There is nothing like playing in the NFL.
Pure adrenaline. Clear goals. Plenty of money and adulation. It's like a drug rush -- only legal.
And then it goes away even faster than it came. Whether one season or 10, it's never enough time. Everyone wants to stay longer. They often need a couple years to detox via a sports rehab center to enter normal life. The unstructured second act is akin to parents struggling when becoming empty nesters.
Junior Seau's recent suicide was another reminder of post-career struggles for football players. If it's not injuries that leave many crippled in their 40s, it's concussion-related problems in their 50s and shorter life spans that make their 60s too often their final milestone.
Most would do it again. There's often little regret other than not playing longer.
But why can't athletes readily transition from the game? The 9-to-5 routine is too boring. Players are used to structure, defined short-term goals and a sense of camaraderie that American companies dream of creating. Coaches are often popular speakers with business leaders because they teach groups to pull together.
Instead, too many players aren't trained for anything but football. They squandered the chance to get a usable college degree. If they graduated, it's too often with some generic degree intended to merely maintain eligibility. While it's the player's fault for not pursuing an education to create a post-football career, it's also college coaches too often not caring what a player does once they leave campus.
Many former Washington Redskins I've seen years after their careers are often most happy when they find goal-oriented careers. For every high-profile player that finds work in TV or radio, there are many content with everyday jobs.
Rod Milstead is a bail bondsman near his Southern Maryland hometown. Shar Pourdanesh returned to his native Los Angeles to work in real estate. William Bell went to Atlanta where he played college ball to work for a telephone company before later switching to coaching. He's now overseeing running backs at nearby Savannah State. Donnie Warren spent years working his vending machine route in Northern Virginia.
The ones who fall into a workday routine are the lucky ones. They transfer the drive to play football into the working world.
The NFL and NFL Players Association work tirelessly to help players finish their degrees, manage money and find a second career. Unfortunately, too few realize their pro careers can end in a moment and prepare for what's next. It's not just injuries, but losing a split second of speed that makes them replaceable.
At 22 years old, how many of us would handle the fame and fortune well? Not many, just like NFL players.
What will it take to prevent more lost lives like Seau? That's a good question that doesn't receive enough answers.