The National Football League (NFL) is renowned for being one of the most elite and challenging sports leagues to break into. Most players have years of experience in college football before entering the NFL draft.

However, there have been a select few prodigies talented enough to go straight from high school to the NFL.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: There have been zero players who have gone directly from high school to the NFL.

In this article, we will look at the history of the policy banning high school players, discuss the risks and benefits of going pro early, and outline the current rules around entering the draft straight out of high school.

The History of Banning High School Players

The ban on high school players entering the NFL directly from high school is not a recent development in the league’s history. Even before the 1990 NFL Draft rule, there was a rule in place that prevented high school players from declaring for the draft and pursuing a professional football career.


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When the Ban Started

Everything started in 1925 when the NFL implemented the Red Grange rule to prevent players from playing both college football and pro football in the same year. Harold “Red” Grange, also known as the Galloping Ghost, had exceptional speed, great power, and an innate talent for carrying the football down the field.

After high school, he played for the University of Illinois where he was a three-time All-American (1923-1925). While in college, he simultaneously played professional football. In 1925, the NCAA passed the Red Grange Rule, which prevented players from playing both college and professional football at the same time.

Based on that rule, a player could only go to the NFL after a full four years of college, or after four years had elapsed since his graduation from high school. This rule stayed in effect until 1990.

In 1990, the NFL implemented a rule that stated players must be at least three years removed from high school before being eligible for the draft.

The rule that prohibits players from high school going straight to NFL is met with mixed reactions from both players and fans.

Supporters of the rule argue that the physicality and intensity of the NFL require players to have a certain level of maturity and development before entering the league. They believe that high school players, no matter how talented, are simply not equipped to handle the demands of professional football.

Opponents of the rule, on the other hand, feel that talented high school players should have the opportunity to showcase their skills and pursue a professional career if they are ready. They argue that the ban restricts the opportunities of exceptional athletes who might be fully capable of competing at the highest level.

Arguments For and Against the Policy

The arguments for and against the rule regarding high school players entering the NFL directly from high school continue to be debated to this day. Let’s take a closer look at each side:

  • For the Rule: Supporters of the ban believe that young players need time to physically and mentally develop before entering the NFL. The league is known for its physicality and speed, and players who have spent time in college or other developmental leagues have had the opportunity to mature and refine their skills.Additionally, the ban helps protect young players from potential injury and ensures they have a solid educational foundation.
  • Against the Rule: Opponents argue that exceptional talent should not be limited by arbitrary rules. They believe that if a high school player has the skills and ability to compete at the professional level, they should be given the opportunity to do so.Restricting their entry into the NFL not only limits their potential, but also denies them the chance to provide for themselves and their families.

It’s important to note that while the ban on high school players entering the NFL directly from high school remains in place, there are alternative routes for young players to pursue their dreams of playing professional football.

Many talented players choose to attend college and compete at the collegiate level before declaring for the NFL Draft. Others may opt to play in developmental leagues or participate in post-high school programs designed to prepare them for the rigors of the NFL.

Risks and Rewards of Going Pro Early

Most football players choose to attend college before entering the NFL. Going pro early comes with both risks and rewards. Let’s take a look at what they are.

Injury Risk

One of the main concerns when going pro early is the increased risk of injury. NFL players face a high level of physicality and competition, and going pro early can be incredibly demanding on a player’s body.

Without the proper physical development and conditioning that college provides, these young athletes may be more susceptible to injuries.

Missing College Experience

Another factor to consider is the unique college experience that athletes may miss out on by going pro early. College offers not only the opportunity to continue developing as a player but also the chance to grow personally and academically.

It provides a supportive environment where athletes can learn from experienced coaches, build lifelong friendships, and gain a well-rounded education. By bypassing college, these young players may miss out on these valuable experiences and the chance to mature both on and off the field.

On this note, it is important to keep in mind that eligible players don’t need to go to college in order to enter the draft or play as a pro. They just need to be three years removed from school.

Huge Earning Potential

On the other hand, going pro early does come with the potential for significant financial rewards. NFL players can earn substantial salaries, endorsement deals, and other lucrative opportunities. By entering the professional ranks sooner, these athletes have the opportunity to start earning money earlier in their careers.

For some, this can be a life-changing opportunity that sets them up for financial security in the long run.

It is worth noting that the NFL has implemented rules requiring players to be at least three years removed from high school before entering the draft. This change was made to ensure that players have the necessary physical and mental maturity to handle the demands of professional football.

Current NFL Draft Rules for High School Players

As mentioned above, the NFL has strict rules in place regarding high school players entering the draft. The league requires players to be at least three years removed from high school before they are eligible to enter the NFL Draft.

This means that players must have completed their senior year of high school, plus an additional three years, before they can declare for the draft.

The Importance of the Three-Year Rule

The three-year rule is in place to ensure that players have enough time to develop their skills and physically mature before entering the highly competitive world of professional football. By spending this time in college or another developmental program, players have the opportunity to refine their technique, gain experience, and become more physically prepared for the demands of the NFL.

Furthermore, the three-year rule also gives NFL teams a chance to evaluate players against more advanced competition. College football provides a higher level of competition than high school, allowing teams to assess a player’s skills and potential more accurately.

This helps teams make more informed decisions during the draft process.

The Impact on High School Players

While the three-year rule ensures that players are adequately prepared for the NFL, it also means that talented high school players must make a decision between attending college and pursuing a professional football career.

This can be a difficult choice for young athletes who may have dreams of making it to the NFL straight out of high school.

However, there are still opportunities for high school players to showcase their skills and attract the attention of college recruiters and NFL scouts. High school All-American games, such as the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Under Armour All-America Game, provide a platform for top high school players to compete against each other and gain exposure.

Additionally, college football programs actively recruit high school players who show exceptional talent and potential.

For more information on the current NFL draft rules, you can visit the official NFL website at


While players can’t move to NFL stardom straight from high school, they can still achieve prolific career. This can be done through college football or other ways.

The risks of going pro early are high, as missing out on college football provides less time to develop fundamentals and maturity. At the moment the three-year-rule is still in force, but we can never know what the future holds and whether the NFL is going to change it at some point.

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