The NFL draft, which began its first round on Thursday at 8 p.m., is a glamorous affair. Expert TV and film production, intense media coverage, crying mothers and teary-eyed 200-plus pound men finding out they’ve been picked for the majors will make this “an exceptional spectacle even by the event’s rather absurd standards.”
2014’s draft will likely launch some high-profile careers and put college football players on the path to stardom. Everyone from potential first-pick Jadeveon Clowney to Mizzou defensive lineman Michael Sam, potentially the NFL’s first openly gay player, are vying for a slot. Top picks are already getting endorsement deals, with athletes getting paid to sign on with Puma, Nike, Under Armour and Adidas.
But while this year’s draftees are entering an NFL more successful and profitable than ever, the focus on big hits and players getting better at delivering those hits has made the always-violent sport more intense each year. And while injuries have fallen dramatically since the classic helmet was introduced in the ’70s, former players are finding themselves with long-lasting brain conditions that might persist for the rest of their lives.