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Q&A: Former NIU linebacker Delegal talks about college football reform

Published: Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
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Kyle Bursaw — kbursaw@shawmedia.com Northern Illinois linebacker Jamaal Bass (6) and Northern Illinois linebacker Jordan Delegal (29) sandwich Wisconsin running back James White (20) during the second quarter of their game at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. on Saturday, September 17, 2011. Wisconsin defeated Northern Illinois 49-7.

Jordan Delegal played linebacker at Northern Illinois from 2009 to 2011 and now works for Paragon Marketing Group in Chicago. The Daily Chronicle talked with Delegal about college football reform and Northwestern's recent attempt to form a union. Below is an edited transcript.

Daily Chronicle: Why do you support Northwestern football's recent efforts and attempt to unionize?

Jordan Delegal: I support them because we relate on so many different levels. There comes a time where enough is enough. We have all these different documentaries that talk about [the NCAA], all these investigations that happen from the players' side of things. But nobody really comes at the guy making the rules. Especially for them to come together for a real policy, not just for money.

DC: Was this something you had heard about or talked about when you were playing at NIU?

JD: At NIU we're a little bit different than Northwestern. We're a smaller school, so the funding is a bit different. It's a bigger conference versus a smaller conference.

It's a little bit different when you hear it from somebody who has all those things that we don't have. It's the difference between the haves and have-nots. When somebody actually speaks out about it on a smaller scale, people kind of dust it under the rug, but when somebody's on a bigger scale and is a part of those [BCS] conferences, people start listening then.

We spoke about it, but there weren't many things we could do about it as a player and as a smaller mid-level conference.

Everybody talks about it from high school to college, but once you get to college it's a little bit different. They are talking about it now and providing awareness.

DC: What are the main issues, from a player's perspective, that need to be fixed?

JD: One is the medical side. There are a ton of guys that put it all on the line to be great in a sport. Obviously you want the medical portion of it because we put our body out there on a daily basis.

Two, not only medical, but the professional development. A lot of guys who come out of school, if they graduate ... a lot of these guys aren't ready for the real world.

It's not typical for a student-athlete to have those internships, those externships, those different opportunities where they are able to exercise their business skillsets and professional skillsets. That's something that needs to be looked into as well.

Those are my two solid standpoints. I don't think we need to just outright pay people for what they do, but we need to provide a network of former athletes ... or even business owners who love to hire student-athletes, where they are able to get these guys and develop them professionally. It would be like Business 101.

DC: You mention the missed opportunities you have in getting internships and externships, is that because you had summer training and football-related things?

JD: A large portion of it is those voluntary, but mandatory practices that we have in the summer. We're really not able to go home ... everybody's situation is different.

For the redshirt freshmen guys, they want to play that next year because they are development guys, so they'll stay [on campus].

For other guys, you want to stay a step ahead of competition, so there may be a [position competition] that you want to get ahead in.

They don't realize that these internships make sense as well. At the time, you really don't focus on it because your main goal is to win the league, win your conference championship, go to the best bowl game and then ultimately go to the NFL. You're not really thinking about those things.

I prepared for what I knew was coming, but some guys still don't prepare for it.

DC: Do you know NIU teammates who are struggling with health issues or professionally?

JD: I will never speak names, but not only at NIU but guys who are from Miami, who put all their eggs in one basket and they are struggling. They are struggling professionally because they can't find jobs that fits their initiatives. But then I have some guys who are doing a great job, who are going to medical school, who are trying to be doctors and trying to be lawyers. It really depends on the person.

I could never say because of football I wasn't able to accomplish my dreams. No, not at all. It is because of football I was able to go to college and expand my mind. I used this vehicle to get out of my parents' situation. I'm from a very bad neighborhood in Miami, Fla. and I was able to get out of there because of this game and I love this game.

Now do I think things could've been different, yeah of course.

You have to live in the moment and try to do the most networking that you can and if the NCAA can mandate different programs to where they can grow players over the summer or in the spring or somehow, that would really help the future for these guys.

DC: Do you think eventually players will get a share of the money down the line?

JD: They need to. It's a billion-dollar industry that's driven off of unpaid employees. Think of any established company that you've ever seen that didn't pay their employees or the coverage of their employees when they put them out to work every single day.

What [Northwestern is] doing is incredible and I applaud them and I stand with them because they are taking the best route possible. It's not just the money, they are talking about the long-term effects of football that some guys really still do feel.

DC: Would you support NIU's team taking similar measures to Northwestern?

JD: Of course I would. I'm a Huskie for life.

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