Commentary

Making tight ends meet

Updated: April 20, 2011, 12:28 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Schaefering, Hall & MoffittIcon SMIWhile the NFL straightens out its labor situation, the Browns' Brian Schaefering, left, the Eagles' Chad Hall and Wisconsin's John Moffitt, right, are looking into side jobs.

You might be thinking: I'm on the owners' side in this lockout mess because NFL players are all spoiled, hat-backward millionaires who will no more miss a year's salary than they'll miss their eighth Lexus.

OK, but maybe you should meet …

Brian Schaefering, Cleveland Browns defensive lineman.

He has a wife, three kids -- all 8 and under -- and a rented house. He doesn't have a shoe deal or a Lloyd's of London policy or a super agent willing to float him till this is over.

Yeah, he's got a safety net -- himself.

"I'll do anything," says Schaefering, 27. "If I have to work for UPS, I will. I got a family to feed. I've paved roads, fixed roofs, done landscaping. I'm not better'n anybody else. I don't want any handouts. I'd be happy with $12 an hour if I could get it."

You hear anything about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanting to run a road paver lately?

"The problem is," Schaefering says, "who wants to hire a guy who may have to pack up and leave [for the NFL] a month or two into it?"

So Schaefering and his wife are cutting back. They slashed their cable and cell phone bills and chopped their weekly date nights considerably. They used to get a babysitter, then catch dinner and a movie. "Now, it's put the kids to bed and slap in a DVD."

You might be thinking: What the hell has he done with his money he has made so far in the NFL?

Well, he went undrafted in 2008, barely made the practice squad in '09 and finally started nine games for the Browns last season, making $395,000. He says he netted just over $200,000 after taxes. And he had plenty of bills to pay going into last year.

"I hear people joking around about this thing, but it's no joke," he says. "If this goes into the season, my wife might start panicking a little."

You might be thinking: What about these $60,000 checks that went out this week to the players from the NFLPA's lockout war chest? That should pay for a few babysitters, right?

True, but maybe you should meet …

… former Air Force star Chad Hall, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver.

Hall, 24, isn't getting any $60,000. Since transforming himself from an F-16 mechanic into a modern-day "Invincible" with the Eagles, 5-foot-8 Hall hasn't exactly hit the Lotto. He was on the team for only 11 games, so he got the minimum salary, prorated. The most he'll get from the lockout fund is "about $10,000," he says.

Now, he's training friends' kids for whatever they want to pay him -- "I don't really charge a set fee" -- and trying to open a wings restaurant in Atlanta with his sister's boyfriend, Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford.

You think Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen will be asking "BBQ or teriyaki?" anytime soon?

"If we don't have a season, I'll be waiting tables and bartending there," he says. "Plus, my uncle says he has a plumbing job for me. Pays $15 an hour, so that's not bad."

You think Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen will be asking "BBQ or teriyaki?" anytime soon?

You might be thinking: I'm supposed to feel sorry for these guys? At least they had a year of making $400,000. Try making $40,000!"

I guess so, but maybe you should meet …

… University of Wisconsin All-American lineman John Moffitt.

Moffitt is a projected early- to middle-round draft choice, a can't-miss NFL starter who "will make plenty of Pro Bowls once he's signed," says his agent, Mike George.

The problem is, what if he never gets signed?

"I saw some Girl Scouts selling cookies the other day," Moffitt says. "Maybe I could try that?"

Moffitt's got no job and no endorsement deals -- "Nobody wants to see my face on anything," he says -- and "my parents stopped sending my allowance." So George is paying for training and living expenses until something breaks.

After that?

"Well, my dad paints houses in Guilford, Conn.," he says. "I think he'd maybe take me on doing that. But it's kind of hard right now. I hope it doesn't come to that."

You hear anything about any NFL owners hitting up their dads lately?

Plus, staying in top physical shape is a full-time job. "It's not like they can do that and work at Macy's at the same time," George says.

They might have to. Eagles lineman Winston Justice has opened a coffee shop. Teammate Owen Schmitt might student teach. Browns backup WR Rod Windsor is playing for the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League, where some players are making as little as $400 per game. That barely covers the Advil.

And then there's this: ThePostGame.com recently reported that an estimated 180 NFL players might have signed for "lockout loans," at rates that can climb over 30 percent upon default, to make ends meet.

Not just dumb, desperate.

You might be thinking: So throw these guys a freaking telethon! I don't care. Tell them to stop bitching. The rest of us have real jobs!

I guess. But remember, the players aren't the ones bitching. Among the four big pro sports in this country, these guys picked the one that pays the least money, lasts the fewest years and wrecks the most bodies. They're fine with that.

It's the owners who have taken the football and gone home. It's the owners who want a billion dollars back from the deal they have now. It's the owners who want two more games from the players for nothing. And not a single owner is contemplating roofing at $12 an hour.

So, if you're still thinking you're on the owners' side in this?

Then you're not thinking at all.


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Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.


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