Gerald Ford didn’t play in the NFL why?

Apr 2014
President Gerald R. Ford played college football for the University if Michigan and he was a really good player. So good that he was drafted to play in the NFL, or how the NFL acquired players around 1931.

Ford declines the offers and decided to go to Yale law school. My guess why he chose to go to law school instead of the NFL was that in the early 1930’s the league did not pay that much even for top players. Probably well enough to afford the person a middle class lifestyle, but not the huge salaries the players get today where even a grunt no name player now makes a million dollars a season.

How much were NFL tickets in 1931? Since it was the Great Depression, who could afford to go? Baseball survived and even thrived, but how much were good seats at Yankee Stadium? Baseball players made a lot more money than football players then. Professional basketball wasn’t even a thing or much of one then, so modern players and legends would have been nobodies back then.

It would have been interesting to ask him in his elder years or even in the 1970’s, if he were in the same position, would he have accepted an NFL contract? I think the man would have made an excellent football coach. The man looked like a football coach. Ask Jerry if he would have rather been President for three falls or beat Ohio State three times. Probably would trip over himself running on the field after winning the Rose Bowl and this what we would remember about him.

Are there any films surviving of Jerry playing football? If Jerry was 20 again in 2018 would he be good enough to play in the NFL now or even college football?
I once asked on this board if Jim Thorpe could play in the modern NFL. Jerry was a big dude. Probably very fast. Agile? Maybe. But I can see him at a frat party hammered on a Friday night and then getting up play the next afternoon. (Which is another question, what we frat parties like during prohibition?)

Did he ever go to college or NFL games? Flew Air Force One to Columbus or Ann Arbir or Pasadena to see the Wolverines play? Did he ever go to a Redskins game? Nixon loved football also and he once told, I think Cosell half jokingly that he would have been a football announcer or gotten into football if his political career washed out. Which sort of brings up the point that Nixon also played college football for Whittier College which I guess would be a Division III School now, not at the level of Michigan. But Nixon seemed to be of very average size and weight and would get hammered on the field. Was he a good player? Or JFK for that matter. Coach “Sit down Jack, or talk to that cheerleader who is making eyes at you.”

His early life is interesting also. You can read about his father and why his name changed in this Wiki bio of his birth father. Needless to say, he was a major dickhead and his mother did well by leaving him. I take it that Ford probably detested the name, kept it a secret and would kick your ass if you called him “Leslie”.
Oct 2015
I have a relative who was an All-American "fullback" in the early 60's, was drafted by the NFL in the first round, but who chose dental school instead. In the proto-television universe (before 1968?) the NFL was just not that big (or that lucrative) a deal.
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Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
The NFL wasn't that big money in those days, but Yale Law School was.
Big money to enter the school. :)

FWIW, I dont' think a football career (which last on average a few years) is more lucrative or as safe as being a Yale lawyer. And that would be true, even for a quarterback, and Ford was a (typically anonymous) lineman. And Ford's father was a big-time banker.

Ford also worked as a model. It is hard to imagine that playing pro football in the 14-year-old NFL was ever on his radar screen.
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Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
These days, there is so much money in pro sports that almost anyone would play and then go to law school or whatever afterwards, but that was not the case then.

In the 1930s, there was relatively big money for top athletes in baseball, boxing, or as a jockey, but not so much in football. All of those sports were much bigger than today, but professional football and basketball were not high profile.

In those days, someone from an upper middle class background like Ford was probably told that professional sports was not an appropriate career.
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Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
The so much money you refer to is not very evenly distributed, not much money for the guy who barely makes it, whereas the guy who graduates last in law school will still be lawyer. I'd also point that football causes head injuries that might impede law as a second career. And, it is not just law school, but Yale Law school. Football players can end up as millionaires, but Bonesman end up as billionaires.

I don't think it was a close choice, closer but still uneconomic when Billy Beane passed up a full ride at Stanford to play for the Mets.

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