NFL players take back-to-school to the extreme
"We always try to plan for worst case scenario," Emma Dockery said. "We've been very blessed financially and we are thankful to be where we are right now, but you just never know."
The Dockerys started the program last spring. Two weeks at GW. Then a two-week online course. Then two weeks at Columbia in New York. Then two weeks at UCLA over the summer. The cycle repeats itself this year, except for an optional trip to Shanghai in May instead of the stint at UCLA. It would have been almost impossible to get it all done a few years ago, before the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement limited the amount of time that teams can hold offseason workouts.
Classes meet Saturdays and Sundays, although a rare Thursday off gave the Dockerys and Tennessee Titans linebacker Witherspoon a chance to talk about their endeavors over lunch. Witherspoon owns a 500-acre cattle farm in Missouri and was educating the table about the benefits of all-natural probiotic fertilizer and what to look for in various types of beef.
Witherspoon, who splits his offseason home between Nashville and the farm, is staying in a hotel, so his schedule for these two weeks isn't as frenetic as the Dockerys'. Unlike Derrick Dockery, Witherspoon was a high-octane student at the University of Georgia, getting an atypical football player's degree in housing and community development with minors in horticulture and landscape architecture.
"I'm programmed to do something all the time," the 11-year veteran said.
Witherspoon believes there is a "silent majority" of NFL players who do plan responsibility for the future, but they get overshadowed by the attention given to the spectacular failures who waste everything. Even so, the GW program is a step beyond the norm, and it's not for everyone.
"Some people have found it a little overwhelming and are moving on," Witherspoon said.
Until it was mentioned to him, Witherspoon didn't realize one irony of the situation: After getting free tuition at a major football school, he's now paying lots to attend one that doesn't even play the sport.
"Well, that's kind of good," he said with a chuckle. "It means you're focused on education."
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
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