DANVILLE, Pa. — Former Notre Dame All-America Ken McAfee, who entered the NFL amid great fanfare but left in relative obscurity, had prepared for life after football. Unfortunately, he says, many players do not.
"Players have to prepare for a career after football because something can happen at any moment and you're out of the game," he said. "It happens more often than people think."
McAfee, now an oral surgeon at a prestigious Pennsylvania hospital, said he prepared for the end of his career by attending medical school in the off-season. He contended his San Francisco 49ers coaches were not pleased with his springtime endeavor.
"The coaches at San Francisco thought that since I was going to medical school in the off-season, I had a lack of interest in football," he said recently. "Bill Walsh just didn't feel like I was interested in the game. I told him, 'For six months, I'll give you everything I have.' "
Walsh declined comment on the topic, according to a 49ers team spokesman.
McAfee, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end, was a first-team All-America for three straight years. In 1977, he was a member of Notre Dame's national championship team and finished third in balloting for the Heisman Trophy--bestowed on the nation's top collegiate player.
McAfee, now 28, said some coaches discourage players from pursuing a career outside of football, but players must take the initiative. He also said that although virtually every football player went to college, many ignore the advantages of a free education.
"Just about every person playing pro football went to college," he said. "They had a chance for a free education and they waste it--they either don't get a degree or don't learn anything."
Many fans view McAfee as a bust in the NFL, another of those highly touted college stars that couldn't adapt to the professional game.
He said he initially was bothered by people saying he never "made it" in pro football. Then, he thought about it.
"What is considered 'making it?"' McAfee asked. "I was the seventh pick in the college draft, a first-round choice. The salary I made with the pros paid for my medical school.
"Just because I didn't play 10 or 15 years and didn't make All-Pro certainly doesn't mean that I didn't make it," he said.