“There are over 400,000 NCAA student athletes,” says the NCAA in its marketing campaign, “and just about all of them will be going pro in something other than sports.” In other words, nearly all college athletes will be professionals in one field or another—just not on the playing field.
Boston College athletes—always including a robust cohort from the Carroll School—are no exception. They go on to many interesting lines of work. At the same time, a notable number do find their way to places with acronyms like the “NFL,” the “NHL,” and the women’s “NWHL.”
This past summer, two dozen former BC Eagles suited up for the NFL preseason, and all but a handful of them found spots on the active rosters. Those players didn’t merely show up on the Heights looking for a stepping stone to the pros. They came to get an education rather than just impress NFL scouts. But they tended to leave the Heights with an NFL contract in one hand and a BC diploma in the other.
Of the 24 Eagles who reported to NFL training camp in July, 23 have college degrees. The only outlier? Steven Daniels, one of the stars of last season’s stellar defense, who entered the NFL draft just this year after playing three seasons at BC. With three years of school under his belt, Daniels will have the opportunity to complete his college degree in the NFL off-season.
At a time when college athletics is moving toward an almost semi-pro model, with athletes increasingly receiving some form of compensation beyond scholarships, those graduation numbers are borderline astonishing.
And it’s not just about the NFL. All of the major American sports (football, baseball, hockey, basketball, and soccer) have Eagles on the payroll. These include the women of basketball’s WNBA and hockey’s CWHL (“C” standing for Canadian) and the U.S-based NWHL.
According to Boston College Director of Athletics Brad Bates, BC puts the overwhelming focus on academics for its athletes. “We don't believe in part-time excellence or excelling in only one aspect of life, but rather that excellence is a lifestyle transcending everything we engage,” he said, noting how this attitude aligns with Boston College’s Jesuit ideals including a desire to nurture “the whole person.”
The path to success on and off the playing field starts with identifying potential recruits that have those same ideals. “Student-athletes who choose BC have a genuine interest in earning an extraordinary degree that will serve them long after graduation and their playing days,” says Bates. He added that the high retention and graduation rates begin with coaches who evaluate whether the prospects will “fit BC's values and culture.”
Six of the current NFL athletes who played for Boston College hail from the Carroll School of Management—all six, of course, with stately “Collegium Bostoniense” scrolls framed on their walls. One of those players in particular, linebacker Luke Kuechly, has come to illustrate what it means to be both an athlete and a Carroll School graduate.
This season, Kuechly, along with former Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan, will have his jersey retired at Alumni Stadium. Kuechly was one of the best players to ever come through the Heights, stamping his name next to some pretty impressive school and conference records. But they didn’t call him “Boy Wonder” just because he made a lot of tackles.
In 2011, Kuechly, like Steven Daniels last year, entered the NFL draft after just three seasons at Boston College. He quickly established himself as a defensive force in the pros, earning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2012 and AP Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2013. But there was more for Kuechly to accomplish.
Kuechly continued to take classes in the off-season, finally earning his marketing degree from the Carroll School in 2015. And it wasn’t a token honor—he’s already gaining experience for his post-football career.
In a recent article in Business Insider, Kuechly revealed that he had signed on with a sports nutrition startup called “Eat the Bear.” But this isn’t your standard athlete endorsement deal. Kuechly is also an equity investor and now occupies a seat on the board of directors for the company.
With the average length of an NFL career just 3.3 years, Kuechly knows he’ll need to prepare himself for life after football. “You think about your NFL career as a finite thing....Football is there and then the business world is something else that I've thought about, and the opportunity with Eat the Bear to get some experience is important,” he told Business Insider.
“It’s a point of pride for Carroll School alums to see one of our own famously gracing both the boardroom and the weight room,” says Andy Boynton ’78, the John and Linda Powers Family Dean of the Carroll School. “But we’re equally excited about all of our student-athletes who perform so well—wherever their passions and talents may take them.”
Altogether, there are currently a dozen Carroll School graduates in professional sports. Here’s a look at each one of them—their BC careers, and where they are now.