Ezekiel Elliott weighed in on the recent spate of college players deciding to sit out bowl games rather than risk injury prior to the NFL Draft.
On Monday, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey announced that he would forego playing in the Sun Bowl against UNC in order to get ready for the NFL Combine and Draft. The news comes on the heels of Leonard Fournette announcing his intent to do the same.
Per usual when the slate of games whittles away and the vacuum becomes filled with hot air, pundits and writers have taken to their respective podiums to opine.
Now we can count Dallas Cowboys rookie running back — who just last year was playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes — among those weighing in. Shortly after McCaffrey dropped his announcement, Zeke chirped players opting to end their time early, rather than going out in the trenches alongside their brethren.
Naturally, Zeke caught flak from a venomous social media sphere that pointed to his early entry as a point of abandoning his band of brothers. It was a point Elliott quickly rebuffed.
After fully collecting all the information — that both McCaffrey and Fournette were dinged up throughout the season — Elliott reversed course slightly.
His point, though, remains: finishing strong is a moment that every player should enjoy.
For those looking for a who’s right/who’s wrong in the black/white world of social media, there is none. Elliott was simply opining on what it means to play alongside a group of teammates for one final time — many of whom won’t ever make it to the professional ranks. A “for love of the game” viewpoint — though a man barely old enough to legally purchase alcohol referring to college juniors as “young guys” is humorous.
McCaffrey and Fournette are, ultimately, looking out for their own best interests. And in the case of Fournette, there’s speculation that LSU coaches have held him out — that given the opportunity he would finish his career in the bowl.
Such is the nature of unpaid amateurism. When millions of dollars and a future are at stake, “for love of the game” doesn’t hold as much water. For every Ezekiel Elliott who played in a meaningless Fiesta Bowl and came out unscathed, there’s a Jaylon Smith on the opposite sideline whose entire career trajectory was altered in a split second.