a prodigy – and there was a system in place to prevent you from earning a living – you would be mad too.

  35. lukedunphysscienceproject says: Sep 11, 2016 8:47 AM

    tizomps says:
    Sep 10, 2016 8:01 PM
    You even receive a monthly check that covers your rent 2 times over.

    ==

    That’s not true.

  36. lukedunphysscienceproject says: Sep 11, 2016 8:48 AM

    honkeyt says:
    Sep 10, 2016 5:18 PM
    The three year rule keeps the NFL from getting watered down like the pathetic NBA. Men enter the NFL and under developed boys go into the NBA.Why in the hell would anyone want that to happen to the NFL? This article makes you look like a damn fool.
    ===

    Yes, because the quality of your beloved NFL product is much more important than letting adults over 18 do what they want with their lives.

  37. sclairebear says: Sep 11, 2016 9:13 AM

    College football exploits their players and there’s no way around it. The only participant in college football that makes no money whatsoever is the players, while the 5 major conferences raked in over $2.8 billion dollars in 2014 according to a CNN money analysis in January, 2015.

    For those of you who say that the college tuition, etc. is worth $200,000 over the 4 years (note also that many colleges will revoke the scholarship after an athlete is injured and will not even pay for their long-term health care), consider that same player would make at the minimum about $400,000 over 4 years on an NFL practice squad and $1.7 million over 4 years at the lowest salary on an NFL roster, plus have health care should they become injured. Would you like to work for $50,000 per year with no health care when you could be making more than double that up that money if you didn’t have to?

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