Top 10 Dream Options for a CFB Players' Union President

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2020

Top 10 Dream Options for a CFB Players' Union President

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Amid ongoing uncertainty about whether the 2020 college football season would be held, players found a united voice in the #WeWantToPlay movement.

    Could that be the first step in a college football players' union?

    There are a lot of steps between the idea of a players' union and the actual implementation of such a group of amateur student-athletes, but it's never too soon to start speculating.

    The focus here will be on who could head up that hypothetical union in the role of president, and we've compiled a list of 10 candidates with varying levels of union experience and marketability.

    Who do you think is the best candidate for the job?

Trevor Lawrence

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Trevor Lawrence is one of the faces of college football entering the 2020 season, and he was among the loudest voices in the #WeWantToPlay movement that initially presented the idea of creating a college football players association.

    Clemson running back Darien Rencher, who is also Lawrence's roommate, was the "organizer-in-chief" of the video call that helped produce a unified voice among the Power Five conferences. Lawrence played an instrumental role, as well.

    Given his platform as one of the sport's most recognizable faces and his direct involvement in the early stages of these conversations, Lawrence would be a prime candidate for the presidential role if an election were held tomorrow.

    However, the NFL awaits, and he is among the favorites to go No. 1 overall in the 2021 draft, so his involvement in the process would be fleeting.

Justin Fields

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Another prominent voice in the #WeWantToPlay movement, Justin Fields was a co-favorite for 2020 Heisman Trophy honors before the Big Ten postponed fall sports.

    He comes with the same major drawback as Lawrence in that he will soon move on to the NFL as a candidate to go high in the 2021 draft, and his pro career will need to be his sole focus as he looks to establish himself in the league.

    That said, if a player president were elected for 2020, Fields might actually be a better candidate than Lawrence.

    Not only does he bring the same high-profile perspective, but he is also familiar with the ins and outs of the transfer portal. That would no doubt be a significant area of focus if a players' union were to be established.

    Fields began his college career at the University of Georgia before transferring to Ohio State.

Reggie Bush

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    No one has a better understanding of the trappings that accompany college stardom than Reggie Bush.

    One of the greatest players in college football history, Bush saw his USC legacy tarnished as a result of improper dealing with a sports agent during his time on campus. His Heisman Trophy was vacated, the school was stripped of wins and sanctioned, and the Trojans disassociated themselves from Bush.

    The lessons he learned were harsh ones, and he paid a steep price. But he has said and done all the right things in the face of all that scrutiny.

    In June, USC announced it was ending its disassociation with Bush following the NCAA-mandated 10-year span, further demonstrating he has done what's necessary to rebuild his image.

    At 35 years old, he's not too far removed from the college game and wouldn't be out of touch with the issues facing today's athletes. His perspective is a unique one few others can provide.

Tyrone Willingham

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Tyrone Willingham had a 14-year head-coaching career split between Stanford (1995-2001), Notre Dame (2002-04) and Washington (2005-08), going 76-88-1 overall and 1-4 in bowl games.

    His no-nonsense demeanor doesn't make him the most fun pick for players' union president, but he has a strong resume.

    He was the president of the American Football Coaches Association Board of Trustees in 2008, an organization of more than 11,000 coaches spanning all levels of football. He was also a member of the CFP Selection Committee from 2014 to 2017, making him one of just 33 people who can claim to have been intimately involved in that elaborate process.

    If he were to step forward as a candidate for the job, his voice would be a strong one in the players' corner.

Tim Tebow

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    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    Tim Tebow is perhaps the most recognizable name in the history of college football.

    The fact that his minor league baseball career has consistently garnered national attention, despite the fact he hit .163 with a 37.1 percent strikeout rate at Triple-A last year, speaks to his lasting cultural relevance.

    Once his foray into pro baseball concludes, Tebow would be the perfect high-profile figure to lead the college football players' union.

    He doesn't have the experience some of the other candidates on this list do, but his name recognition would lend immediate attention and legitimacy to the cause.

    Much like Trevor Lawrence now, he was once the face of college football. Still just 33 years old and a decade removed from his playing career at the University of Florida, he dealt with many of the same issues that now face today's athletes during his time on campus.

Kirk Herbstreit

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Is anyone more immersed in the world of college football than Kirk Herbstreit?

    He has been a staple on College GameDay for more than a decade and is truly one of the voices of college football in his role as a broadcaster for ABC's primetime games.

    He was also vocal in support of the players having their voices heard during the #WeWantToPlay movement:

    "I think it's just great that over the last week or so to see the players in college football having an opportunity to have their voices be heard, whether it's social media or being unified originally out of the Pac-12, the Big Ten got together, and now it sounds like late last night they all [Power Five players] came together," Herbstreit told reporters.

    At the same time, he pointed to a lack of unification across the NCAA landscape as the biggest problem facing college football, identifying the five major conferences as, in a way, five separate entities.

    He's one of the most influential figures in the sport, and he certainly seems to have the players' best interests in mind.

Ben Watson

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Ben Watson wrapped up a 15-year NFL career in 2019, hauling in 547 receptions for 6,058 yards and 44 touchdowns while playing for the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.

    He became a player rep for the NFLPA in 2010, and he spent four terms on the executive committee. In other words, he's no stranger to the inner workings of a players' union.

    He might also be the perfect candidate to lead in a time of social-justice reform.

    He wrote a book titled Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race. Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us in 2015, and his essay in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent civil unrest in 2014 garnered national attention.

    Watson has a chance to play an important role in helping reshape the sports landscape now that his NFL career has come to a close, and serving as the CFB union president would be one way to make a significant impact.

Kevin Mawae

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Kevin Mawae is one of the greatest centers in NFL history.

    He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, a three-time first-team All-Pro and a member of the 2000's All-Decade Team, and he was enshrined in Canton in 2019.

    He also served as NFLPA president for four years from 2008 through 2012, helping to navigate the 2011 lockout after his playing career had already come to a close.

    In recent years, he has moved into coaching, serving as assistant offensive line coach for the Chicago Bears in 2016 and offensive analyst at Arizona State under former head coach Herm Edwards the past two seasons.

    His run as NFLPA president during some of the most intense negotiations in league history makes him uniquely suited to potentially help a fledgling college football players' union blaze its own trail.

Andrew Luck

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Seven years after going No. 1 overall in the 2012 NFL draft and on the heels of a 2018 season that saw him throw for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns to earn his fourth Pro Bowl selection, Andrew Luck made the surprising decision to retire.

    At 29 years old, he hung up his spikes amid mounting injury issues.

    His tears on the day he announced his retirement were the perfect indication of the love he had—and no doubt still has—for the sport, and at this point, he has not returned to the game in any official capacity.

    With a mind for the game, a charming personality and the intelligence needed to graduate from Stanford with a bachelor's degree in architectural design, he would be well-suited for a number of roles if and when he decides to return to football.

    Perhaps college football players' union president is the endeavor that would lure him back into the football world.

Domonique Foxworth

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    Haraz N. Ghanbari/Associated Press

    A third-round pick in the 2005 NFL draft, Domonique Foxworth played six professional seasons after a standout career at the University of Maryland.

    In 2007, he was selected as the Denver Broncos' NFLPA player representative. The following year, he became the youngest-ever member of the executive committee.

    In 2012, following the conclusion of his playing career, he was elected president of the NFLPA. He served in that role for two years while simultaneously earning his MBA from Harvard Business School.

    He also served as the chief operating officer for the National Basketball Players Association, and he is currently a writer for The Undefeated.

    In terms of experience, there is no better candidate for the role of college football players' union president. If the time comes to name someone to that position, expect to see Foxworth's name among the leading contenders for the job.


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