NFL Alumni Academy deserves more attention

By Jason La Canfora

October 14, 2020

With all this talk about bubbles and expanding the time it takes to allow a free agent signed outside a current NFL team to enter a team facility, I am baffled as to why more is not being done to expand a program already being run at the Hall of Fame in Canton. Ohio.

The NFL Alumni Academy had been operating for weeks there, with potential practice squad players and young veteran free agents receiving daily housing, meals and training by former NFL star players and coaches. The program has focused primarily on linemen and running backs, with long time athletic trainer Chip Smith providing conditioning and strength training daily at the performance center near the HOF and coaches like Mike Tice and Anthony Munoz providing on-field training at the stadium and surrounding fields.

The program gets no attention though video of the workouts is sent to NFL teams, I'm told, and some participants remain. Guys like former Wake Forrest offensive lineman Jake Benzinger are housed in individual rooms at a nearby hotel and exist in a bubble with daily COVID testing. They get a box breakfast from a dietician at 6:30 AM every morning have a meeting every morning and have detailed off-field workouts with state-of-the-art movement equipment, have private lifting periods and work in small groups with the coaches at their specific positions and have daily meetings to review film and work on their football IQ and do position-specific technique drills as well right up to a custom dinner socially distanced every night.

They also get life coaching and financial counseling as well. It is free for qualified players, who then pay back $24,000 over time if they get signed to a practice squad and $40,000 over time if they get signed to a 53-man roster. If they get signed and then cut they can return the following year. They get six days of training a week, starting Sept. 25 and running for 15 weeks. Someone tell me why something like this wouldn't be expanded greatly given the pandemic and the need for qualified, healthy depth players more acute than ever? Seems like a no brainer to me at any time, given the player development restrictions individual teams have and with there no longer being NFL Europe, and especially so now.