For guys like Chad Bumphis and Corey Broomfield, gone are the carefree days of being a freshman with what seems like an eternity, and certainly no rush, to figure their lives out.
Now, the two, as well as plenty of other seniors and even a few juniors are thinking of the future. Though none are finished with school just yet, they’re well on their way and, just like anyone else graduating college, they’ve got to find a job.
Of course, most jobs don’t involve running 40-yard dashes in the hot sun or pushing around sweaty, 300-pound men.
Such is life as a football, player though.
Bumphis has had a career at school that would make any parent happy. Nothing to do with touchdowns or kick returns, but the fact he actually finished school in four years. I’m a proponent of the fifth-year victory lap, though I’m not sure my parents were as keen on the idea as I.
Next up for Bump?
“Training and doing my internship with Joe,” he said. “That’s all I’m missing is my internship is to graduate.”
“Joe,” of course, being the sports information director at Mississippi State, falling right in line with Bumphis’ sports management major.
He’ll be media relating with the best of them.
Of course, while he’s not interning, Bumphis will spend the majority of his time training for the NFL with strength coach Matt Balis, hoping to catch the eyes of scouts and follow his dream of playing professional football.
“A lot of the scouts say there’s no reason to go off and train when you’ve got Coach Balis here, who does just as good a job as anyone else,” Bumphis said.
Not all are staying in Starkville, however. Broomfield said he’s trying to find somewhere warm, likely his native Florida, to train as he gives the NFL a shot.
“I ain’t given up on football just yet,” Broomfield said with his usual smile. “If not [playing], I’ll probably be coaching on the sidelines somewhere.”
If his interviews are any indication, Broomfield has all the smarts needed to be a coach.
Funnily enough, Broomfield will actually be an alum when he plays in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day, as the four-year starter graduates December 15th in The Hump.
He’s already got the cap and gown ordered.
His fellow defensive back, Darius Slay, has plans more similar to Bumphis.
All he lacks is an online class in the spring, so he’ll be spending plenty of time with Balis and the gang preparing himself for the NFL.
“I’m just gonna train for the combine and get healthier,” Slay said, “get ready to make the big step.”
Plenty of others, like Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks, defensive tackle Josh Boyd and linebacker Cam Lawrence will preparing themselves for football futures over the course of the spring, hoping to hear their names called in April.
Beyond those seniors, however, there are some juniors who, like Banks last year, are not totally sure what their futures will be.
The All-American cornerback opted to remain in school for his senior year, while junior defensive tackle Fletcher Cox decided to forgo his final year and enter the NFL Draft, where he became a top-15 pick.
Mullen says the success both had helps the current crop of juniors trust their coaches as they make the decision.
The process for those who are curious involves sending in paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Board, a committee which gives draft-eligible non-seniors feedback for how the scouts and coaches in the NFL view them, what they’re good at, what they need to work on and where they would likely be drafted if they entered the draft this year.
Many juniors and even redshirt sophomores across the country who have hopes of playing in the NFL one day but no intentions of leaving school early will apply simply to get that constructive feedback and figure out what they can do in their final year to make themselves attractive to NFL teams.
“I talk to the guys,” Mullen said. “I asked who wants to research it. A couple of them raised their hands. We’re gonna fill out some paperwork to the NFL Advisory Board. We wait, we get the paperwork back and we sit down with players and their families and try to give them the best advice possible … Our guys trust us and know that we’re gonna help them to be as successful as possible.”
Some, like junior offensive guard Gabe Jackson, have serious decisions to make, and he is the most realistic candidate to leave early.
Others, like junior running back LaDarius Perkins, just want to better themselves in their final season and see this as a good opportunity to do so.
“I do want to come back my senior year and just get better at all the little things I need to,” Perkins said.
Perhaps others, like junior safety Nickoe Whitley, aren’t sure one way or the other.
The good news for MSU is, whether seniors or juniors, it will once again send a crop of players to the NFL, as well as many more who will enter the professional world off the field and use the degree they earned by playing football for their years in Starkville.