The death of former NFL star Junior Seau last month has put a renewed focus on what happens to football players after their careers are over. Former Iowa receiver Tim Dwight played with Seau in San Diego, and says that Seau was trying to deal with multiple problems that are common among former players.
“It was a combination I think with him…it was just a lot of damage, a lot of like sleep problems that he had and he was taking a lot of medication. And when you start mixing a lot of these other types of medications and alcohol, depression and dementia, it can create some serious problems,” Dwight says.
According to Dwight, a recent survey discovered that four out of five NFL players have spent all of their earnings within two years of leaving the league. He says that everyone involved with the sport needs to step up their efforts to help players be successful off the field.
“The league needs to do a better job, the NFL PA needs to do a better job, and us players we need to do a better job on post career choices, and actually getting these younger players to get engaged in the offseason to say hey, you’ve only got 3 and-a-half-years by statistics, when that 3-and-a-half years is over, what are you going to do?,” Dwight says. He says they have to understand that when you get out of football, you can be making $40,000 a year, where you were making $40,000 a day, and it’s a huge change in lifestyle.
While players do receive a pension to help them financially after their playing days are over, Dwight says it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “I don’t get my pension until I’m 55 or 65, and if I take it at 55, I get a lesser pension amount…I played 10 years, I retired at 33-years-old. If I’m taking my pension at a lesser amount at 55, I’ve got 22 more years until I get to my pension,” he says. He says you get a severance payment when you are done, and then you have to wait for the pension.
Dwight says the NFL should extend some of its educational program for players into the offseason, when they can give such issues more attention. “There needs to be a lot of education, you come out of college, you’re a 22-year-old kid and next thing you know you have $455,000 in your pocket, and that’s just the minimum. Let alone these kids who’re making in the millions of dollars and they have no idea what it takes to make that money because it shows up right away,” Dwight explains. He says there is a lot of time to educate players about what they can do after their playing days are over.
Dwight has become an advocate for solar energy in his post-football career.
By Jesse Gavin, KCNZ, Cedar Falls