9 min read

It's either play their game or have 0 chance at the lottery

It's either play their game or have 0 chance at the lottery

"I wanna rap bout my career as a young black college athlete at the highest level. As guidance for u getters coming up. S/O westerville and those city kids chasing

As a 17 early enrollee. Urban Meyer told me he'd "ruin my f— life" if he ever caught me smoking

It makes you wonder... How much control do these institutions have over our young black boys?

My first team meeting. (True story 2017) This photo was presented to us via PowerPoint to institute our building wide rule of "no hoods" in the building

After said meeting - the freshman and myself go to sign the hours of paperwork essentially signing our rights as Americans over to osu and the governing bodies

S/O NIL. These boys can at least own their own name (sarcasm)

{But Marcus they educate you} Ask ANY college athlete if they can take their studies as serious as they need with our athletic schedules. Most won't understand

Participate in your lecture/discussion in your 8 am class after a mat drill at 6 am (arrive at 5 if you're a freshman). ...PROFESSOR My hands are bleeding from the rope pull but you want me to grab my pencil??

Come in with a plan. Find your values as an athlete & leader. But never let these ppl play you! Your gut will be checked as a man everyday u step in the building. Nut up early

I was repeatedly pushed past my injuries as if I was completely expendable. (You are). 2018 I used to wake up, put my shoulder in place... & go to practice. They bandage u up like shit sweet

The industry is often silent because everyone is obviously chasing the big pay day. But the injustices these players face just isn't right. We literally put our bodies and lives at risk with 0 guarantee

Pay college football likes like the minor league players that they already are

POP QUIZ: What American industries rely on free black labor the lucrative benefit of white men?

Why don't you leave? Quit? Most of us have only been athletes our entire lives. This is how we try to feed our families and children. It's either play their game or have 0 chance at the lottery

Nothing like playing ball in front of 100k

Some of the best human being I know played on some of my teams. But we bond thru the traumas we endure the hardships we face to keep it 100

We play a violent sport for free. Yet narratives like these want you to believe that we're somehow soft or don't love the game if we use our leverage as athletes to make $$$


This is America. You work hard you should be paid.

College football players! Keep putting pressure on these institutions to make meaningful change in athletics & our communities"


There is so much to unpack here.

These are the words of a Marcus Williamson thread on Twitter during the Rose Bowl. Williamson - for those of you who don't know - played at Ohio State for Urban Meyer.

Williamson played for Ohio State this season. Shortly before the Rose Bowl, he announced that he was 'retiring' from football. While his team was taking on the Utes in Pasadena, he was tweeting this thread to the world.

Some of his former teammates stood up for him and agreed.

Other former teammates - notably former quarterback Cardale Jones - refuted his allegations of racism within the Ohio State program.

His words sparked thoughts in my mind too. Not of racism. Not of Ohio State. Those are conversations for another day.

The entire thread was packed full of thought provoking statements from a former high-level college athlete. Whether you believe them or not is up to you, but I would challenge each of you to think about what he said and evaluate what it means to you. But, I want to focus in on a few specific things that Williamson said.

We play a violent sport for free. Yet narratives like these want you to believe that we're somehow soft or don't love the game if we use our leverage as athletes to make $$$

Luke Staley.

Tyler Allgeier broke Staley's single-season rushing record this year. If you were like me, that probably caused you to remember some of Staley's best BYU moments. What an unbelievably talented player he was. What a joy he was to watch. Everything he did at BYU was sensational and he inspired an entire generation of BYU fans.

But now? Well, now, he probably would agree with a lot of what Williamson said on Twitter during the Rose Bowl. If you don't think think that's true, just watch this and tell me that I'm wrong afterwards.

College football players play a violent sport for free. They get the value of a scholarship - something that is certainly valuable - but they get no money.

In my real world, I'm a banker. At my bank, we do a lot of commercial financing for companies who likely wouldn't qualify for financing at other institutions. We take a lot of risk when we give multi-million dollar lines of credit to struggling companies. We've taken it on the head a few times and lost millions of dollars quickly.

And yet we continue to take risk. Why? Well, we have a simple rule of thumb that we follow.

"If we're going to take a risk, we damn well better be compensated for it."

Think about it. That's the philosophy that most of America takes. If you're going to take a risk then there better be a reasonable reward. If you're going to bet on an underdog, the odds better be in your favor so you get the best payout. If you're going to invest millions of your own dollars into a company, you are banking on the big paycheck when you sell that company later on. If you're going to pay for law schools and invest the long hours of being at a big firm, you're going to expect a large paycheck to be given to you every couple of weeks.

Risk brings rewards. That's the American way.

In college football, though, risk brings.... a degree? That's worth a few thousand dollars per year?

It's either play their game or have 0 chance at the lottery

Those players who make it to the NFL get paid. Their risk is rewarded. Most of the time, the players who make millions of dollars at the NFL level will tell you that the toll their bodies took was worth it because they received generational wealth in exchange. Some won't agree with that, but most will.

But most players don't make it to the League.

And most of the players who do make it to the League don't get the massive contracts that we read about in the news.

The NFL really is a lottery. And as someone who enjoys buying scratch-offs whenever I travel through Idaho, I can tell you that the lottery rarely pays off.

But these players are so close to winning that they keep going forward.

And, as Williamson said, there is nothing like playing in front of packed stadiums and being the hero for thousands of cheering fans.

It's a rush. It's an incredible feeling.

But these are kids. Do they really understand the risks that they are taking? Or do they see the golden ticket at the end of the lottery and feel the rush of the fans?

Today's players probably understand more than players 20 years ago - and certainly more than players 40 years ago. But what college kid completely grasps all of the intricacies of adult life? Hell, what adult really understands the intricacies of adult life?

So Jeff, what the heck is the point of all of this today?

I'm not here to advocate that players need paychecks from the Universities that they play for (though, if and when that happens, I will be thrilled - because they absolutely should be paid for what they do).

I'm not here to advocate that football is evil and the entire system should be taken down. That would be insanity. The sport of football teaches so many things to so many players - at all levels - that taking it away would be a disservice to so many people.

What am I advocating for today?

That the adults in the room respect the players who are taking the risk.

Williamson highlighted Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard's comments on College Gameday on New Year's Day.

"Isn't that what we do as football players? We compete. I don't know if changing it (bowl season), expanding it is going to change anything. I really don't," Herbstreit said. "I think this era of player just doesn't love football."

Howard agreed and echoed Herbstreit's comments.

Is it possible that those two could have been more out of touch than they were on Saturday morning? Is it possible that they could have sold out for their network that owns and televises the majority of college football bowl games any more than they did on Saturday morning?

Questioning players love for the game? Show some damn respect.

My grandpa bought a dairy farm in Lewiston, UT and then started a small dairy to raise his family. He had eight kids. Money was always tight. They couldn't afford to hire help on the farm - it was my grandparents and the kids who did all of the work. When equipment broke down, they went without.

My dad would regularly tell a story that he remembers my Grandpa coming in from the barn at night with a Snickers bar. He would sit at the table, cut it into multiple pieces with his knife, and give each child one bit of a Snickers bar. Why didn't he just bring home more than one Snickers? Because he couldn't afford to. One Snickers was all he could buy.

Times were brutally tough for my Grandpa and Grandma and they never really improved. Grandpa died a few years ago after selling the farm. He had his 100-some odd year old house, about 20 acres of farm land around his barn, and a mid-90s Chevy pick up truck to his name when he died. Grandma is still alive, living in the same house, living off social security and the savings that they had. She doesn't get to travel. She doesn't get to enjoy 'retirement life.' Life was a struggle for them.

When my dad graduated high school and returned home from his mission, he wanted to go to college. He was the eldest son and played a prominent role on the farm. Him leaving and going to school was going to be a big blow to the day-to-day operations of this small farm.

Grandpa never hesitated. Why? Because his had a chance to improve his life and his circumstances. He could get a degree, move away from the farm, make enough money to buy more than one Snickers at a time, and ensure that his family didn't have to go through the same struggles that Grandpa went through.

Grandpa didn't complain that my dad was soft when he went into computer networking and not dairy farming.

Grandpa didn't poke fun and say that my dad didn't love life the way that Grandpa did because he chose to fight for an easier path.

No, Grandpa did none of that. Grandpa supported. He encouraged. And he was damn proud until his dying day.

Isn't that what the point of life is? Aren't we all trying to improve the situation for the next generation who comes along?

So why on earth would two former college football players who are among the well-known figures in the sport get all high and mighty when they see players trying to improve their situation?

Imagine Grandpa saying, "You want to go to college and work at a computer all day? You're soft. Your dedication to work is soft. Taking the easy way out is soft."

I've seen highlights of Howard playing. He has a regular-looking football helmet on, not a leather helmet from the original day of college football. Does he love the game less than the pioneers of football because he's took extra precaution to protect himself that early football players didn't take?

Of course not. That would be insane to even suggest.

But a player opts out of a meaningless bowl game to protect himself and suddenly he doesn't love football anymore.

Look, I get it...

Bowls are broken. They aren't meaningless, but they are broken. The entire sport of college football has changed, but the bowl process really hasn't. The lure of a bowl gift package and a trip over Christmas doesn't mean as much today as it did back then. That isn't because players are soft, it's because they get those same kinds of things every week now.

Bowls used to be special because bowls actually felt special. Teams could play on national TV - they didn't get to do that every week. They could get free food and big dinners - Legends Grill didn't always exist. They could take free sunglasses and some coupons from the bowl sponsors - NIL deals with Pit Viper weren't around back then. Bowls were different. They were special.

Now they're not. What bowls offer players are the same things, and usually less things, than players get each and every week. Players - who are playing a violent game for a chance at a lottery, remember - get less incentive to play in a bowl game than they do to play in a Week 3 matchup against some random non-conference opponent.

Players opting out isn't fun as a fun, but players opting out isn't the problem.

The bowl system is the problem. And the longer we go without admitting that, the worse it's going to get.