It’s mid-June, a time when a rookie taken in the later rounds of April’s draft is usually working out at a mini-camp, trying to prove that he’s worth a spot on the 53-man roster.
But despite the optimism percolating over the last few days regarding the NFL’s labor impasse, the lockout still has gone anywhere, leaving fringe players like Dolphins sixth-round pick Charles Clay waiting for the financial security of their signing bonuses.
Without football and a football-sized paycheck, Clay–a fullback/tight end out of Tulsa–has become just like every other college kid fresh out of school: broke. So what should a 6’4″, 234 pound aspiring NFL player do with the practice field of his future team locked, and his cash flow running dry?
Cut lawns, of course.
Clay has agents and trainers to pay, so sitting idle isn’t an option. In a move that speaks volumes about his character, he’s been cutting lawns and doing odd jobs in Tulsa.
From the Florida Sun-Sentinel:
“It’s tough, but at the same time you’ve got to get by somehow,” Clay told the paper. “I’m pretty sure there are other guys doing the same thing. Nobody is getting any kind of income. You have to get money some kind of way.”
Clay also said the euphoria of draft day wore off pretty quickly once reality set in.
“You get your name called and it’s kind of like it’s a one day deal,” Clay said. “I’m just ready for this whole situation to be settled so I can get back to playing football. Once it’s settled I’ll be on the next flight out. I’ll be headed to Miami ASAP.”
Like many teams, the Dolphins have had player-organized workouts. Clay would clearly like to be included in those workouts, but since he’s currently in Tulsa and the Dolphins are practicing down in South Beach, travel is another area where funds have been restrictive.
“At one point I actually thought about going down there, but when you go down there and you have no source of income I’d just be down there,” he said. “You also take the risk of being injured.”
Being broke in the early days of adulthood is an experience most of us have lived through. But going through that experience with the knowledge that you’ll be getting a large sum of money at an undetermined future date must be both relieving, and incredibly frustrating.
Clay was drafted 174th overall, and last spring the player drafted in that exact spot eventually received a four-year contract worth $1.9 million, with an immediate signing bonus of $118,000. Late round picks like Clay are typically signed in May and June, with the draft signing period reaching its crescendo once the top picks are given the big money, sometimes after a training camp holdout that extends into August.
Lawn duty obviously doesn’t pay nearly as well as the money he’ll be making if and when Clay cracks Miami’s roster, but at least it’s something. The company Clay is working for–a company called LPD–is getting a pretty sweet deal too with a bull-like football player doing hard labor for a few months.
Maybe they’re onto something, and maybe a few more broke draftees will start sweating behind a mower soon. Now all they have to do is recruit Von Miller.
Hat tip to It’s Always Sunny In Detroit