By Mia O’Brien
Owen Schmitt is 26 years-old and out of a job.
After graduating from West Virginia University four years ago and maintaining a steady job since then, Schmitt appears to be at a cross road: should he start student-teaching or join his friend’s landscaping business?
Hard times have also hit 24 year-old Chad Hall. A former F-16 Mechanic at the Air Force Academy, Hall has not been spending his unemployed days soaring above the clouds. Instead, he is working as a personal trainer for friends’ kids–don’t worry, he’s reluctant to enforce a set fee–and debating whether or not to open his own wings restaurant in Atlanta.
Ever hear of Winston Justice? Probably not these days: he’s out of work, too. The 26 year-old graduate of the University of Southern California recently opened a coffee shop in order to get his life back on track. Hey, after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in February and in dire need to a, pay off the bills, and b, get back into shape, wouldn’t a caffe moccacino hit the spot?
Yet Winston Justice may never have the chance to get revenge on the occupation (and the boss) that led to his devastating injury. Schmitt might be forced to move back in with his parents and go back to living on an “allowance.” And Hall might never get his chance to soar with the Eagles once more.
Justice, Schmitt, and Hall are three members of the Philadelphia Eagles football franchise. They are just three examples of the hardships the NFL 2011 Lockout has afflicted on many of its lesser-known players–or should I say “lesser-paid” players. While Peyton, Eli, and Tommy Brady are hitting up Miami Beach and taking in a Celtics game, hundreds of other members of the National Football League are using their dollars and sense to put food on the table for their families. Many officials and fans alike forget that being a player in the NFL is first and foremost a job. And to make the most money at this job, one must train year-round, around-the-clock to make the team, let alone gain a Nike endorsement. After all this is the NFL, where the top-paid dog is $30-million-man Phillip Rivers, a full $60 million less than the great, influential Tiger Woods.
See, the majority of NFL players’ main concern is not paying off their Swedish wife in divorce settlements. A livelihood, actually, is many players’ priority. Take Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Brian Schaefering. He went undrafted in ‘08, barely made the team’s practice squad in ‘09, and finally started nine games for a downtrodden franchise making roughly $200,000 after taxes. Oh, and did I mention the guy’s married with three kids–all under 8 years old–and lives in a rented house? Sure, as of right the only changes Schaefering and his wife have had to make are cutting back on cell phone bills and babysitters. But what happens if the lock-out goes on?
According to Schaefering himself, no one wants to hire a 250-pound lineman to cut the lawn or scoop ice cream. “I’ll do anything. If I have to work UPS, I will,” says Schaefering, “The problem is who wants to hire a guy who may have to pack up and leave [for the NFL] in a few months?”
A few months. To think just a few months ago Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Wallace was making a household name for himself. Now, he’s having to cut back and use his savings from a terrific Super Bowl-run. A few months ago tight end Greg Olsen was helping the Chicago Bears make a last minute offensive move to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. Last week, he was kicked off a high school field–a high school field down the street from his house–after allegedly trying to train there. Heck, a few months ago, Cincinnati Bengal Chad Ochocinco and his autobiography, his dance moves, his money endorsements, the whole enchilada, were the epitome of dramatics in the National Football League.
Now, Ochocinco, in an effort to stay in shape, has had to jump ship for another sort of futbol. He made the practice squad for Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City club after participating in a week-long open try-out. And although Ochocinco is not in dire need of another paycheck, he claims–boldly, of course–that even the premier NFL star should not accept the NFL Players’ Union’s closed-door decisions.
“Why sit at home for the lock-out?” Ochocinco questioned the media last week. “Just keep on working until it gets resolved.”
Sure beats making a caffe moccacino.