Maurice Jones Drew Goes Back to School While in Rehab
In an undergraduate history course at UCLA, Maurice Jones-Drew is getting out a pencil and a notebook. Jones-Drew, the Jaguars star running back has gone back to college to finish a degree he promised his grandmother years ago, before he took up pro football full-time.
Jones-Drew left school in 2005, after his junior year at UCLA. In eight years since with the Jaguars, he ran for 7,268 yards, 63 touchdowns on 1,570 rushes. In December of 2012, he underwent surgery to repair a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot, according to NFL’s Jim Trotter. Now that he’s back in a school setting while rehabbing the injury with the help of the Bruins medical team, the campus experience seemed completely different to him.
“So much has changed,” Jones-Drew said. “When I first came back everyone was taking notes on laptops and iPads. They’re like, ‘I can type faster than I can write.’ What? I was the only one in my class to pull out a pencil and notebook. I mean, I’m about to turn 28, but I felt like a dinosaur. I was so behind the times, and everybody was so young. They just looked young.”
The return to UCLA wasn’t easy for Jones-Drew. He reportedly considered withdrawing at first, because it had been so long since he had to do so much written work and staying on top of his readings at the same time.
“I almost just stopped coming,” Jones-Drew said. “It was too hard. I thought they were going to ease me back in, but they didn’t. It was crazy. But it would have been too easy to say ‘to hell with this’ and go on about your day. I’m glad I stuck it out. You’re never too old to learn, and that’s been one of the great things: I’m about to turn 28 and I’m learning things that I didn’t know. I’ve also met some good people, so it’s been a really positive experience.”
Facing adversity in the classroom is new for Jones-Drew, who’s used to running down linebackers and getting away from defensive linemen. But he has dreams beyond playing in the NFL. Even if he’s made top dollars, he knows that players grow out of the game because their bodies can only take so many hits, so many snaps, and sustain so much maintenance from injuries. Eventually, he will have to look elsewhere for work.
The NFL can provide these kinds of opportunities for players. According to NFL Players Association execution director DeMaurice Smith, who discussed the need for players to think about their lives after retirement, 70 percent of the funds for league-sponsored back-to-school program were not used. But as players can make upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars per game, and perhaps more with added incentives, the relatively meager sums of several thousands for college tuition may be easily overlooked. But as tuition rises each year, and with contracts for seasoned veterans dwindling in size, more players like Jones-Drew may take up the league offer to pay for their college tuition.
A college diploma–and skills learned in the process–lasts a lifetime. An NFL contract doesn’t come close in relative longevity.