Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

How Is The Current Generation Of NFL Athletes Different From The Old Generation?

Posted on December 10, 2018 by Lora Young

football-2The way we develop is always a wonder to behold. It’s easy to get lost in the grand scheme of things, especially with how busy and upbeat modern-day life is. But once in a while it’s nice to take a breather and take a look back at how we used to be. One good way to appreciate how far we’ve come as the new generation is to appreciate how much we’ve grown since our forefathers.

The realm of the NFL will always be one that is held close to the soul of the nation. The athletes who are worthy enough to play in the league are no less than legends in their own right. Sure, we can easily compare modern NFL players with each other. There are many sites that provide fantasy football stats for the extremely enthusiastic football fan. But there’s a certain sense of nostalgia in looking back at how things and people used to be.

So, how exactly is the new generation of NFL athletes different from the legends of old?

Only The Elites Get Into The NFL

While this hasn’t technically changed over the past years, this is still an important thing to note because the competition for the spots on the rosters has only grown fiercer. NFL athletes earn an average of about $2.1 million per year and only 1% of all college football players ever actually make it into the NFL. The modern NFL player is very well paid. In fact, they are far better paid than their older counterparts who still needed to find side jobs in order to sustain themselves.

A big part of this is because not many people paid for athletes to compete. Football wasn’t as popular or as profitable as it is today.

Size and Weight

Early NFL players were mostly, if not all, everymen. They played offensive and defensive positions well and they were trained to be versatile. Modern NFL athletes, however, are not only bigger and stronger, they are also much more specialized to their roles and this often reflects in their physical attributes. These unique physical attributes are a result of their unique training regimen specific to the position they play. Offensive and defensive linemen are particularly trained for strength.


The modern NFL athlete undergoes football-specific training, complete with specialized diets, and their own medical staff who ensure that they are at peak performance during game day. The medical staff is also in charge of helping the athlete recover from injuries.

In contrast, old-school football players acquired their strength, not from playing in college teams or specialized training, but rather from toil and daily hard labor. This meant that back in the day, any able-bodied man could become a football player. It can also be surmised that it was because of this “inclusivity” that older-generation football players weren’t as well paid as the towering giants we currently have today. Furthermore, unlike the NFL athletes of today, old football players weren’t as closely monitored as today’s athletes.

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