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  • The former Ohio State defensive end is the first in what will likely become a larger trend of players withdrawing from college to focus on preparation for the NFL draft—a decision made from both a financial and risk standpoint. Is the NFL ready for these players?
By Conor Orr
October 16, 2018

Monday’s development that Nick Bosa, Ohio State star defensive end and prospective No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, will withdraw from college to focus on rehabbing a core muscle injury and prepare for the NFL should not surprise us.

It should not force us to clutch our pearls anymore. It should not cause us to conjure up this hubris about how college football was back in your day, when kids played with pride and gleefully accepted the cost of tuition as a fair exchange for putting your body through four years of on-field car accidents. The NBA’s one-and-done culture has blown the doors off the hazy idea of collegiate loyalty, and many of those players turned out to be stellar athletes and teammates at the next level.

Even Ohio State, in its parting statement, lamented the loss of Bosa’s talent first and foremost. We are almost completely beyond the niceties.

But Nick Bosa’s decision to leave Ohio State may surprise some in the NFL; at least those coaches who still hang onto the idea that they’re some sort of heir to the ghost spirit of general George S. Patton. Players are, thankfully, better educated and better prepared for life in the NFL than ever before. That includes a more practical knowledge of their leverage points and a realistic window into the team’s finances and the finances of other teams around the league with similar players.

For some—like Bosa and his brother, Joey—it also includes imperviousness to the typical emotional machinations used by teams to squeeze players into ending holdouts, or taking less money, or playing through injuries. That has been a point of frustration for some coaches, who have already paid the price for distancing themselves from valuable assets who simply want to be recognized as valuable.

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On a day like today, we should not ask “What happened to our society?” Instead, the question should be “Are coaches better educated and prepared now, too?”

Largely, this has been couched as some new wave. Trend stories have been written about stodgy old men forced to deal with selfish millenials who care only about themselves and their iPads, when in reality, this is just the first generation of players who have taken the mistakes of their predecessors to heart.

We’ve also seen it described as a team “changing its culture” or warring against some hidden belief that one can take care of themselves and the team. It does not have to be a mutually exclusive proposition.

Bosa’s decision was not born out of some generational selfishness. It was born out of Jaylon Smith, who went from $20 million in total guarantees over the first four years of his professional career to $4 million, with no real escape rope until 2020 no matter how well he played. It was born out of Marcus Lattimore, who went from a $5 million signing bonus to $300,000 in total wages after ripping his knee to shreds in a college football game.

It was inspired by Darrelle Revis, who fought the Jets twice and won. Or Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack, who both resisted the hissing from inside and outside their buildings in order to take care of themselves and their family at a fair market value.

There is this prevailing concept in football that everything must be continually earned. And when it comes to playing time, this will remain the case because winning is the bottom line and the best players help you do so. Despite some obvious examples to the contrary, football is still a thriving meritocracy, which fortifies some of the high-minded ideals the game claims to foster on a regular basis.

The system can still work with players who can see the grander picture ahead, but still crave the contact, structure and general ruthlessness. In the future, only the teams brooding about the changing personality of the league will be the ones left behind. 

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