To become a professional football player, you'll not only need be very good at playing football, but also to think strategically and make the best use of your talent. There are things you can do in both high school and college to boost your chances of being able to join a league, including developing your skills, knowing how to perform for scouts, and choosing the right school for your skill level. You may want to consider putting together a press kit to send out to college and league recruiters. If you're having trouble getting schools or leagues interested in you, you might want to work with a sports agent as well. If you can't get into the National Football League (NFL) or United Football League (UFL) immediately, then it's important to try to keep playing in another one, like the Canadian Football League (CFL) or Arena Football League (AFL); or a semiprofessional league.
While you're in high school, it's essential to develop your physical skills and play as much as possible. Most college football players are scouted from high school teams, and getting a scholarship to play football is seen as a good indicator of talent. You can also join local football leagues and camps to help develop yourself physically and build your sports resume. Make sure to find out what scouts in your area or college of choice are looking for — common criteria include agility, jump height, the amount of weight you can bench press, and your 40 yard dash time. If possible, try to make highlight videos of yourself to send to coaches and schools, and attend any college football camps that you can.
You should also start considering which colleges you want to go to while you still have a few years of high school left. Most professional leagues tend to recruit from bigger schools, but if you think you'll be in over your head or won't get any playing time, then look at smaller schools where you know you can excel. If you do end up needing to go to a smaller college, then try to choose one that's near a bigger college that gets a lot of scouts, as recruiters will be more likely to visit your school if they're already in the area. You can start looking for open tryouts at this time. Though most college football teams send personal invitations before allowing players to try out, some hold open tryouts for anyone interested. You can check out the teams’ official websites to keep updated on any information, such as the dates, venues, and other requirements and documents needed for enlistment.
If you start getting a lot of media buzz or interest from colleges, you should make sure you understand the recruiting process in your country. In the US, college football recruiting is done under the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) guidelines, which include regulations on the ways, times, and frequency with which college recruiters can contact players. They also detail the legal aspects of National Letters of Intent (NLI), which is a legally binding agreement in which a high school student agrees to play for a specific college for at least one year. If you don't get any invitations or scholarship offers, then you can try to go to a school that plays in a lower division and work your way up, or you can try to join a college team as a walk on.
Once you're in college playing for a team, you should continue to hone your physical skills. Look for players on professional teams who are in the position you want to play, and try to get to the point where you can match their playing statistics. You should develop your sense of teamwork and character as well, as this is an important aspect to many league scouts. It's important to have a good relationship with your coach too, since many coaches know scouts and having a good recommendation from them can make a big difference in whether you get chosen or not. Similarly to when you were in high school, try to play as much as you can and generate media buzz, especially if you're from a smaller school or one that plays in a lower division.
If a scout does visit your school, it's crucial that you are on your best behavior before, during, and after practice. Besides the physical aspects, scouts look for things like how you treat your teammates, what your relationship with your coach is like, how energetic you are during warm ups, and whether or not you have a good attitude. If you get scouting feedback that's negative, use it as an opportunity to improve. You should start thinking about what league you want to join, and educate yourself about their recruiting process and what specific things they look for in players. Though many college players hope to be drafted by the National Football League (NFL), if that doesn't happen immediately you shouldn't give up. Keep playing for any league you can so that you can keep yourself in top shape and you won't have gaps in your playing experience.
Whether you're in high school or in college, you can often benefit by having a resume or press kit that you can send to teams you want to play for. Your resume should include your basic information, the position you play for, and your accomplishments as a football player. A press kit, on the other hand, can include copies of articles where you or your team had been previously mentioned, photographs, and even a CD that contains a video of some of your best performances on the field. All these will help you stand out among other candidates and increase your chances of becoming a professional football player. It is important that you follow up on your submissions by calling or sending e-mails, to express your sincerity and to keep track of your application status.
Working with an Agent
You may also want to find your own sports agent who will help establish your career as a professional football player. An agent often has connections with football teams and can represent and endorse you as a competent and valuable player. He or she keeps your best interest at heart by being involved in contract and salary negotiations, finance management, and even in monitoring your practice schedules. In this way, you can focus on honing your football skills without having to worry much about the legal and financial issues that come with being a professional athlete.