Joanne Norell | July 11, 2019
It nearly always starts with a promise.
Sometimes it’s a personal one, a pact made within themselves.
Other times, it’s a vow made to Mom, or Dad, or an uncle. A commitment to their communities back home, or a bargain with a coach.
However it starts, though, it nearly always gets finished.
A football scholarship at the University of Notre Dame comes with two promises: the opportunity to compete for a national championship and a world-class college education. Those who accept the challenge tend to be a unique breed, not afraid of the pursuit of excellence both on the field and in the classroom.
It’s all part and parcel of the “4 for 40” philosophy: “Give four years to this team, and we’ll be there for you for the next 40 years of your career.”
Most make use of their four-year investment consecutively, but for those with the talent, a career in the NFL — the goal of many a collegiate player — may interrupt the timeline.
That was the case for Troy Niklas, Jaylon Smith and Josh Adams, former Irish players who departed for the professional ranks following their junior seasons.
That doesn’t mean that second goal — a college diploma — is abandoned forever. The trio of Niklas, Smith and Adams are proof of that, having each returned to Notre Dame to continue working toward their degrees this spring.
According to the NFL Players Association, about 50 percent of NFL players have their college degrees. Last season, Notre Dame boasted 35 former players on NFL rosters, 27 of whom (or 77 percent) had their degrees in hand. With Niklas, Smith and Adams back on campus this spring, 87.5 percent of former Irish who played in the NFL in 2018-19 either have or are working toward their degrees.
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