Greg Miletic: Life After Football - Filling that Void

Photo: Jean-Francois Nicollet
Raise your hand if you’re going to the NFL. (Waiting.) Anyone? (Looking at my arm.) Crap, my hand isn’t raised either. Up until about the 8th or 9th grade, however, I envisioned myself having a stellar career in the National Football League.

Reality hit me pretty quickly, though, and I realized soon enough that “Greg Miletic, Starting Quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens and World-Renowned Model” wasn’t going to be part of my resume. While the second half of that job title still could be realized, a career in the NFL just isn’t that likely. 

I saw an article floating around recently that is based on NCAA and NFL data, and it lays out the statistics of the likelihood of advancing one’s career in football. To sum up the findings, roughly 6.5% of high school football players go on to play in college, and roughly 1.6% of those college players make it to the NFL. Doing some quick math in my head, that’s like 15 people in the world that “make it.”

So while most of us aren’t going to be playing on Sundays, there are some of us who have had the privilege of playing football in college and maybe in some professional capacity beyond those glorious four years in the NCAA. The feeling of complete devotion to the sport, along with the intensity and raw emotion that consumes you on game days and even in practices, are things that can never be replicated in other aspects of life. So when we are finally finished playing and have “retired” from true, competitive, full-contact football, how do we fill that void that is left behind?

Here is what I recently wrote for Touchdown Europe when they asked for an update on what I was doing with my life:

“After my 2012 season in Serbia, I hung up the cleats. Retired. 

When you're done playing football, there is a large hole in your life that needs to be filled, and I've tried various ways to fill that hole. I often race young children on the street, tackle co-workers in the office hallways, and block basketball shots from behind in games that I'm not even a part of. 

It's tough to replace competitive American football I guess...”

After submitting that blurb, I started thinking about other healthy ways that athletes can cope with retirement. I figured I needed to share my ideas with the world in order to help fellow athletes that are currently struggling with LAF: Life After Football. 

Idea #1: Sit down to watch a game with a couple of friends and a couple of beers, and compare yourself to the guys that are actually playing. 

“Dude…the thing is, in college I played against that guy’s cousin and totally LOCKED HIM DOWN! I’m tellin’ you, man, his cousin was much better than he is; the cousin just didn’t have the size. That was the main thing that held me back from being in the League, too.”

Idea #2: Join a pick-up football league -- preferably coed -- and take the games way too seriously. Make sure to remind everyone constantly that they don’t know what real intensity is.

“You guys don’t even know, man. Your effort right now would never fly where I played in college – guys would run laps for hours if they played like this. Just…don’t even worry about it. You’ll never really understand what I’m saying if you didn’t actually play at that level.”

Idea #3: Make a Facebook album comprised solely of pictures of you playing in college and anywhere you played after college, if applicable. Make sure to update it every month or so, so people will be reminded of your talents and hopefully praise your muscles, or at least ‘like’ the pics.

Possible caption to one of the photos: “Just me beastin on some scrub. He definitely wanted to forget that game lol.” 

Idea #4: Wear your college and/or pro team gear to the gym so that people will see that you played football at a high level, and hopefully start a conversation with you within earshot of a cute girl.

“What, this? Ah yeah, this was just my team’s gear that I played for over in Europe…Yeah, they have leagues over there and they asked me to play for them. No big deal. They paid me.”

Idea #5: This may be counter-intuitive, but never give up that dream. When your dentist or co-worker learns that you played safety in college and he half-jokingly says that you should play for his favorite team because their safeties are terrible, laugh along with him but secretly think to yourself, “He’s right. They DO need help in the secondary…”

Hopefully the above ideas will help any athlete that is looking at this article and nodding as he or she reads along. These coping mechanisms have certainly helped me and will continue to do so, even if that abysmal void is never completely filled.

I may have never made it as the starting quarterback for the Ravens, but I’m still lucky enough to be talking about Life After Football issues. On a side note, does anyone know any modeling agents looking for clients?

Make sure to check out Greg's hilarious blog posts on TDEU: