Is your dream to play in the National Football League? Getting to the pros requires talent and a lot of hard work. Top players get contracts worth millions – the average football player salary is $2.1 million a year. If you're on the practice squad, you earn roughly $7,600 per week or about $125,000 a year.
Getting out on the field to compete against another team is the culmination of years of training and experience. Every player must understand the tasks required of his position and how it fits into the coach's game plan. Players must maintain a strict regimen of nutrition and exercise to ensure their physical fitness for play. They routinely review film of practice and games to hone their skills. They compete on their team's home field or travel to play their opponents.
Although it is possible to go straight from high school to the pros, as Adrian Peterson did when drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2002, most NFL players are standouts on their college teams first. Typically, players begin by competing in youth leagues. They gain experience and size while in high school and hope to get the attention of NFL scouts. Players are drafted from institutions of all sizes, but it is an advantage to play for a football powerhouse. Alabama, for example, boasts of 22 first-round draft picks since 2008. Louisiana State University, the school with the next highest number of first-rounders, had 11 of them.
Anyone who's watched NFL players in action knows the game is extremely physical with a high risk for injury. A broken bone or torn ligament can take a player out for several games or even a season. Serious injuries, including multiple concussions, can have lifelong implications.
Not all players leave the game because of injury. Some are cut from a team's 53-man roster because their skills fall short or because players at other positions are deemed more valuable. Players cut from a team may be retained for the practice squad, or they may be traded to another team. Some players don't find another spot in the NFL and are forced to re-evaluate their career plans.
Salary and Job Outlook
Each year, there are about 300 openings for players in the NFL. Only the best players are drafted. Careers can be cut short due to injury or failure to fit into a team's strategy. The average NFL career length is just 2.66 years. A high annual salary does not necessarily align with lifetime earnings by those in other professions.
The average NFL salary is $2.1 million per year. The Detroit Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford made history with a five-year, $135 million contract that made him the highest paid NFL player ever. Surprisingly, five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady is 15th on the list of the NFL's top earners, with a paycheck averaging $20.5 million per year. Most players earn much less, but the love of the game makes the risk worthwhile.