DIII’s Andrew Whitaker takes aim at the NFL

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Andrew Whitaker, a championship-winning track and field star and cornerback at Washington University in St. Louis, has a master’s degree and a plan to go to medical school. But for now, your focus is becoming one of the few Division III athletes to be signed to the NFL. Medical school can wait.

Wash U hasn’t sent a player to the league in half a century. Whitaker allegedly played four games of high school football. As unrealistic as it may seem to the outsider, he is in his NFL dream. He trained with the Bengals last week and is ready to prove himself in a professional roster.

As he crosses his fingers this weekend and hopes for the best from the draft and the undrafted free agency signing period that follows, we take a look at what the odds really are for a player in Whitaker’s situation.

DIII in the project

Division I football is a tough market to get into outside of high school – if you’re not heavily recruited, your best chance is to try out for a DI squad. While there are some standout success stories, you’re more likely not to see much, if any, playing time like a walk-on. Gifted kids end up in lesser-known schools for a chance to see some action on the field.

At any given time, it is a general rule that there are less than a dozen former DIII players active in the league. There are currently five, all attending midwestern colleges in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Two were drafted, both in the past two years, which could be good news for Whitaker. Several of them were also active in track and field during their college years – another parallel for the NFL hopeful. The other three were signed after the draft.

And just two months ago, Super Bowl-winning point guard Ali Marpet announced his retirement from the NFL, seven years after the Buccaneers selected him from Hobart College in the second round, making him the highest-drafted DIII player of all time. . Since 1990, only 22 DIII players have been selected in the draft, although more have had the opportunity to experiment with the team through an undrafted free agency. Often relegated to training squads, there is one reality these dreamers must face: as talented as they are, the competition they faced and the resources they had access to during their college years simply cannot be compared to the Power alumni. 5 who are playing with.

alternate paths

If, like Whitaker, a DIII player is fully committed to making it to the NFL, there are always other leagues to prove themselves against top-notch competition. The reborn XFL and USFL are perhaps the most famous, along with Fan Controlled Football and the Canadian Football League.

The problem is, these shows are dying as quickly as they’re appearing, and there’s no guarantee you’ll have the years or playtime needed to get to the next level. It’s a tough draw, but you can put in the absolute most dedication and effort and still never see an NFL contract. It’s not impossible — transfers have been made before — but it takes an unsecured commitment at the end.

market 2022 DIII

Andrew Rupcich of Culver-Stockton College was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine this year and made a big splash with his Pro Day numbers. Culver-Stockton isn’t even in DIII — it’s an NAIA school, which means it’s not a member of the NCAA.

North Central WR Andrew Kamienski may also be on some teams’ radars – he led the NCAA DIII in receptions and yards in 2019 and, upon graduating, put his name on multiple all-time DIII leaderboards for both categories.

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