Commentary: For a Black Athlete With NFL Dreams, Yale Was the Best Choice

Too bad more teenagers don’t follow Mordecai Cargill’s decision to focus on academics over athletics.

Posted: 06/14/2013 12:25 PM EDT

Mordecai Cargill and his father. (Photo: Courtesy of Mordecai Cargill)

No reason for anybody to know or remember the name Mordecai Cargill, aside from the fact that Cargill represents the best and the brightest of today’s Black males. Fresh from picking up his bachelor’s degree a couple of weeks ago from Yale University, Cargill is about to step into the workaday world, prepared better than his Black peers for success.

Yet why Cargill, 22, is worth mentioning now has little to do with the prospect for his future but with a decision he made in his past. His was a decision that I wish more Black males would make.

For he had a choice in front of him after graduating from Glenville High School, a football factory in inner-city Cleveland: pursue football with all his energy or make education his No. 1 priority. He chose the latter.

Cargill, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound running back, declined to chase opportunities to play football at colleges with reputations for turning out pro talent. While he planned to play football at whichever college he did attend — and, yes, he played at Yale — he viewed his life in the long term. He knew football wouldn’t be there forever; education, however, would.

“I had dreams of playing in the NFL,” he said. “But I also wanted to go to the best school I could get into.”

It’s a pity I don’t hear that from other Black athletes who are around Cargill’s age or younger. You read about all the blue-chip prospects in football — and in men’s basketball — who accept scholarships to Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame, Louisiana State, Tennessee, Florida … the list runs another 100 names. But it doesn’t include athletes who play for Division II, Division III or NAIA programs.

The number of high school athletes who go on to play professional sports is 1 in 16,000. The percentage of those men who go from high school football to the NFL is 0.9 percent, according to NCAA statistics.

Too many of these athletes use up their athletic eligibility and have no serious aspirations beyond dreams of a pro career. They look at academics as a hindrance. Now they’re discovering a hard lesson. There aren’t help wanted ads on Craigslist that read: Wanted, a football player not good enough for the NFL. Those who want NFL-type pay please apply.

It’s sad to listen to Black men wax poetic about what could have been. Sit around a rec center or spend enough time at a barbershop and you’ll hear melancholy tales of the neighborhood star who didn’t make it to the pros. Men will talk about what he’s doing now, and in too many cases, he’s not doing a darned thing.

Mordecai Cargill won’t be one of those storytellers. As he unwinds from his Yale years, he has his sights on his future. In it, he sees law school, and he’s talking to business professionals about what other options might be available to a man with the word “Yale” on his resume.

For now, he is back in Cleveland preparing to take the LSAT and looking for ways to help Black youngsters. Cargill is doing his due diligence, which is the same thing he did while preparing for life after Glenville.

He’s deciding what to go “pro” in. It won’t be in football, and we should cheer on Mordecai Cargill for that.   

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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