When the Cheering Stops: How Ohio State Prepares Its Players for Life After Football

By Patrick Maks on June 22, 2014 at 7:30a

For Michael Bennett, the not-so-distant future includes two months of grueling summer workouts, a brutal training camp in August, his senior year of college and final hurrah playing football for Urban Meyer and Ohio State.

Bennett’s a key cog on a talented defensive line that figures to anchor the Buckeyes and their Big Ten and national title hopes.

He’ll almost certainly be a captain, Phil Steele thinks he’ll be an All-American and Mel Kiper, among many, thinks he’ll be a top NFL Draft prospect next spring.

Talk about living the dream.

But what about after all that?

What happens after football?

“People always ask me,” Bennett said, “and I’m not sure yet.”

So Meyer and his staff are readying Bennett and his teammates for life “after the cheering stops” or also known as the real world, which, for any college graduate, is more or less a terrifying passage into adulthood. 

"Ohio State’s such a powerful place. If you do right, you should get a job."– Urban Meyer

They call it “Real Life Wednesdays,” a series of speakers and lessons curated with the intention of preparing players for the workforce and life after big-time college football.

“We live a surreal life right now being a college athlete, being on scholarship,” Joel Hale, a soon-to-be senior guard, said.

“We don’t know what real life is and that’s going to be the biggest transition, that’s the hardest transition for after football: what happens.”

It’s a process that varies from player to player. But in general, less than two percent of college football players make it to the NFL, according to an NCAA study in 2012. 

Which is also to say Ohio State, and other schools with powerful football programs like Alabama, USC, and Notre Dame, are an anomaly. 411 Buckeyes have been selected in the NFL Draft all time, 51 have been plucked in the last decade and six got taken in last month’s draft. 

But trust making it to the NFL is hard. Really hard.

Making a living out of professional football might be even harder since the average career lasts 3.3 years, according to the NFL Players Association. 

“I plan on being in the NFL next year,” Bennett said. “But you never really know how it’s gonna work out.”

But you can prepare for if and/or when it doesn’t.

“It’s the last chance for my plan B for after football’s over for me,” Hale said.

And really, that’s the point of Real Life Wednesdays and Friday’s cumulative job fair featuring more than 50 companies including Nike, IMG, State Farm, NetJets, Cardinal Health and the Cleveland Browns. It’s Plan B, C and D.

“I love this stuff. I spend more than half my time on this right now. I love it — especially when my daughter went to school and I found at how hard it is to get a job,” Meyer said. 

“everything is laid out in front of you, everything is lobbed up and all you gotta do is slam dunk.” – Joel Hale

“Ohio State’s such a powerful place. If you do right, you should get a job. I’m not talking about the 2.0 guy. I’m talking about the guy that really works and does right. People want to hire him. So it’s our job to get in front of it.”  

Of course, for it to work as intended, players have to take ownership of the process too.

Meyer and company can only do so much. 

“If you don’t succeed through the Ohio State football program, then you’re the one messing up,” Hale said.

“Because everything is laid out in front of you, everything is lobbed up and all you gotta do is slam dunk.”  

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