More Than Ready: Whether or Not They Get Drafted, Former Ohio State Footballers Are Ready For Life Outside the Lines

By Eric Seger on April 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm

It's pretty widely known how the Ohio State football team works to prepare its players for life beyond the game they know and love.

The length of an average NFL career barely blips above three years, a pretty remarkable statistic considering how popular the sport is not only in the United States, but internationally.

Urban Meyer, like the head coach at any program, shoulders the responsibility for each of his guys at all times. If they make an egregious error on or off the field, the head man is typically the guy who faces the brunt of the criticism that follows.

It's also his duty to prepare those individuals for life beyond the game, whether or not they get to realize the dream of playing in the NFL.

To combat that, Meyer brought a program with him to Ohio State he birthed at the University of Florida. It's known as "Real Life Wednesdays," a chance for members of the football team and other student-athletes to get a chance to hear from and speak with champions in various avenues of the real world.

It's because of curriculum such as that — along with keeping track of how players are performing in the classroom and in other walks of life — that make it perfectly OK if guys like Evan Spencer, Curtis Grant and other members of the 2014 senior class don't hear their names called this weekend in Chicago.

"I was easily excited about the program,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told Eleven Warriors in 2013 when Meyer pushed it forward in Columbus. “It is consistent with all of the life skills programming we implemented with all of our student-athletes: etiquette training, financial literacy, apartment shopping and lease management, etc."

It's about training people to live long, fruitful and meaningful lives — and to show players there's more to life than football.

Too often we hear stories about Keith McCants, Tony Bennett, Andre Rison and others who either had their careers cut short by injury or had to file bankruptcy as a result of blowing all their money on trivial things. ESPN's 30 for 30 series even produced a documentary on it.

Ohio State's football program doesn't want to see players that left it show up in the news for the same reason.

It's why Meyer's had bigwigs like Cleveland Cavaliers owner and multibillionaire Dan Gilbert pay the team a visit this spring. Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Jamie Dimon stopped by, too. The same goes for recent Ohio State graduate and current Green Bay Packer starting center Corey Linsley, who told his former teammates how quickly money leaves your bank account when you're in the NFL.

"I spent more money on tickets than I did on rent," Linsley said in a press release. "Everyone in the family doesn't need to come to a game."

Restaurant king Cameron Mitchell also dished out some knowledge of his own recently, another huge name on a laundry list of moguls Meyer's had come and talk to his guys.

"I knew it would be successful because there are numerous Buckeyes willing to assist our student-athletes with improving their interviewing skills," Smith said.

The help's been there because Meyer's demanded it, he's built it through culture and implemented it through the resources accessible to both he and Ohio State.

"We need to help our players with a Plan B career," Meyer has said. "Our guys will have incredible memories from Ohio State, but we need to help them get a jump start on their life after football."

That's why regardless if guys like Spencer, Grant, Darryl Baldwin and Steve Miller — all projected to go in the seventh and final round or not at all this weekend — or even those Buckeyes who should get drafted like Devin Smith, Doran Grant, Jeff Heuerman and Michael Bennett make it in the league or not, they'll be ready for what life throws at them.

"No one in the country does this,” Linsley said. “This is a revolutionary idea. No one thought to do it. It’s an awesome idea and a credit to Coach Meyer. It’s awesome to see how the program is going in that area. Coach Meyer has done a great job of connecting academics and football.”

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