DII Football looks to defy the odds of the pros

Gabriel Strasbaugh, Staff Reporter

With just one season left, many senior football players are preparing for a final highlight reel for an opportunity at the professional level. Coming from a Division II university, the chances of making the top market such as the National Football League (NFL), do not favor when compared to Division I in years past.

Rather than listening to the odds, players like All-American running back Michael Roots said his opportunity with scouts will not be taken lightly.

“You should have already been training for the pros since a young age,” Roots said. “It shouldn’t be oh, I made it this far, I need to train harder. I’ve always had that same work ethic and mentality that I’m training for the pros.” 

Coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and a second consecutive First Team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC), Roots said his work has only just begun. 

“My personal goal is to win and to set the all-time rushing record being number one on the list,” Roots said.

While his quest for the top stat comes within nearly 1,000 yards, Roots knows the odds still stack against him amongst NCAA competition. 

In 2019, the NCAA divisional breakdown of the 254 NCAA players selected in the 2019 NFL draft showed a clear favorite in the divisions. Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) had 238 players selected, Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) 11 and Division II with five. When combined, the total percentage of NCAA football players who make it to the NFL is less than 2%. 

Despite the low percentage, coaches and players continue to pursue their goal to reach the pinnacle of their craft. Head coach Chris Fisk said his preparation of the fundamentals of the game gives his players a chance to beat the odds. 

“Everything we do is geared towards making them a great football player,” Fisk said. “If we have a young leave our program and get looked at by NFL scouts, we would want our young man to be know as having a high football IQ. We would want the scouts to think that our kids play with a relentless energy and enthusiasm while being accountable.” 

Fisk said it’s much more preparation than just for the game itself. It’s also a chance to build upon their character. 

“We’re not just preparing them to have an opportunity to go play professional, but we’re also just preparing them for life,” Fisk said. “All those same qualities that NFL scouts are looking for and players are looking for too; there’s things you learn from athletics that are hard to put a price on.”

Fisk said the impact he has in a player’s career when they make it pro comes second to the individual performance of his player. 

“It’s certainly gratifying for me,” Fisk said. “It feels like you were a part of helping that person to get there. The kids are the ones who make it. Listen, you try to guide them and do the best you can to show them how to be a professional and some kids take to it, some kids don’t.”

According to Assistant Athletic Director Troy Nealey, the mindset of a player can be the difference in how their career unfolds. 

“I believe there is a perspective when someone is playing Division II. I do think there is a different understanding of playing Division II,” Nealey said. “I think the mindset is you’re gonna be here all four years of your NCAA career. You can develop that over four or five years or however long it takes you and maybe you get to your senior year think yeah, I got a shot.”