Analysts, athletes weigh in on college-pro debate

Updated: August 15, 2006, 2:07 PM ET
ESPN.com

"I've been fortunate enough to play for one of the greatest universities in America [Notre Dame] and run onto the field with thousands of people cheering as I got ready to play USC. I've also been lucky enough to play for the Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship game against our most hated rivals [Dallas Cowboys] and experienced that amazing feeling.
"The only reason college gets the slightest of edges from me is because it's most players' first times dealing with thousands of adoring fans. It's the first time a player can be far away from home or campus and have someone walk up and shake their hand because they play football. That's an amazing experience when you're an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kid and one that you'll never forget."
-- ESPN NFL analyst Joe Theismann

Rakers
Rakers
"I'd have to say I enjoy pro football more. My reason is that the talent is so well-dispersed in the NFL game that you don't have any blowout games that you'd turn off after the first quarter like you do in some college games. NFL games are often decided by 7 points or less, so I'll have to go with pro games, unless Illinois is playing, of course."
-- Cardinals K Neil Rackers

"That's tough to say. I love watching college football because I'm a USC fan. I don't really have a favorite NFL team, but I'm a huge fantasy football fan. It's football all offseason at my house -- every Saturday and Sunday and Monday night. I just like the way the college kids go out there and play hard. They give it all they can every down and it's really team-oriented. Those kids give themselves up for each other, and the fans go nuts. The atmosphere at college football games is just nuts.''
-- Pirates 3B Freddy Sanchez

Spielman
Spielman
"Well, I can't make a determination as to which was better because it was a great experience for me on both levels. The great thing about college is you're playing for school and your buddies. In the pros you're playing against the best of the best. … I got to play for my childhood dream team when I played for Ohio State and those games against Michigan will always be the most memorable of my career including the pros. The great thing is every game means so much. As far as playing a rival and all that there is no comparison."
-- ESPN college football analyst Chris Spielman

"I like college a little better because there are more games! I'm actually a huge football fan. It's my favorite pastime outside of racing. It falls at the best time for me because I'm not racing when the season is underway."
-- Indy Car driver Sam Hornish Jr.

"I used to always say I was a big college football fan, but now I don't really watch much, unless my team's playing. Now, I keep up with pro football more, whether I have former teammates playing or to watch an opponent for the next week's game. I watch more professional football."
-- Bengals K Shayne Graham

"I think this discussion comes down to which did you like better … your job or college. I think we all know which one we'd pick, and that's college. Sure, the NFL is great and is the culmination of a dream as one of my colleagues stated, but college is much more fun on so many different levels. You're close to attaining your goal of playing in the pros, but you get to enjoy all the fun times that go with being so close. It's a blast and I enjoyed every second of it."
-- ESPN NFL analyst Sean Salisbury

De Rosario
De Rosario
"I like college football, because you get to see the rising stars. They have something to prove. Every day they go out there, and every game means a lot to them. I like the high pace they play at."
-- MLS star Dwayne De Rosario

"I like football, but I prefer college. They're more out there playing for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the one on the back."
-- Busch Series driver Brad Coleman

"The NFL gets the edge from me because it's the opportunity to play against the best players in the world. Playing in the NFL is the culmination of a dream, while playing in college is a step toward your dream and a better life. I'm not saying that college wasn't great and that I don't cherish those memories, but the NFL has the advantage because when you're tossing the ball to yourself in your backyard as a kid and catching it in the 'end zone,' it's to win the Super Bowl … not to win the National Championship."
-- ESPN NFL columnist Eric Allen

Castroneves
Castroneves
"I don't know a lot about American football but I do enjoy watching the NFL. I like the Dolphins, and being in Indy the Colts are one of my favorites, too."
-- Indy Car driver Helio Castroneves

"I watch so much NFL every day that I prefer to watch college. More mistakes, big plays, big hits, etc. A lot of them aren't as disciplined so it's kind of fun to watch. NFL players are so disciplined and always know exactly where to be. In college, players are flying around all over the place and anything can happen. It can lead to all kinds of things. For me, it's just more exciting to watch a great college matchup. Sometimes I feel like I just can't watch another NFL game."
-- Falcons LB Ed Hartwell

"Every football player's goal in life should be to play on the biggest stage with the best athletes in the world. The NFL has no D-III powderpuff teams on the schedule that are going to lay down and take a beating. The players in the NFL are the best of the best. There aren't any guys on the team just because they are related to someone or because of their attitude. The guys on every team are there because they deserve to be on the field on Sunday. The most definitive reason, though, as to why the NFL is better can be summed up in two words: Super Bowl. The NFL has a way to definitively answer who is the best team in the league, while college doesn't."
-- ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge

"I like both. I'm more of a pro football fan. I go to the Raider games whenever I can. But college football has a great atmosphere. As a kid, I went to a lot of college games and enjoyed it. But if I had to pick one, I would pick pro football."
-- ESPN MLB analyst Joe Morgan

Forrest
Forrest
"I like both of them. I'm just a big sports fan. I love all sports of every level. But the more exciting games are the college games by far. I root for all the Georgia teams, all the Florida teams and all the Michigan teams, because I went to school there. But I have to go with the Georgia teams, because that's where I'm from. But I respect what the Florida teams -- Florida State, Florida, Miami -- and what they do. They're always in the top 25, top 10 and some of the best teams in the country."
-- Boxer Vernon Forrest