As the 2015 NFL season gets rolling full steam on Sunday, I’m continually amazed at what it takes to be an NFL player.
Three quick points to illustrate this point.
1. As good as our area high school football talent has been of late and seems to be continually improving, there is only one guy from the Johnston County/Garner area playing professional football — Garner native Chris Culliver — as the 2015 season begins.
Willie Smith, the multi-talented North Johnston High legend, was cut by the Redskins in late August after having a solid training camp. I watched the Redskins’ preseason game against the Lions early in the season specifically to watch his play.
That contest, of course, was when the Lions treated Robert Griffin III like an old tackling dummy. Smith, a right tackle, only gave up one hit on Griffin that night and showed the quick feet that made him an incredible athlete who helped lead North Johnston to regional championship games in football and basketball his senior season.
He shifted from defensive line to tackle at East Carolina successfully, because of his incredible agility for his size, but he still hasn’t been able to stick in the league.
East of Panther land is Garner where Culliver hails from. I think of all the talent that has flowed through the Trojan program over the past 30 years or so and only four Garner players have played in the league during that time: Culliver, Garner Hall of Fame member and defensive back Eric Williams, defensive back Anthony Blalock and running back Richard Medlin.
2. Mike Pereira, the Fox NFL rules analyst and former NFL Vice President of Officiating, talking on the Mike Francesa Show this past week described the difference between the speed of the game even at preseason NFL play and regular season NFL play as “completely different” when talking about how the NFL is breaking in a big number of first-year officials this season.
Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick in the “Do Your Job” documentary on last season that the NFL Network aired on Wednesday, talking about how ultimately the game always comes down to execution by the players.
While discussing the game-winning interception by Malcolm Butler and how although the Patriots practiced against that same play in practice repeatedly leading up to the Super Bowl, the New England defense didn’t execute their assignments on the play until that fateful play in Super Bowl XLIV.
“That’s what makes professional football players professional football players,” Belichick said. “They’re the only guys in the world who can do what they do.”
3. The most telling stat of them all. A 2013 study commissioned by the NCAA that came out last week reported that just 1.6 percent of college football seniors move onto the NFL.
Even scarier: just 0.08 percent of high school football players eventually play on Sunday. For example, there are 1,086,627 players playing high school football in 2013 and there are just 1,696 roster spots available at any time during the NFL regular season (that number jumps to 1,952 if you include the practice squads each pro team employs).
Only 300 NFL rookies make a team each year on average. Of those 300 only half of those
Other NFL thoughts: You’ve already heard more about the forthcoming movie, “Concussion,” than you’ll hear when the movie finally comes out around Christmas. Listen, it’s a hugely important topic, but not one I think is going to draw people to the movies. Football fans know the risks that come with football and more information about the impact of concussions is only going to make the game safer. But they don’t want to go to the movies to learn about it, even if it has a great cast of proven box office draws. … We haven’t seen the last either rehash or new information story claiming the Patriots are cheating in some way. And we haven’t seen the last examples of bad journalism in those stories, especially anything involving ESPN. … I can’t shake the feeling that we’re headed for Ravens-Packers in February.