Stay in school, Elijah

The Grinch hard at work in Houma
December 12, 2015
William Gautreaux
December 16, 2015

I’m a big fan of Elijah McGuire’s. I’ve been one since the first day that I met the kid way back when he was a freshman standout at Vandebilt.

For a player of his talent, Eli’s a humble kid – a young man who comes from modest beginnings, but has never forgotten it or lost his way. He’s personable, approachable and someone who is a pleasure to be around. Those are all rare traits among athletes with McGuire’s talent and skill.

So with that said, I want to use my weekly column to speak directly to Elijah – a young man who I respect a great deal and consider a distant, but respected friend.

My message is this: Stay in school, buddy! Finish your education and play out your senior season with the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Reports out of Acadiana this week indicated that McGuire, a junior, was considering leaving the Ragin’ Cajuns program early for the NFL.

The most in-depth piece about the situation was written in the Acadiana Advocate. The article states that the Vandebilt graduate plans to submit his information to the NFL Draft advisory board – a panel that gives prospective players information about where or if they’ll be drafted in the next NFL Draft.

The Advocate story said that if the advisory board gives a nice grade to McGuire, he would likely forego his senior season and head to the pros.

To me, that would be a big mistake – one I think McGuire would likely regret later in his career.

Stay in school.

College is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – a chance for the Houma native to get an education and prepare himself for a life after football.

Sure, it looks like McGuire may well play the game for a living someday, but there’s no guarantees that he’ll be a 10-year NFL veteran who makes enough money to be financially secure forever.

Statistics show that the average career of an NFL career is 3.3 years – a number that shrinks more and more by the year. With running backs, the odds of sticking around are even worse, and a halfback plays just 2.57 years on average.

Assuming that McGuire is drafted in the late rounds of the draft and he plays the 2.5 seasons (both big ifs), he would be slated to make approximately $1.5 million in his career.

And that’s before taxes.

And that’s before giving an agent, marketer or whoever else their 10 percent.

And that’s before living. That tally doesn’t include buying a car, getting an apartment or home in whatever city he’d be playing or any other living expenses.

Long story short, that $1.5 million wouldn’t last forever. Heck, it wouldn’t even last McGuire into his 30s.

That’s where education comes into the fold.

College was the best four-year period of my life – in part because of the parties and fun, yes, but also because of the things that I learned. As I got older in life, I learned that education was incredibly valuable because it’s the only thing in the world that can never be taken away.

It feels really, really good to know how to do something or to be informed on a topic. It feels really, really good to have options in a given career and/or to be able to do multiple things to sustain yourself as an adult.

College does that for a person. Having a quality educational foundation backing you up does that for a person.

As someone who covers sports for a living, the question of “stay or go” is always asked to me about student-athletes who have professional aspirations in given sports.

To me, my answer is always the same.

If a player is projected to be a first-round pick and/or is in a situation where he/she cannot possibly improve his/her draft stock, then they should make the decision to go pro.

But if outside of being pegged to be a top-round player, I think it’s always wise to return to school for as many years as possible. Because chances are, by coming back to school, a player will have more success, while increasing their draft prospects and thus allow them to make more money in their rookie contract.

McGuire isn’t going to be a first-round pick in a draft which features Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry and Devontae Booker. Heck, projections I see don’t even tab McGuire as a guy who would even be in the first four or five rounds of the draft.

Eli, I know the dreams of money and fortune are hard to pass up, but take it from me – having an education forever is more valuable than having a two-year window of big paychecks.

Go back to school, finish up that degree and put yourself in a win-win situation for the rest of your life.

Football won’t last forever.