When former San Diego Chargers All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau took his own life last week, one of the biggest concerns raised was how football players transition out of the sport after retirement. After all, when your entire life has been structured since you were a young child, it isn’t always easy knowing how to handle yourself when someone isn’t there to tell you when to eat, when to sleep and where to be at all times.
Well for at least one former college and NFL superstar, he’s making sure his plate will be filled, and his time occupied going forward. That player is Andre Rison, and he’s going to school!
That’s right, the former first round NFL Draft pick and Super Bowl winner has decided to return to his alma mater at Michigan State, where he’ll both coach on Mark Dantonio's staff and finish up the degree he never completed before leaving school in 1988. According to a report MLive.com, Rison is roughly 30 credits short of a communication arts degree, and will start classes this summer and continue them into the fall.
From the newspaper’s report:
"I promised my mother, father and grandparents that I would go back and finish my degree one day," Rison said. "This will also enable me to be part of the coaching staff at Michigan State and I am very thankful to (head coach) Mark Dantonio for giving me the opportunity. I've always been close to the Michigan State program and have wanted to give back by coaching for a long time."
Simply put, this just seems like an all-upside, no-downside decision for everyone involved.
For starters, Michigan State gets the opportunity to bring one of its most prominent alums into the fold, and back to the place where it all began for him. Rison played at the school through the 1988 season, and to this day still is second all-time at Michigan State in receiving yards (2,992) and is third in career receptions with 146. And the crazy thing was, he only got better after going pro, finishing with 743 catches over a 12 year career. Simply put, it’s hard to imagine Michigan State’s receivers not benefitting from the tutelage of a player of Rison’s caliber.
But really, this is about Rison, and the smart decisions he’s making with his post-football career.
Look, no matter how you want to cut, the Seau death once again proved that transitioning out of an NFL career isn’t always easy. Even without factoring in the long-term health effects, there are the short term problems, like what to do with yourself when all-of-a-sudden you’re not eating, breathing and sleeping football. For many, it’s tougher than you might think, and Rison was no exception. He was recently featured in the documentary “Broke” about athletes who quite literally go broke once football ends and the paychecks stop coming in (for those football nerds out there, “Broke” was actually directed by Billy Corben, who also directed “The U” for ESPN).
Regardless, it does seem that slowly but surely, Rison is getting things back in order. After finishing up in the NFL in 2000 (before making a brief comeback in Canada), Rison spent the last two seasons coaching his old high school, Northwestern High School in Flint, MI. Now he’ll return to East Lansing, where he’ll get his degree, after leaving it on the table back in 1988. Rison told MLive.com that at the time, fatigue was the biggest reason for not finishing up.
"I just got a little tired my senior year, that's all," he said. "I had a lot going on, but have always meant to finish my degree at some point."
That point is now, and credit Rison for making it happen.
For all his opinion, insight and articles on college football, follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.