In the spirit of our resident salary cap aficionado Brian Phillips’ NFL article that isn’t about the National Anthem or Tom Brady from Thursday that succeeded in maybe making us think that maybe everything in this world doesn’t suck, Patriots Football Weekly has a great feature about four players working on getting those sweet three letters after their name - M.B.A.
Graduate school, unlike undergrad for most of us, is the equivalent of “Oh, so you work out at the YMCA a few times a week, huh? That’s cute. Now you’re training to run Tough Mudder. Try to keep up, newbie.”
So for kicker Stephen Gostkowski, offensive linemen Joe Thuney and Ted Karras, and long-snapper Joe Cardona, knocking out their MBA coursework in the offseason is a whole different kind of grind.
Poor Gostkowski got his butt handed to him by calculus:
“The first [online] class I took had calculus in it and I had to get a tutor,” he confesses, “because I hadn’t had calculus in 12 years. It was almost like reading Chinese.”
And Ted Karras, who knocked out his bachelor’s degree in 3.5 years at Illinois and started his master’s degree studies to stay eligible for football, is getting into a little bit of everything:
“It’s pretty all-encompassing,” he explains. “This spring semester, it was more economics focused. I had a marketing class. I just took a final last night in macro-economics – it was a little tough. But yes, we’re finishing up a semester now, and then in the summer, I’m going to take digital marketing, plus law and ethics in business.
“Last year, I went to Europe and I was doing classes from Portugal. That’s the great thing about online [learning], you know, you can log on an hour before you go to bed and kind of just organize yourself, get some assignments done, and do it at your own pace.”
In the NFL’s Player Tuition Assistance Plan, which probably deserves more props than it gets, players can be reimbursed up to $20,000 a year for working on anything from an associate’s degree all the way through a bachelor’s or graduate degree. The only catch is that players have to make at least a C in each class, so that Tommy Boy D+ isn’t going to cut it.
(Note: in most graduate degree programs like an MBA, a C grade isn’t going to cut it either. As any grad student will wearily explain to you, most programs at that level require that you maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, and academic probation, my friends, is not a place you want to be)
The PFW feature, which you really should read in full to get a vibe for what these guys are grinding through in the offseason in addition to their football conditioning, says that Gostkowski and Karras are both about halfway done with their degrees. Joe Thuney is “well on his way”, whatever that means, and Joe Cardona, who as most of you know is already burning the candle at both ends with his Patriots responsibilities and serving in the US Navy, apparently just signed up.
And leave it to Gostkowski to find the positive in grad school studies taking their minds off the last thing anybody wants to talk about:
“It’s cool to have someone else to talk to about it, with Thuney, Ted, and Joe,” admits Gostkowski. “There’s only so much you can talk about football. Anytime you can get into a conversation that’s not political, it’s a welcome change.”
Meanwhile, Karras is cruising to set aside a whole wall in his trophy room just for the degrees he’s wanting:
“I’d like to go over to Cambridge and get a literature degree from Harvard… something a little bit more creative the next time around. I’m a big reader. I have a pretty large library at home. That’s probably the biggest thing I spend my money on is books. Actual books. It’s hard for me to read off a computer. I’ve written some stuff, but I’d like to be trained on how to do it.
“I want to play for as long as I can, but hopefully, something through school and the people I meet through that can carve a little path for the next step after football.”
Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, folks.