What It Takes to Make the NFL (Skill, Odds)

Becoming a player in the National Football League (NFL) is a dream for many football enthusiasts worldwide.

However, the journey to the NFL is paved with years of hard work, dedication, and incredible physical and mental strength.

This article will guide you through the process, providing an overview of the necessary skill levels, what it takes to get drafted, understanding the odds, and exploring fallback options if a professional football career doesn’t pan out.

Advice on How to Play NFL

To play in the NFL, a player must have a deep understanding of the game, including the rules, strategies, and tactics used in professional football.

Knowledge alone is not enough, however. Building technical skills through extensive training and practice is essential.

Players must invest in their physical fitness and hone their skills in areas such as passing, catching, running, tackling, and more, depending on their position.

Engaging with a reputable coach can provide valuable guidance and feedback to improve your game.

It is also important to play at a competitive level, such as in high school or college, to gain practical experience and exposure to scouts.

Type of Skill Level You Need

The skill level required to make it to the NFL is exceptional.

Players must not only possess the technical abilities to play their position at an elite level but also have the physical attributes, such as speed, strength, and agility.

Furthermore, mental skills like leadership, resilience, tactical understanding, and the ability to perform under pressure are critical.

The NFL features the best football players worldwide, so to make it there, you need to be at the top of your game in every sense.

What It Takes to Get Drafted in NFL

Getting drafted into the NFL is an intricate process that requires years of preparation and exceptional performance.

To even be considered, players typically need to have played football at a high level, usually at a Division I college.

Performance at the college level is closely monitored by NFL scouts who are continually searching for emerging talent.

Exceptional players are then invited to the NFL Combine, a week-long showcase where they participate in physical and mental tests in front of NFL coaches, general managers, and scouts.

A player’s performance in the Combine can significantly impact their draft status.

The culmination of this process is the NFL Draft, where teams select players to join their roster.

How Football Players Train To Make It In the NFL | What It Takes

Explain the Odds

The odds of making it to the NFL are slim. According to the NCAA, only about 1.6% of college football players make it to the NFL.

To go all the way from the high school level, more than 1 million high schoolers play football.

That’s another 260,000 new high school football players per year.

And only around 260 athletes are taken in the NFL draft each year.


Odds of a high schooler eventually being drafted in the NFL = 260/260,000 = 1/1,000 or 0.1% chance


About 1 in 11 high school players play in college at any level (about 9%).

NFL draftees are disproportionately D-1 athletes, where there are around 20,000 scholarship athletes each year.

Not all NFL draftees spend the entire four years in college.

So only a few percent of all D-1 athletes can expect to be drafted.

The selection process is highly competitive, and only the best of the best are drafted.

Furthermore, being drafted doesn’t guarantee a long career in the NFL.

The average NFL player’s career lasts only about three years due to the physical demands of the game and the continual influx of new talent.

Fallback Options in Case Football Doesn’t Work

Given the slim odds of making it to the NFL, it is crucial to have a fallback plan.

One common path is leveraging the education obtained while playing college football.

Many college football players are on scholarships and have the opportunity to earn degrees that can open doors to numerous careers outside of football.

Other options include coaching at the high school or college level, sports broadcasting, or even working in sports management or administration.

Furthermore, skills learned on the field such as teamwork, discipline, and leadership are transferable and highly valued in many professions.

FAQs – What It Takes to Make the NFL

1. What are the basic requirements to make it into the NFL?

To make it into the NFL, aspiring players must meet certain requirements, including:

  • Talent and Skill: Players need to possess exceptional athletic ability, talent, and skill in football. This includes attributes such as speed, agility, strength, endurance, and football-specific skills like passing, catching, tackling, and blocking.
  • College Eligibility: Most players enter the NFL through the college football system. To be eligible for the NFL Draft, players must have completed their high school education and wait at least three years after graduation or until their high school class has graduated.
  • College Football Experience: Playing college football provides valuable exposure and experience, as well as an opportunity to develop skills under top-level coaching. While not mandatory, college football greatly increases a player’s chances of being scouted and drafted into the NFL.

2. How important is attending college and playing football at the collegiate level for making it to the NFL?

Attending college and playing football at the collegiate level is highly important for aspiring NFL players due to several reasons:

  • Skill Development: College football offers a competitive environment for players to hone their skills, receive high-quality coaching, and gain valuable game experience. This helps players refine their abilities and prepare for the intensity of the professional level.
  • Exposure and Recruitment: College football provides a platform for players to showcase their talent to NFL scouts, coaches, and general managers. The visibility and media coverage associated with college football significantly increase the chances of being noticed and recruited by NFL teams.
  • Draft Eligibility: The NFL requires players to wait at least three years after high school graduation or until their high school class graduates before becoming eligible for the NFL Draft. College football allows players to fulfill this requirement while continuing to develop their skills.
  • Mental and Physical Preparedness: College football offers a more rigorous training regimen, competitive game schedules, and exposure to high-pressure situations. These experiences help players develop the mental and physical toughness necessary to succeed in the NFL.

3. What role does the NFL Scouting Combine play in the selection process?

The NFL Scouting Combine is a crucial event in the selection process for the NFL.

It is a week-long showcase where invited college players undergo a series of physical and mental tests in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams.

Some key aspects of the combine include:

  • Physical Testing: Players are evaluated through a range of physical tests, such as the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, agility drills, and position-specific drills. These tests assess a player’s athleticism, speed, strength, explosiveness, and agility.
  • Medical Evaluations: Players undergo thorough medical examinations, including X-rays, MRI scans, and other assessments to evaluate their health and potential injury risks. NFL teams closely scrutinize these results to assess a player’s long-term viability and injury history.
  • Interviews and Psychological Testing: Teams conduct interviews with players to assess their football knowledge, character, work ethic, and overall mindset. Psychological tests may also be administered to evaluate a player’s decision-making abilities, competitiveness, and emotional intelligence.

The combine serves as an important opportunity for teams to evaluate prospects in a standardized setting and gather additional information to inform their draft decisions.

4. Can players enter the NFL without playing college football?

While the majority of NFL players have a college football background, it is possible to enter the NFL without playing at the collegiate level.

However, this path is less common and often involves unique circumstances or exceptional talent.

Some alternative routes to the NFL include:

  • Playing in Other Professional Leagues: Players who have competed in professional football leagues outside the United States, such as the Canadian Football League (CFL) or the XFL, may have an opportunity to showcase their skills and attract the attention of NFL scouts.
  • Undrafted Free Agency: Players who go undrafted in the NFL Draft can still sign with teams as undrafted free agents. These players often participate in team tryouts or rookie minicamps, where they have a chance to impress coaches and earn a contract.
  • Exceptional Talents: Occasionally, athletes from other sports who possess exceptional physical attributes or transferable skills may transition to the NFL. Notable examples include players like Antonio Gates and Julius Peppers, who excelled in basketball and track and field, respectively, before pursuing football.

5. Are there any specific academic requirements to make it into the NFL?

While there are no specific academic requirements to make it into the NFL, meeting certain academic standards can be beneficial for players.

These include:

  • High School Education: Players must have completed their high school education to be eligible for the NFL Draft. Graduating from high school demonstrates the minimum educational attainment required.
  • College Eligibility: To participate in college football and become eligible for the NFL Draft, players must meet the academic eligibility requirements set by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). These requirements typically involve maintaining a minimum GPA and completing a specific number of credit hours.

While academic qualifications do not directly impact a player’s on-field performance, having a solid academic background can enhance their overall profile, professionalism, and potential longevity in the league.

It also provides a foundation for pursuing further education and post-football career opportunities.


Making it to the NFL requires exceptional talent, dedication, and a bit of luck.

While the odds may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that the skills and experiences gained on the journey can lead to success in many other areas of life.

Whether or not you make it to the NFL, playing football at a competitive level can be a rewarding and enriching experience.


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