On Monday two of the biggest names in all of college football, running backs Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, announced that they would not be playing in their teams’ respective bowl games in coming weeks to prepare themselves for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.
Later that day, a legendary running back at both the college and professional level, former Heisman Trophy winner and Titans great Eddie George, stopped by CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show to discuss the controversial decisions.
“I can see it from both sides,” George said of the running backs’ decision. “As a college football fan, it pains me that we won’t have a chance to watch two dynamic players play a final game along with their teammates. In some sense you could say it’s selfish, but it is, because guess what? If something happens in that bowl game where they get injured, because both of them have been dealing with injuries all year long, who are they going to blame? Themselves. So, their heart is where it needs to be in terms of it’s not right, wrong, or indifferent — it’s their prerogative — I’m putting on my business hat and I’m expecting to go in the top five picks of the draft, and I’m going to get $18 million guaranteed my first year. Why would I put that at risk in a meaningless game if I’m not playing for a national championship and so forth?”
That’s the one perspective on the matter, but George can also see the other side.
“I’m of the old school,” George said. “I’m cut from the cloth of ‘I’m going to play the games out with my teammates regardless. I’m going to finish what I started with my teammates. But it’s not right or wrong, it’s their prerogative and it’s their future. That’s how they’re handling that.”
Doug pointed out that these days “it’s all about pro potential” for college players as none of McCaffrey or Fournette’s teammates have criticized the two for their decision to protect their futures. And who could blame them when there are millions of dollar potentially on the line?
“Well, you look at Jalen Smith last year, linebacker from Notre Dame, George said. “He was projected to be a Top 10 guy. He was a workout warrior, ran a 4.3, hell of an athlete, and look what happened to him. You have these agents, you have these advisers, telling these kids — they’re in their ears saying — ‘why are you going to play in this game? In fact, why are you going to play these games in college and risk yourself getting injured?’
So in the future, Doug posited, could we see plays shut things down as soon as a national of conference title is potentially out of reach for these players’ college teams if they’re planning on entering the draft in the coming season?
“I personally don’t think they should,” George said. “I think the more film you can put out there, the more you can play the game, is the mindset you want to come into the NFL with. I couldn’t fathom just saying, ‘ok, you know what, I know I’m a bona-fide Top 5 pick,’ guess what, that’s a lottery pick, that’s good, you’re going to get money. But what are you playing the game for? Are you playing for money? If it is, and that’s your motive, that’s fine. But if you’re playing for the greatness of the game, you want to play as many times as you can understanding the repercussions of playing the game of football anyway. You’re dealing with two different mentalities, and it’s not right or wrong. Some guys are saying ‘I want to get out of my dire situation, I need money right now and I don’t necessarily love football’ and that’s alright. I’ve seen guys like that. And I’ve seen guys that love to play and would play for free. My hand is up. I would play the game for free. I hope it doesn’t go down this path where a lot of our superstars are sitting out in hopes of going to the NFL, because that would seriously dilute the college game.”