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'Fantasy Land' - Ramon Foster on playing in the NFL


Steelers guard Ramon Foster attended the NFL Sports Journalism & Communication Boot Camp, and came out of it wanting to do even more. Foster will be contributing to, providing guest stories and columns during the remainder of the offseason and during the 2015 season.

By Ramon Foster
Offensive Guard

The National Football League is a beautiful profession. 

As a current player I would love to change the name to 'Fantasy Land.'  Those who don't play the game would probably look at me with the side-eye and wonder what in the heck I'm suggesting. I say these things out of respect, but there are some things in general that are just not how real life is and players have to manage how they approach it. 

The vast majority of people in the 'Real World' vs. 'Fantasy Land' work eight hour shifts to provide for their family. They leave college and take a job at a desk or call center, or fail to secure a job at all right after they walk that stage to get their degree. NFL players who are drafted even in the seventh round receive a signing bonus of approximately $52,000 or more and have the potential to make up to $2.3 million dollars over four years. You give that contract to a sociology major at your local university and they would take that job in a heartbeat.  But normally only in 'Fantasy Land' applicants get those opportunities.  There is an abundance of everything in 'Fantasy Land.'

This is not a beat down on the athletes who have worked their behinds off to make it to their dream job. I enjoy my job as a professional football player and everything that comes along with it.  This is an article to open the eyes of people who may not have the knowledge of what comes with being in the sport and being wise enough to know that it will not last forever. 

I have seen some of the very best players come in the door and think their career will be long, only to be washed out in one or two years.  The average time an athlete plays in the NFL is about 3.3 years.  That is a very short time in your life to be working a job.  But in that time, there is also a lot of money being made. The minimum salary for a rookie coming into 'Fantasy Land' in the year 2015 is $435,000. Imagine that, a 22-year old young man who has never seen more than a $1,000 in his bank account at one time is potentially going to have six or more figures in his account after a few signatures. 

It's not just about receiving the money, it's also about keeping the money that you've earned through blood, sweat and tears. I have seen young and old guys blow through money as if it was endless and they could play football forever. Some think they can sustain this lifestyle in 'Fantasy Land' forever. There is a small percentage of guys who do not have to work after their football career is over, but this is a very small group. I have seen young guys come in the league as a late round pick and want to live their life as if they are a five-year veteran or they were a first rounder with a guaranteed roster spot and a huge signing bonus. In one year in particular, I had to convince a mid-round pick not to buy himself a Rolex. As many of you know, Rolex watches are as expensive as a full-size luxury car. This is not a small purchase. This guy tried to justify his reasons for buying the watch to me. He tried to convince me that our first round draft pick had purchased some nice things and he figured that it would be fine for him to do it, too. I had to reason with him that he was not a roster lock and did not have the money that the first rounder had guaranteed. Lo and behold, the kid ended up getting cut and did not make any other teams opening day roster.

It was not totally the prospects fault for wanting nice things. Having nice things and having plenty of money is plastered all over the television that professional football players are shown. The money that guys make in the NFL makes you think it is more money than you can handle. But you have to be wise. You are given your checks over a course of 17 weeks.  A rookie in the NFL will receive about $25,500 every two weeks they receive their checks after taxes. What they fail to realize is that the money stops after the season ends. To see that check as a young guy makes you think you can spend as you want, whenever you want. What you fail to realize is if you do not change your spending habits and you continue to spend recklessly in the offseason when there is no money coming in, you will quickly empty your bank account. You have to save and plan for the offseason.

As I stated before, I would not change my profession in the NFL or trade it in for any other job. I truly enjoy it with all my heart. I love the challenge and adrenaline rush of performing in front of thousands of fans in the stadium on game day and millions watching the most popular sport in America. The money is amazing and the perks that come with playing professional football are even better. If used properly, you can change generations of your family lifestyle in a matter of years. The players in the profession risk their bodies, minds and well-being for just a chance to compete in the NFL. It is a great stepping stone in life if you realize that most players compete for a short amount of time.

The money and resources guys attain while playing have to last a lifetime. There is no other job that will pay you the way the NFL does.  I realize there is an end to every single player's NFL career and there will come a time where we have to join the real world. Most of us will have to find a second career in our mid-twenties or late thirties and adjust to a more simple life.  My hope for the young and sometimes older guys is that we become smarter on how we approach a once in a lifetime opportunity that only about 1.6% of college athletes get. 

The NFL, or 'Fantasy Land,' is where dreams come true and lives are changed for the better or worse. 

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