According to the NCAA, there are 73,660 participants in NCAA football. Of those, only 16,369 players of them are eligible to be drafted and about 1.5 percent are drafted to the NFL.
Keenan Smith and Jared Mosley are just two of the many football players who had their hearts set on playing in the NFL. Spartan Newsroom talked with them about dreams — and the realities they faced.
Keenan Smith, a former wide receiver for Cass Technical High School and Saginaw Valley State University, played football for more than 10 years. Smith graduated from Saginaw Valley in May 2016 and works at United Shore as an underwriter.
Spartan Newsroom: What inspired you to play football?
Keenan Smith: My family was always into football, so I guess it grew on me over time.
SN: Growing up did you play on any little league teams? If so, which ones and how did they shape you into being ready for your high school team?
KS: I played a ton of basketball growing up. That was my first love, but I always played soccer even before basketball. I believe both translated to the football field in different ways.
SN: Did you make your high school team after the first round of tryouts?
KS: I kind of got recruited to play at Cass, so I already knew coming in. But I was excited.
SN: What was it like playing in high school? What was your ranking on the team and your team’s ranking in the city? How did your ranking and your team’s ranking make you feel?
KS: Man, my high school team was one of the best teams I ever played on, let alone one of the best in Detroit Public Schools’ history. We were No. 1 in the city. It felt great.
SN: What affect did the coaching staff along with the opinion of your parents have on you and how you played?
KS: I would say both affected me in a positive way. I took criticism but never let it affect my play in a negative way.
SN: What colleges were you interested in attending? Did football play a role in what school you chose?
KS: I was interested in Howard University, Michigan State and Western Michigan. Yes, I wanted football to determine my school. I had the grades to go just about anywhere, but a lot of the recruiting coaches my year were fired.
SN: Do you believe the accomplishments of you and your team in high school got you to the team you played on in college?
KS: Somewhat, we basically paved the way to what the school’s football team is today. So now the young ones coming in are already set up for scholarships just because the name of our school. It is just on them to show their talent.
SN: While in college did you still have dreams of going pro or did your focus change to your academics?
KS: I had dreams of going pro for a few years, then my dreams changed for the real world because coaches took the love for the game away in a sense.
SN: Do you believe what you are doing now ties into football?
KS: Football taught me commitment and that lesson translated into all aspects of life, including my current job.
SN: Would you encourage someone to try to go pro even though you did not?
KS: I actually see a lot of people go pro and I love it, because coming from Detroit it’s a struggle for anything and I’m happy for everyone who makes it.
SN: What advice do you have for someone who is still trying to become a pro athlete? What advice do you have for someone who now realizes that they won’t/can’t go pro?
KS: I would tell someone to keep grinding and do not to listen to the critics. Believe in yourself or no one else will. Try to link up with people to work out and earn/gain connections. You never know who someone may know. To someone who realizes they won’t play professionally, I would remind them that it’s not the end of the road and you’re not the first person to not make it. Find things you’re good at. Any sport brings out character. You always can give back to the sport you played even if it’s coaching or playing in leagues.
Jared Mosley, formerly a defensive end for St. Mary’s Preparatory High School, played football for 13 years. Mosley is a junior studying journalism and media information at Michigan State University.
Spartan Newsroom: What inspired you to play football?
Jared Mosley: I craved the contact and aggression that the game provided because it just looked fun.
SN: What did you love most about playing in high school?
JM: In high school, you could focus on just playing the game and having fun. We were ranked No. 1 in the state and it was cool because we lived up to it and won state finals in the 2014-2015 season.
SN: What colleges were you interested in attending? Did the sport you played play a role in what school you chose? Why or why not?
JM: I was interested in attending LSU, but football did play a role in where I went and I ended up attending Lexus A&M Kingsville.
SN: Did you have dreams of playing professionally?
JM: I used to want to go pro, but that dream changed when I realized how much better I was at other things.
SN: What other things were/are you better at?
JM: I’m better at putting my energy into radio broadcasting, school and modeling. My current focus is on hosting and being a broadcaster and gaining experience in the entertainment field.
SN: Why you are no longer playing football?
JM: I stopped playing because I transferred to MSU and have been busy putting my energy into other things and not looking back at football.
SN: Do you wish you continued to play football?
JM: I don’t really know, it would be fun to get back on the field. I can definitely still keep up. I’m just moving onto my goal of going into entertainment.
SN: How often do you see people end up playing professionally or not end up playing professionally? How does that make you feel? Would you encourage someone to try to go pro even though that is no longer or was never your dream?
JM: It seems like everywhere I turn someone I know is going pro. I would definitely encourage someone I know to go pro, it’s a great opportunity and if it’s for them, then why not?
SN: What advice would you give someone who still wants to play professionally and is in high school? What advice would you give someone who no longer wants to or cannot go pro that had the desire to?
JM: To someone in high school I would say, keep lifting in the weight room and stay flexible. Flexibility prevents injuries. As opposed to someone else who does not want to or cannot go pro, I would say find something to pursue and out 100 percent effort into that.