Portraits from the Hall of Fame
The Beacon catches up with Fred McAfee '91
Fred McAfee still remembers sitting in the locker room during his first week as an MC Choctaw and telling a friend, “You just wait. We’re going to be in Sports Illustrated someday.”
It was a big dream for a young man from Philadelphia, Mississippi, playing college football for a small, private university. But McAfee not only made it into the pages of the legendary sports magazine, he credits the support he found at Mississippi College with helping him get there.
“The Christian atmosphere and family feeling at Mississippi College was important to me,” McAfee says. “The people I met at MC made me welcome and at home. I always felt like people at MC really cared about me and encouraged me.”
A standout player on the football and track teams, McAfee went on to enjoy a remarkable, 16-year career as an NFL running back. Originally drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 1991, McAfee also played for the Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before rejoining the Saints to finish his days in uniform.
In 2007, McAfee assumed a new role with the Saints when he was named director of player development, a position that allows him to minister to other NFL players. In addition to scouting for the Saints, McAfee is charged with helping rookie players adjust to life in the NFL, and retiring players adjust to life off the football field.
“Players coming in have usually been in college, where they have classes and a structured schedule, and most of them have never had much money,” McAfee says. “All of a sudden, they have a lot of extra time on their hands and a lot of money in their pockets. Then you have players at their end of their athletic careers that don’t have a lot of insight into what they’re going to do when they get out. I’ve seen guys go from making $30 million a year to $3,000 a year and vice versa. The rookies and the retirees can both benefit from some guidance.”
For the rookies, McAfee offers real life examples of players who've squandered their newfound wealth through bad decisions, and of players who’ve used their money not only to benefit themselves, but also to help others. For retiring players, McAfee sets up job shadowing opportunities, introduces franchise possibilities, and sends players who want to move into sports media to broadcast boot camp. He also develops programs to help rookies and retirees juggle the changing demands on their families. With the average pro football career lasting just three and a half years, it’s a role that keeps McAfee busy, but one that he enjoys.
“When I was a rookie just starting out, I remember it was sometimes difficult to go from being a small town Mississippi boy to an NFL player. But I also remember people who went out of their way to help me. And I told myself, if I ever have the chance to help someone else, I’m definitely going to do it.”
McAfee still has one dream of his own left to realize – being inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. Potential members are not eligible for induction while they are still active with the organization, and while he’s moved from the backfield to the front office, Fred McAfee isn’t planning to leave the game anytime soon.