Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/5/12

The start of the college football season had plenty of fireworks and thrilling plays we have all come to love. Mix that in with the occasional upset victory and stylish new uniforms and you probably had a great college football opening week experience.

However what is to make of those who should have been part of your respective team roster but failed to show? Every off-season leading up to the fall opener it seems key players throw away the opportunity to star on the big stage for their respective programs.

This leaves many wondering how and why does such a thing occur with so much riding on the line.

While much can be said to the tune that NCAA FBS college athletes should be paid, that doesn’t dismiss the fact that it is still a privilege to have this opportunity. These kids become rock stars in their own right and despite amateur status; they are considered elite players and are among a very select few.

The future for many kids playing this fall will be determined by their actions going forward. Far too many times in recent past we have seen young men make foolish decisions that ultimately hinder their playing careers. This year did not have a shortage of young men making taking the same path of former players past.

Former five- star recruit and stand-out corner-back Greg Reid was dismissed from the Florida State football team this summer. He was kicked off the team following his third violation of team rules stemming from a traffic stop near his Georgia home. Reid was primed for another breakout year as a senior as a leader on the Seminoles top ranked defense.

Days later Tyrann Mathieu another former blue chip recruit and All-American defensive back was dismissed from the LSU football team for violation of team rules. Mathieu was arguably the most popular player in college football while finishing fifth in the Heisman voting. Nicknamed the “Honey Badger”, Mathieu was set to lead his No. 1 ranked tiger team defense this year in hopes of earning another BCS championship bid.

Isaiah Crowell was also a heralded player who to was expected to have a huge year in terms of production for the Georgia Bulldogs football team.  Crowell instead was kicked off the team for repeated violation of team rules this past summer.

While they are many more examples to pick from these were all within 60 days of one another and just were staggering blows to their respective fan bases. The common denominator here is that these young men were extremely gifted athletically but lacked the discipline to harness the fortunes that came along the way.

The general consensus is that these kids have character issues but rarely do 18 to 20 year old kids endure fame at such an early age.

College football has become such a polarizing sport that it forces these kids to take on a larger than life spotlight in society.

The mistakes made by the average college student usually are learning experiences corrected over time and are apart of your learning curve as you maturate. The difference is that in a metaphoric sense no one was looking or monitoring your every move. Being a standout athlete obviously implies that you lose that right in substitution for life on public display.

While I am not condoning poor decision making; however, I do suggest that we need to do more to help these young men in their choices.

We love to love them when they are making plays and bringing success to our school or home town. We rejoiced when Crowell ran hard between the tackles as a freshman phenom.

The electricity in Doak Campbell stadium when Reid had the ball in his hands had not been seen at Florida State since Peter Warrick last graced the field.

Over the last two seasons college football fans all over learned simply “honey badger don’t care” as Mathieu did just that and took what he wanted. He changed games almost every week making him one of the most dynamic defensive backs since Charles Woodson over a decade ago.

We worship their moves and live out our dreams of being subjects of popularity vicariously through these players. Yet we tend to forget at days end they are simply student athletes, classmates, family, and more importantly just humans subject to error.

Through all things washed away comes the clearance for new beginnings and promise. The stories of these young men have yet to be determined.

They have since all re-enrolled in school and begun a new life journey. We all hope that these players have learned the error of their ways and realize that finishing strong is just as important as starting strong.

Hopefully the next article involving these players will reflect a success story in not only football but life triumph and progression.



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