The NFL has always been a league where the intellect of its players has come into question on occasion. The education of the players in the NFL is much better than most in the MLB, NBA, and NHL due to the fact that football players must be in school at least three years before they can declare for the NFL draft. There are a number of players that have gotten arrested or have failed a drug test administered by the NFL, and this gives the league a bad perception. There are a number of football players that also possess a great deal of intelligence on and off the football field.
There are a number of football players who have degrees, and have transitioned their smarts in the classroom onto the football field. The league has players from great academic schools such as Stanford, Harvard, and Penn State. Others have college degrees in difficult majors such as industrial management, architectural design, and many others. These articulate athletes have transitioned their hard work in their studies to the football field, and have used their brains to read offensive and defensive schemes as they unfold.
Here are 15 NFLers who had tough college majors:
15 Andrew Luck - Architectural Design
Andrew Luck has seen a lot of success early on in his NFL career, and he has come off as an extremely smart quarterback. This may be a result of him attending one of the best universities in the country in Stanford University. During his time at Stanford, Luck would go on to be named a 2011 Academic All American, and this feat was highly impressive due to his incredibly difficult major in architectural design.
Stanford honored Luck with the Al Masters Award, an award given to an athlete who displays good leadership and academic skills. This proficiency in the classroom has played a role in his successful young career in the NFL, and in his fifth NFL season he has already thrown over 100 touchdowns and for over 17,000 yards.
14 Ryan Fitzpatrick - Mathematics
Ryan Fitzpatrick graduated from one of the most esteemed colleges in the world in Harvard University, and that alone is an incredible accomplishment in its own right. While at Harvard ,Fitzpatrick studied mathematics and few saw him making it to the NFL out of college after 2004. Math is certainly not the easiest of majors for a college undergraduate. The great amount of time he put into studying positively helped him transition into an NFL play caller, and on the Wonderlic test which all incoming rookies take he scored a 48 out of 50.
Fitzpatrick has been able to last 10 plus years in the NFL since he was drafted. His numbers aren’t eye popping, but he has started for four different teams and is currently the starter for the New York Jets.
13 Matt Forte - Finance
Matt Forte came from a small school which hindered his draft stock a bit, but no one could deny that he was a great student while at Tulane University. He got his degree in finance, and earning a degree from a finance major is not as easy as some think. His major required constantly dealing with numbers. During his senior year Forte put up some monster numbers which helped him become a third team All American and a second round draft pick of the Chicago Bears.
Forte continued putting up numbers at the NFL level. Forte was not only a threat in the run game rushing for over 9,000 yards in his career thus far, but he has also been very reliable in the passing game by gathering over 4,000 receiving yards in his career.
12 Cameron Fleming - Aeronautics & Astronautics
Cameron Fleming is currently an offensive lineman for the New England Patriots, and got his college degree from Stanford University. Stanford is one of the best academic institutions in the world and graduating from such a great school is no easy feat. It is even more difficult when you have a complex major in aeronautics and astronautics, and Fleming possesses his degree in this study. Fleming was fascinated in building airplanes, and would love to get into a career in aerospace if football does not work out.
Stanford prepared Fleming for the hard work that is present in the NFL. He went from protecting Andrew Luck at Stanford who was arguably the best quarterback in college at the time, and now he has the privilege of protecting arguably the best quarterback in the NFL in Tom Brady.
11 Sam Acho - Business Administration/Marketing
Sam Acho is currently a linebacker who plays for the Chicago Bears, but before he was wreaking havoc on the field for the Bears he was excelling in the classroom at the University of Texas. During Acho’s time with the longhorns he was not only performing at a high level on the football field. The NCAA honored Acho with the William V. Campbell for combined academic success and performance on the football field, and he also received a double bachelor's degree in business administration/marketing while at Texas. He has not had it easy playing for a lackluster Chicago Bears franchise since he was drafted in the 2011 NFL draft. His undergraduate taught him to always push hard during the most difficult times, and Acho has been well composed even during the losing.
10 Arian Foster - Philosophy
Arian Foster has just recently retired from the NFL after suffering yet another injury while playing for the Miami Dolphins. While at the University of Tennessee Foster received his degree in philosophy, and was very much involved in his studies. He has been an avid fan of poetry throughout his life. His playing style while on the Houston Texans was very poetic, and he would on many occasions turn an ugly situation into a beautiful one. Foster has been very outspoken throughout his NFL career. He has publicly stated his atheist beliefs, and for a brief time was a vegan during his football playing days. Now that his playing days are behind him he may use his smarts to get a career outside of the football world.
9 Zak DeOssie - Public and Private Sector Organizations
The least glamorous position in the NFL today is the long snapper, and as a result they are typically the lowest paid player on the roster. Even the kickers and punters make more than a team’s long snapper. Zak DeOssie may not be anywhere near as rich as his team’s starting quarterback Eli Manning, but he may be smarter than his teammate due to his outstanding academic record. DeOssie was a linebacker in college at the prestigious Brown University. He was the first football player from Brown to ever be invited to the NFL combine back in 2007, and was a fourth round selection of the New York Giants that year. The Ivy Leaguer converted to a long snapper and became a two time pro bowler and Super Bowl champion.
8 Alex Smith - Economics
Alex Smith is the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, and was selected first overall in the 2005 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Before his days in the NFL Smith was elevating the University of Utah to an elite level in the college football world. This proficiency did not stop on the football field, and The Utes starting quarterback was also performing at a high level in the classroom. Economics is a unique degree that can be very useful in the real world. Smith was able get his degree in the subject while attaining a 3.74 GPA in the process. He was also working on his masters before he got drafted by the 49ers. Having a smart quarterback on and off the field is always a good thing.
7 Desmond Bryant - Psychology
Desmond Bryant currently plays for the putrid Cleveland Browns, and even though many are dumbfounded by the teams play on the field, Bryant is an extremely bright man. He graduated from Harvard University and made it into the NFL as an undrafted free agent. During his time at Harvard he knew he wanted football to be his main profession, but still graduated with a degree in psychology on his terms. He used his classroom management skills to adapt well into professional football.
Now in 2016 as a seasoned veteran who is still in the league after being undrafted he can be a great mentor to the young guys in the Cleveland locker room, and the Browns have by far the most rookies on their team compared to other NFL franchises.
6 Russell Wilson - Masters (Educational Leadership)
Russell Wilson is one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, and he is an excellent role model on and off the field. His performance in the classroom was exemplary throughout his time at North Carolina State and the University of Wisconsin. At North Carolina State Wilson received a degree in communications in only three years. He then moved onto the University of Wisconsin to better his chances of making it to the NFL, and he also earned a masters in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at Wisconsin.
Wilson has proven that his smarts in the classroom very much can translate to a successful NFL career. As a third round draft pick experts saw him merely as a backup, but now he has already won a Super Bowl and his team has been one of the best teams in the NFL the past five years.
5 NaVorro Bowman - Crime, Law & Justice
NaVorro Bowman is a linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers who has exceeded many people’s expectations after being selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft. The linebacking core is the equivalent to what a quarterback is responsible for on offense when it comes to reading the opposing team and calling plays, and Bowman has been great at reading the field during his tenure in the NFL. Bowman has been a tackling machine since he entered the league, and perhaps he may have to use his skills on the football in his post career occupation. Penn State University is a great college and has one of the biggest alumni count of any universities in the country. During his time at state college Bowman flourished on and off the field, and received his degree in crime, law & justice.
4 Robert Griffin III - Political Science
Robert Griffin III is best known for winning the Heisman Trophy in 2011, and then being selected number two overall by the Washington Redskins that same year. After his rookie year he has struggled with injuries. He was slated to be the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback in 2016, but he once again became a victim to the injury bug after the first game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles. What many do not know about Griffin is that he is a well-educated man. He graduated early from Baylor with a degree in political science, and was also working on a master’s degree during his final season with the Baylor Bears. Griffin has aspirations to attend law school someday. If he cannot stay healthy law school may become a reality soon, and there is no doubt he has a hard working mentality to be successful on and off the field.
3 Jimmy Graham - Marketing & Management
Jimmy Graham has been one of the most dominant tight ends in the NFL since he was drafted in the third round by the New Orleans Saints in the 2010 NFL draft. Basketball was Graham’s first collegiate sport, and he played for the University of Miami Hurricanes basketball team before he played on the football team. Graham could have played basketball overseas but chose to try and pursue the NFL instead. He was successful in college inside the classroom as well. Graham graduated with a business degree and a double major in Marketing and Management, and in his lone season of football in 2009 he was named to the All-ACC Academic Football Team. His smarts in the classroom certainly played a role in him picking up the game of football so quickly after not playing much in high school or college.
2 Drew Brees - Industrial Management
Drew Brees has had an extremely successful career in the NFL after suffering a catastrophic shoulder injury while he played for the San Diego Chargers. He essentially revived his career with the New Orleans Saints, and has proven that he is one of the most intelligent decision makers at the quarterback position in the last decade. At Purdue University Brees was able to get a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from the prestigious Krannert School of Management, and his degree in this subject manner was not the easiest of majors.
He has been extremely philanthropic while in the NFL by setting up a charity that helps kids with cancer and helps children better their education. Not only has Brees become well educated, but he has also made the effort through his foundation to improve the education of others.
1 Colin Kaepernick - Business Management
Colin Keapernick is best known now for his protest that has ignited a nationwide conversation on his stance on social injustices against minorities throughout the country. Many people have become mad over his stance on the issues and have gone as far as saying he is not well educated, but whether you agree on his stance or not he was a pretty smart guy when he came into the NFL. Kaepernick scored 38 out of 50 on the wonderlic test which is an exceptional score. He graduated from the University of Nevada with a degree in Business Management, and also was a part of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity during his college days. His degree will help him in pursuit of a decent job post football.
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