The Patriots' Derrick Ramsey proposes a graduated scale. "A guy should be able to enter one of three programs. One, he could just go as an athlete to prepare for pro sports. That would be his major, and he'd be paid. The second guy could go for both an education and to try to prepare for the pros. He'd get less money. Last would be the real student-athlete. He wouldn't be paid."
Why shouldn't college players be paid?
?The Bears' Gary Fencik, a Yale grad: "A lot of players are not going to come out of the game millionaires. They'll have many more years of employment. The fact that they don't recognize the value of a free education is incredible."
?The Bengals' Steve Kreider, an electrical engineer who has an M.B.A. and is working on a Ph.D. in finance: "Football practice at Lehigh went from 4:45 to 6 p.m. On weeks when we had hourly exams at 4 p.m., we practiced between seven and eight. When we went out to play, it was almost like recess. We really had fun. I think college football should be part of the educational process."
It's a traditional Thanksgiving prank in the NFL. Veterans post signs in the locker room, saying a local grocery store has kindly agreed to donate a turkey to any member of the team, provided he comes to the store to pick it up. Of course, when the players show up, the store doesn't know anything about the offer.
This year the Browns seemed to be the most gullible team in the league. Six rookies and two wives of assistant coaches fell for the prank. Dan Fike, a guard formerly with the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits, tells this story: "I drove all the way out past Garrettsville [an hour's drive east of the Browns' practice complex in Berea, Ohio]. There wasn't anything there. So I walked into this gas station and asked two ol' boys if they'd ever heard of the J. Jones Poultry Farm. Never heard of it. I called back to camp and was told to go to Hiram College and ask for Joe Osaga in Information.
"When I got there, there was no such person. But the lady at the information desk told me of a poultry farm not far from there, and she gave me directions. I went over, walked in and said, 'My name's Dan Fike. I'm here to pick up the turkeys for the guys.' The lady started laughing and said, 'They do this every year. You've just had a joke played on you.' I almost collapsed. But I did get a free turkey out of the deal."
Fike wasn't the only player to get the last laugh. Gale Gilbert, the Seahawks' backup quarterback, showed up at the Totem Lake (Wash.) Safeway to claim his bird, and the store manager had no idea what Gilbert was talking about. But he gave him a turkey anyhow.
Norman Braman, the Eagles' new owner, is big on having his players do community work. In fact, he has written 12 free-of-charge appearances into all new contracts. The Eagles have also "adopted" two schools that Braman attended as a child—West Philadelphia High and Taggart Elementary—and the players make periodic speeches there as well as at other schools in Philadelphia and in nearby New Jersey, lauding the value of education and encouraging students to get high school diplomas and college degrees.
Says linebacker Anthony Griggs, who tutors children of South Jersey migrant workers, "Kids see athletes and their fancy cars and big wallets. They see a glamorous life. And then they find out that 65 percent of the guys in the NFL don't have their degrees. We have to get out there and tell them athletes are exceptions—that they have to set educational goals to make it in life."