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How Bryce Love can be a doctor and an NFL player, explained by 2 guys who have done it

There’s a roadmap for pursing dual careers in medicine and football, sometimes even at the same time.

Original image: USA TODAY Sports.

Stanford running back Bryce Love is just starting his NFL journey with Washington.

Despite an injury-plagued 2018 not nearly as successful as his junior year, Love has an NFL future. He finished as Stanford’s all-time leader in yards per carry and as a Heisman runner-up in his junior year.

Washington picked him in the fourth round. Love said ahead of the draft that, if he had to do it again, he would make the same decision to wait until the 2019 draft to turn pro.

But football isn’t the only thing Love has going for him. He has aspirations to pursue a career in medicine, too.

When Love was a child, he thought of the doctors who cured him of pneumonia as “superheroes.” At Stanford, he majored in human biology.

He could end up in a white coat when his playing days are over. He was open throughout his college career about his desire to one day become a doctor.

If Love does go into medicine, he won’t be the first NFL player to do so. Some examples:

  • Running back Samkon Gado played in the NFL for seven seasons in the 2000s before becoming an ear, nose, and throat doctor in St. Louis.
  • Linebacker Milt McColl spent eight years in the NFL during the 1980s and went through medical school during his career.
  • In recent years, the Chiefs’ Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Titans’ Myron Rolle have graduated from med school.

I talked to Gado and McColl about what Love’s career paths might entail.

1. It’s not always clear when it’s time to start pursuing a career in medicine, but sometimes the timing falls into place.

Gado appeared in 39 games and rushed for 1,631 yards and 16 touchdowns at Liberty. The NFL wasn’t at the forefront of his mind after graduation. But because he took the MCAT his senior year, he had a year to kill before he could apply to medical school.

“At that time, I couldn’t do anything,” Gado said. “And I thought, well, if I could get a job or even if I could make a practice squad — at the time, I think it was something like $75,000 a year — and I thought that’s at least a job for a season.”

He kept playing until his NFL opportunities ran out in 2009.

McColl also played at Stanford. He graduated in 1981 and completed some medical school courses ahead of time, and UCLA’s med school accepted him. But his old Stanford coach, Bill Walsh, signed him to the 49ers as a free agent in the summer.

McColl made Walsh’s 49ers team, after the guy in front of him got hurt. McColl then got off the waitlist at Stanford’s medical school just in time to take classes while playing for the 49ers.

2. Even if your NFL career starts to take off, there’s enough time to prep for a medical career.

In October 2005, the Packers called Gado up to their 53-man roster. He was the NFL’s Rookie of the Month in November after rushing for 283 yards and four touchdowns over four games. Did he ever change his plans to be a doctor?

‘It never changed,” Gado said. “The only thing at the time that I thought would make me reconsider medical school was if I signed such a large contract that would have me playing past a certain age, or that could’ve solved money problems for the rest of my life. And I knew, for my position, it could take years before I could ever be in a position to do that in the NFL.”

Green Bay Packers v Philadelphia Eagles

Gado bounced around the league for seven seasons before going to medical school in 2010. He did an internship at a local hospital when he was in Green Bay, and he worked at a nursing home while with the Texans.

McColl, however, found time to finish medical school in six years while he remained in the NFL. He even appeared in two Super Bowls with San Francisco in the same span.

“There was a lot of juggling during the spring, McColl said. “I’d have to go to training camp. I’d have to find times to work out. I used to be at a surgery service, and I’d have an hour lunch break and I’d race over to the gym and work out and race back, and hopefully no one knew I was gone.”

New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

“There are definitely people that go off and do things outside [the team], McColl added. “It would just take [Love] a bit longer, but if he found the right medical school that would be accommodating for him to do that, I think he could still do it.”

3. Being a football star might even make Love a more attractive med school candidate.

“A guy like him, that’s such a unique person, will be an attraction to a lot of places,” McColl said. “I was never the top of my class in anything, but I was doing other things. I think people appreciated that I had that going for me.”

4. You’ve gotta make it clear you’re committed to football, though.

Early during McColl’s first season, Walsh told him he needed to focus on football more. In a panic, McColl called his father for advice.

“He said, ‘It’s all about optics. You gotta be the last person to leave practice, you gotta stay extra, hit the sled, do extra sprints, let the coach see you out the window, that you’re out running more than anybody, and just show him how committed you are. It has nothing to do with what you’re doing play-wise. It has to do with optics. You have to convince him that football is the most important thing.’”

5. Some football skills translate well to medicine.

One thing that might help Love: a familiarity with being closely watched.

“Most people are not put in that kind of setting where their performance is judged on a daily basis, but he has been as a football player,” Gado said.

“And he’ll be more so, when he’s drafted. So I think those three things have crossed over: the attention to detail, the preparation and sheer effort that comes with both on the field, and being used to your performance being judged.”

6. You’ll probably always be known as a football player first.

“You’ve got more years to live than you did playing it,” Gado said. “But then that whole time, you’ve identified as a football player. Whether you realize it or not, people have seen you as that. To this day, I’m known as the football player, and I haven’t played in 10 years. But you’re known as this person that does this thing, and society accepts it and acknowledges it, and so you place your identity in it.”