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“It’s mathematically proven that more college graduates make it (in the NFL) and more college graduates are the most likely to get the second contract,” he said.

What confounds Polian is why players tend to ignore evaluations of the NFL’s draft advisory board, which he helped create in the mid-1990s. While Polian acknowledges it’s wise for those with first-round grades to leave school, and a tougher call for those getting second or third-round grades, he believes everyone with a grade lower than the third round should go back to school.

Wilson acknowledged that he’s found the board to be remarkably accurate.

But it’s not just agents or family members pushing players to leave early. Players honestly believe they can defy the odds.

“You don’t come out until you know you’re ready mentally and physically,” former Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby said. “Maybe the contracts, yes, you’re not getting as much money in the first rounds and in the early rounds like you were, so that’s an incentive to go ahead and get out there.”

They’re more fearful of injuries while still in school, too.

The NCAA offers catastrophic insurance for NFL prospects and does allow athletes and players’ families to purchase “loss of value” insurance if a player, such as former South Carolina running back Marcus Latimore, sustains a significant injury that drops him down several rounds. An NCAA spokeswoman said families can use loans to pay for the coverage as long as they don’t borrow against a player’s future earnings. Conferences also can help by using money from the student assistance fund to help pay for the premiums.

Polian thinks the NCAA needs to do more.

“The NCAA doesn’t provide anywhere near the appropriate type of insurance to come back to school that they ought to,” he said. “Look, if you care about kids going to class and graduating, they can get this done and they should.”

The reality, though, is that more underclassmen think they’re ready to make the jump for a variety of reasons, including money.

“I have two younger siblings, and it would be a blessing if I could help my mom put them through college,” Robinson said. “That would just be something in my heart that I would love to do. As far as my older brothers and sisters, I’m going to help them as much as I can because they have kids.”


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