The start of training camp is an exciting day for a lot of reasons. The long off-season is finally and officially over. We can actually see something resembling football on our TV's, favorite blogs, and smartphones again. A whole round of pointless speculation ends...only to be followed by an entirely new wave. For some players, training camp is the start of a huge new phase of their life, either as an extension of college stardom or as a chance to prove they should have been stars all along. But for others, a different phase of life is about to begin: a life without football.
Right now, the Packers roster holds 90 men. Within a few weeks, that number will be cut by almost half, down to 53. Some of those guys will catch on with other teams, but for many, if not most, this is the absolute end of the road.
Think about these names: Micah Johnson. Marc Tyler. Shaky Smithson. Sampson Genus. Jaymes Brooks. Mike McCabe. All of them were in camp with the Packers, but none of them made it past the final roster rundown. If you do a little digging, you'll see some of them caught on briefly with other teams in the NFL or CFL, but none of them stuck around for real long.
For them, the end of training camp was the end of a career. More than that, it was the end of a dream. Think about how much time and effort it takes to become the kind of player that gets invited to an NFL training camp. Think about suddenly being told that all that time and effort didn't matter any more because you'd been proven definitively not good enough to make it in the NFL.
Watching football during training camp, or even during the regular season, it can be difficult to remember that each of the men on the field is a human being. No, not all of them are good human beings. But all of them worked hard to be there. And they at least deserve our respect for the work they've put in.
If you find yourself tempted, then, to write off a rookie or someone on the back end of their career who clearly won't make the team, try to remember that not everybody has to endure their dream being killed in front of bleachers full of fans. Yes, it's true that they chose this life. But that doesn't mean the pain when the dream comes to an end isn't any less real.