At a time when the debate regarding whether the NFL should bar players from pro football until three years after high school (in order to boost the NFL’s free farm system known as college football) has resurfaced, one of the best running backs in the history of the game says he could have made the leap from high school to the NFL.
“Not to sound cocky or anything, or confident, but yeah, I do feel like I could have came out my senior year of high school and played in the NFL,” Vikings running back Adrian Peterson recently told reporters, via ESPN.com. “I really do. And I’ll just say this, people were like, ‘Well, physically you just weren’t ready.’ I came in my freshman year and I was up for the Heisman, had a pretty good season, was the leading rusher.”
Peterson was still in high school when Maurice Clarett won a court order allowing him to enter the draft after one year of college. That ruling later was overturned on appeal.
“I was so happy with Clarett when that situation went down the way it did,” Peterson said. “I was like ‘Wow, I might be able to leave high school and really make this happen.’ But I don’t think there’s too many people that could do that, though.”
There may not be, but anyone should be allowed to try. The NFL and NFL Players Association have made that impossible via a collectively-bargaining rule that keeps players out of the work force long enough to allow college football to get three years of largely free labor. Even when a player is eligible to leave, the rules don’t allow a player to change his mind if he’s not drafted or if he’s not drafted as high as he thought he would be.
The fairest solution would allow players to play pro football whenever they want after turning 18, and it would give them the ability to change their minds and return to school after the draft, as long as they don’t sign a contract with an NFL team.
The fairest solution also would pay college football players fair value for their skills, abilities, efforts, and sacrifices. Instead, everyone involved with college football except the players are getting paid in actual dollars.