It is STUDENT-athlete, not student-ATHLETE; the migration toward elite academics over the football factory

KPGFootball has seen articles published delineating an NCAA, Division 1, college football player has a 1.6% chance of being drafted into the NFL. The premier league among the Power 5 conferences, the SEC, had 53 kids drafted last year which was the highest amount in the past 20 years.

Out of approximately 450 draft-eligible players the league had, either as seniors or underclassmen declaring for the draft, the best conference in football (SEC), in a banner year, gave a player a less than 12% chance of being drafted. An even smaller percentage of the players drafted will enjoy as much as “a cup of coffee” in the NFL before ending their playing careers.

Translation, the odds of making the NFL, even if signed by Alabama, are not in your favor. That is why it is referred to as a STUDENT-athlete and not a student-ATHLETE.

Getting an education and insuring yourself opportunities to graduate and live a comfortable life is of prime importance. It would appear some of Kentucky’s finest have discovered this and are doing something to swing the odds in their favor.

Let me give you some examples. Kentucky’s preseason top-rated center, according to an unofficial list of the top 30 linemen preseason across Kentucky originally published to the Bluegrass Rivals site, Ethan Wolford, has already committed to Concord University. Wolford is also a former member of KPGFootball’s, sophomore All-State team, a member of the 2018, AP All-State football team, a NUC All-American, and ranked by the Appalachia Prep Combine as the 2nd best Offensive Lineman coming out of its showcase which drew the best football talent in the entire Appalachia region.

Concord is a Division II, NCAA football program which competes in the same conference as a University of Charleston program which had a draft-eligible senior taken in the 4th round of this immediate past NFL draft. Concord is giving Wolford a full-ride, with every bell and whistle of a Division 1, FBS, power-5 conference football program.

When interviewed by David & Daryl Sports, a colleague and intermittent collaborator with this magazine, Wolford said he had been camping and combining since 7th grade. Wolford told Darell McCoy he committed because he wanted to enjoy being a senior in high school.

Wolford noted Division I schools were still clamoring around and suggesting they were interested and his commitment to Concord has piqued their interest more than quashed it. Initially the D-1’s interest appeared contingent on circumstances he couldn’t control. So, he committed to Concord as a way to take back control of his own playing destiny.

Wolford reports his commitment is “firm to the Mountain Lions.” We are sure Concord is relieved to hear this as the bigger schools don’t appear to be retreating.

Photo: Randy White, News-Express

Kentucky football’s most potent down-field passing tandem in all of high school football, Connor Roberts to Christian Billiter, will be replicating that connection for the Centre College Colonels in 2019. What is noteworthy about this duo signing with the Division III Colonels is the fact both of them were solid Division I football prospects.

Connor Roberts was a finalist for Kentucky’s Mr. Football in 2018. For KPGFootball’s money, Christian Billiter was the best WR/DB combo we saw play in 2018 who, literally, projected able to play on either side of the ball, next level. Our view point should mean something. We watch a lot of high school football and saw Milton Wright, with CAL, play at Somerset for the Regional Championship in 2018. Billiter was every bit as good as Wright in our opinion and, maybe, better.

The combination of Connors to Roberts greatly led Pikeville High School to the Class 1A, State Football Championship game. The Panthers came up a mere point short of champion Beechwood High School.

We know Division III teams don’t give football scholarships, or so we have been consistently told, but we have also heard they “can make it happen for you” if they want you badly enough. Hard to imagine two players being heavily courted by Division I programs electing to pay nearly $60,000 a year to play at Centre College when they were well on their way to playing for free. The big kicker…according to US News and World Report, Centre College is the 46th most highly regarded Liberal Arts College in America.

Darrian Bell with the Danville Admirals has been offered, so far, by Centre College, Kentucky Wesleyan and Wabash College, with Division I, Murray State University, lurking about consistently assuring him he is in their future plans and on their 2020 recruiting board. One thing the Racers might well regard, in addition to Centre’s standing among elite Liberal Arts Colleges, is that another suitor, Wabash College, is the 56th best Liberal Arts College in America according to the same ranking service listing Centre College No. 46.

All three schools which have presently offered Bell are ranked well ahead of where Murray State ranks academically (sorry, facts). If Bell is serious about using his football abilities to obtain a degree which sets him up for life-success, Wabash College’s “sheep-skin” carries considerable clout in the job-market as does Kentucky Wesleyan’s.

William Long, Class of 2021, just got back from camping at Sewanee, a.k.a. The University of the South. Virginia Tech was also there but Long may have been the only camper who didn’t seem to notice the Hokies.

Long is a pretty good football player. He was one of only two sophomores to make the AP’s All-State Football 1st Team. He is a former freshman and sophomore KPGFootball All-State team member. He is a National Undergraduate Combine All-American and made the Super-Regional, though only a rising junior, of the Blue-Grey HS’s All-American game.

Long is listed the 2nd highest regarded offensive center in the top-thirty list of offensive linemen published on Bluegrass Rivals and the 14th overall. Long is also rated, by the Appalachia Prep Combine (preseason) the 8th best defensive lineman.

Long is a two-star rated, two-way lineman, with Red-Zone Elite Prospects and the recruiting site indicates he is likely to get bumped to a three-star when they re-evaluate their Kentucky prospects on into the 2019 season.

Like we said, William Long is somewhat of a football player. However, Long takes his studies even more seriously than his football.

Long, a 3.571 student who hasn’t taken the real ACT yet but has scored a 26 on an ACT practicum administered by the high school he was attending at the time; attended, by invitation, the football prospect camp hosted by the University of the South. Long came away enamored by the beauty, atmosphere, and academic standing of Sewanee.

In addition to gaining invitation to and attending both the Appalachia Prep Combine and the Elite 3 Foundation’s Tennessee Mega-Camp, Long has also attended, again by invitation, prospect camps at both Kentucky Wesleyan and Western Kentucky University. Long has been invited to and plans to attend UTMartin’s July 20 camp and has heard he is “on the board” for all listed schools in addition to the academically elite, Hampton University, located in Virginia.

All of the schools which have Long on their 2021 recruiting boards have one common denominator. They all have excellent academic reputations. This demonstrates Long is truly serious about that aspect of the student-athlete equation.

Long is firmly on the recruiting boards of Division I programs like WKU, Hampton University (VA), and UTMartin, together with both the US Army Academy at West Point and the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Long has made it known his stance on academics with both his words and his actions.

In speaking with William Long, Long told us, when he sits down to decide on a college home, the academic reputation of his future college program will be priority number one. Incidentally, of the schools presently pursuing Long and on the list of best Liberal Arts Colleges published by US News and World Report, West Point comes in at No. 18, the Naval Academy comes in at No. 22, Sewanee is ranked No. 46, and Oberlin College is tied with the Air Force Academy at No. 30.

Back to Ethan Wolford-when he committed to Concord University, and early, with D-1s passing him prospect camp invites like Halloween candy, the Appalachia Prep Combine, which also collaborates with our magazine, asked, in its article, if this might represent somewhat of a trend. Our response would be, we hope so.

We are as big of Power 5 football fans as exist. Every Saturday, when our favorite teams take the field, we are glued in front of the television set. That being said, that brand of football isn’t for everyone and the guarantee of success at that level leading to a productive and fruitful professional life is anything but guaranteed.

We certainly understand the lure of professional football. With the millions it pays, its allure must be quite enticing. However, to some of our best football players across Kentucky, it would appear the allure of using one’s athletic abilities to afford a player elite academic opportunities, “second to none,” has gained quite a bit of sex-appeal in its own right. In fact, the trend of attending one of these schools is getting down right irresistible.

This is Coach HB Lyon, reporting for KPGFootball, and we’re JUST CALLING IT LIKE WE SEE IT!

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