So you’re dating a football player. Is this the kind of guy who is interested in using his academic ability to pay for an academic scholarship, someone whose dream job is the National Football League (NFL), or someone who plays for the fun of the game and hasn’t decided which sport he likes most? Depending on what his response is, that will more than likely affect how this relationship will go.
From diet to date night: What daily life is like dating a football player
If you were a regular TV watcher for HBO’s “Ballers,” The CW’s “The Game” or FOX’s “All American,” there are some truths on the show and other scenes that are just good TV. Clearly someone in the NFL is going to be making money that the college football player simply won’t see. For that reason, don’t get too razzled and dazzled by the flashy lifestyle. There’s a lot of work put into those million dollar contracts. According to ESPN, the average NFL career is 3.3 years. In that time, players are working 24/7 to maintain a specific weight (and fined hundreds of dollars for not maintaining that size), eating a strict diet anywhere from three to five times per day, staring at film footage to learn game plays, exercising to stay fit and practicing during game time.
On television, you may see a few players standing on a scale, eating at a bar or restaurant, blending a few smoothies and out on the field. But family, friends and significant others understand that this is a lifestyle that is beat into their brains from sun-up to sun-down. Depending on how serious your relationship is, maintaining a career field that requires physically being in one city may become an obstacle if he’s traded (or transfers to a different university). You may want to start investing in remote work and online spaces (or online education) so you can take your job and education priorities with you while he moves from team to team.
Risk of injury: The downside of dating a football player
In a New York Times report, a neuropathologist examined the brains of 111 NFL players—and 110 were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head. By now, we know the stories regarding the brain health of Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau Jr. and Aaron Hernandez, among others.
You may have even seen the Will Smith-starring film “Concussion,” based on Nigerian-American doctor Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu. No matter what side you’re on when it comes to sports injuries, anyone dating a football player should be aware that this is not a field for the faint of heart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn of the effects of traumatic brain injury (TMI).
If you are dating a football player, it’s imperative that you are both empathetic and understand the signs in a sudden (or even gradual) change in mental behavior. That doesn’t mean you should become an Internet doctor, but it does mean you may want to be understanding if/when injuries occur. This is a very hard-hitting, fast-playing, painful career—but for football players who have thrived in it, it can also be one of the most special, thriving and fun memories in their lives.
Dating a football player for the long haul—career goals, marriage and more
As mentioned, this is not a career that one can have for decades. Even when thinking of football players who have been playing for more than a few seasons, Sportscasting only came up with eight. Meanwhile the NFL has been around since 1920. Players don’t normally go into the sport thinking that they’ll be in the kind of mental and physical shape to play forever. (Even National Basketball Association, or NBA, players don’t last much longer than five years, give or take the Vince Carters, Kareem Abdul-Jabbars and Kobe Bryants of the bunch, who played more than 20-plus seasons.)
But there are plenty of jobs that football players can do outside of physical contact sports. Are the jobs as exciting for your partner? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how hard he takes it once he cannot do the sport he loves anymore. (Or, he pulls a Marshawn Lynch and retires twice—fully satisfied and still in NFL-playing shape.) With an expertise in professional football, you two can make a life together while he’s an athletic trainer, broadcast engineer, dietician, referee or even a security guard. Just because people aren’t paying tickets to see him and you’re not hanging out in the VIP section or bleachers does not mean you two cannot still enjoy the game together.
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