College athletes are currently in the national news spotlight as California recently passed a bill that could allow for student athletes to receive payments for the use of their name, image and likeness, and hire agents. This topic has been heavily debated for ages, though this is the first formal step any state or organization has taken towards change.
Regardless of your personal opinions on the topic, it’s safe to say that college athletes are set up to live pretty financially stable lives post-graduation. They may not get compensation for their time while earning an education, but successful D1 athletes have a sweet career ahead of them.
NFL players, for example, will make millions of dollars each year with the right amount of experience and talent under their belt. A recent study by Homes.com identified the highest-paid NFL player from each state, and their salaries are ones that certainly make up for the four years of unpaid play the athletes survived in college.
League regulations on salary caps complicate things, but the top 10 players all sit at a wage of approximately $20+ million each year. This includes league all stars such as Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and other iconic household names.
Even the lowest paid athletes of this group are certainly far from starving. There’s only one player representing the 50 states that make under $1 million each year, and that’s Ryan Switzer of the Pittsburgh Steelers from West Virginia. Switzer makes $645,000 annually, which is not bad considering her only graduated from UNC Chapel Hill three years ago.
The average NFL player makes roughly $2 million each year, so it’s definitely a good gig for the elite few who make it to play on this highest level of American football.
However, it’s no easy feat. to make it in the NFL. The NCAA estimates that athletes have a 1.6% chance of continuing their athletic careers to play professionally after graduation. This is particularly skewed by the large size of teams composed of walk-ons and benchwarmers, but it’s still clear that there’s a high degree of competition.
This slim percentage is calculated only from collegiate athletes, not considering those who probably had similar NFL dreams but never made it past their high school glory days. By the time an athlete gets to the NFL, they have been selected through a heavily filtered and vetted class of potential candidates.
It’s clear that athletes put in the work to earn their positions, so will they ever get paid for their dedication to the sport and the school? Time will tell…