Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Higher Education


Leadership and Counselor Education

First Advisor

Timothy D. Letzring

Second Advisor

Brandi Hephner-LaBanc

Third Advisor

John Holleman

Relational Format



The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore and understand perceptions of African American male football athletes at Division I institutions that also played professional football, regarding their collegiate experiences and transition from athletics to post-playing careers. The study examined issues of race and social interaction, academic preparation, economic status, leadership opportunities, and the transitions from collegiate and professional sports. The participants in this study consisted of six former NFL players who attended college and played collegiately at NCAA predominately white Division I institutions in the Southern Regional Education Board member states in the United States. Using qualitative interview methods (pre-interview, focus group, individual interview), data was collected and analyzed using critical race and transition theories. The results of the analysis of the interview data identified six major themes: 1) The Importance of Football, 2) The Academic Smokescreen, 3) Issues of Race, 4) Economic Hardships, 5) Student-Athlete Rights, and 6) Difficult Transitions and Identity Issues.



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