Joey Bosa could be the No. 1 pick in this April’s NFL draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who has the junior Ohio State defensive end at the top of his first mock draft, says Bosa “has the upside of a star.” Bosa is already a huge star on the Ohio State campus, where he’s been one of the Buckeyes’ best players since his freshman season in 2013. But according to a new story on the Sports Illustrated website Campus Rush, Bosa doesn’t mingle with his fellow students. Instead, he’s been living in isolation, waiting out the requisite three years until he’s eligible to be paid for his football talent.
The piece, by Joan Niesen, is depressing as hell. Bosa and his parents, Niesen writes, decided that the now 20-year-old should live by himself after he was suspended for Ohio State’s 2015 season opener.* That suspension was due to an unnamed “transgression”—ESPN.com reported that it was “either marijuana or academics.” So, due to marijuana or academics, Bosa packed up his belongings and moved into a one-bedroom place. “His sparse apartment was furnished with little more than an Xbox, DVDs, football gear, clothing, cooking utensils and the minimum amount of furniture,” Niesen writes. She then quotes Bosa as saying, “I pretty much like sitting in my apartment, being in a dark cave for hours. If I spend the whole day there, I have no problem with that.”
If Bosa genuinely loves sitting in a dark cave for hours, then I’m glad he’s found one. Plus, playing Xbox can be fun.
But this enforced monasticism is one of the most striking examples I’ve ever seen of the hypocrisy of big-time college sports. Bosa, who when he’s loosed on the quasi-free market in a couple of months should sign a contract with more than $20 million in guaranteed money, has all the trappings of celebrity but none of the perks. He can’t “go out on High Street near campus without being mobbed,” reports Niesen. Partaking in typical collegiate behavior—“marijuana or academics”—is a “transgression.”
NFL rules, which have been upheld in federal court, mandate that players be out of high school for three years before they can enter the draft. And so—for his own protection and for the benefit of NFL general managers who want to see him perform contrition—Bosa goes to live in a dark cave. Ohio State won a national title and earned millions thanks to Bosa’s incredible play. The player, meanwhile, must spend three years hoping to escape injury and avoiding the kinds of news stories that pro football personnel people will see as a “red flag.”
For Bosa, then, spending a year palling around with his Xbox is a smart business decision. If he can’t make any money as an Ohio State Buckeye, then he might as well lock himself in an apartment, turn off the lights, and watch the clock count down to draft day. As he twiddles his thumbs, he can take pride in knowing that Ohio State’s new 15-year, $252 million deal with Nike is a lot bigger than the sportswear giant’s deal with Michigan. Beating your rival is what college sports is all about.
Previously in Slate:
*Correction, Jan. 15, 2016: This post originally misstated that Joey Bosa is 21 years old. He is 20.