The Last Fall: How NFL Dreams Turn To Nightmares

The average NFL player's career only lasts three years. A new film explores what happens to many athletes once they leave the field for good.

By Jorge Rivas Sep 13, 2011

"The Last Fall," a new film from director Matthew Cherry, exposes a side of the NFL that fans rarely get to see. The sports-drama follows a former NFL player through an unexpected and early retirement and the complexities that come with having to give up your profession at the tender age of 25.

"For every millionaire you have ten other players who are barely making what the average American makes at their regular 9-5," Cherry said in a statement.

The average NFL player’s career lasts three years and many players go in to bankruptcy within two years of retiring. It’s an all too familiar story for many African-American men who make up about 67 percent of the NFL’s active roster, according to the Racial and Gender Report Card published by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. (And we won’t even get in to the jobs crisis in general for black folks.)

Cherry himself is a former NFL wide receiver who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Pathers and the Baltimore Ravens. He retired in 2007 to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

"Often players bounce around from team to team trying to hold onto their childhood dream and lose touch with family, friends and meaningful relationships," Cherry said.

The film, which is independently produced, stars some familiar names like Lance Gross from Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and Tony Award nominee Keith David.

The film’s synopsis:

The Last Fall tells the story of Kyle Bishop, played by Lance Gross, a 25 year-old budding NFL star who suddenly finds himself out of work, penniless and with no idea what to do next. Like many unemployed, ex-pros, Bishop returns home where he reconnects with his family and tries to rekindle old flames with his high school sweetheart, Faith Davis, played by Nicole Beharie. After a cold reception Kyle eventually finds his way back into Faith’ life and heart. Soon Kyle decides to permanently sever his ties with football and start a new life with Faith and her son, Von. But just when he settles into a new job and a loving life with Faith, he receives a lucrative offer from a NFL team.

The Last Fall will be released in 2012.

Below are interviews of that casts conducted on set by