I just finished reading an interview with one of those hotshot All-American high school football players who was recently signed by a big-name football factory. The interviewer was a sports writer at the local newspaper and his questions were basic fawning jock talk, mostly dealing with recruiting, playing ball, relating to coaches; nothing with any depth, nothing to challenge, nothing revealing.
I was so frustrated after reading the piece that I shot its author the following note:
Dear Mr. Ward:
These Q&A interviews with young athletes seem to me to play to the lowest common denominator. You have a rare opportunity to ask these kids questions that might be meaningful to them (things they haven't considered) and to those who follow. How about:
1. Have you considered how you will study and participate in football at the same time?
2. What kind of academic counseling have you had as you prepare for your workload?
3. Have you spent any time with teachers at your new college (and we're not counting coaches) and have you talked to students who are not part of the athletic program?
4. What do you think of living apart from the student body in athletic dorms? Would there be any advantages in living in the student body? What would be the disadvantages?
5. Do athletes at a school the size of your college, where football is of utmost importance, get a distorted view of their own value? Explain.
6. What will you do to be grounded, to resist the temptation to believe that you are entitled, to believe that you can do anything you want with impunity? (This question is important because so many football players at big schools get into trouble with the law.)
7. Will you avoid drugs and underage alcohol consumption? Have you done anything to assure that you will avoid those temptations?
8. What kinds of people will you want to spend your time with once you get on campus? What will you do in your spare time, or do you think you will have any of that?
9. Have you thought about permanent injury and is it a concern?
10. If you become a top-rank football player, one with professional potential, do you plan to get financial coaching, since more than 60 percent of all professional athletes (football, baseball, basketball) are broke within five years of the end of their careers?
11. Have you thought about how homesick you will be six weeks after you arrive in [the college town]?
12. Have you planned a budget for your limited money and your limited time?
These would be a good interview for a youngster getting ready to take the step into college football. Far, far more interesting than those cliche football questions. You might try some and see what the kid comes up with. He might thank you for asking them.