Kenny Tate

Scouts watch as Kenny Tate does the bench press in Maryland's weight room at pro day. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun / March 13, 2013)

Kenny Tate's college football career enabled him to fulfill a dream, while all but ending another dream -- that of an NFL career.

It doesn't seem like a favorable tradeoff.  Tate and countless other  top pro prospects  played college football for free, became injured and -- in their diminished states -- missed out on opportunities  to cash in on their talents  in the NFL.

Make no mistake. Tate got what he wanted from the University of Maryland. The former All-ACC safety got to play on a big stage in which he could showcase his ample talents. He got a scholarship and was savvy enough  to turn it into a diploma, which he received last summer. 

Certainly, knee injuries are part of the game. It could be argued that Tate, who required a cartilage transplant, was merely unlucky. He knew the risks before signing up to play.

But I think Tate's experience -- which I chronicled in a story for Sunday's paper -- raises some big-picture questions about college sports:

** Should college athletes be considered, in effect, work-study students and be compensated   for the many hours dedicated to a sport earning  millions of dollars for their schools?

** Should college football players be permitted to enter the NFL before they are three years removed from high school so there is less of a window for the occurrence of serious injuries threatening potentially lucrative  pro careers?

** Are elite  players  receiving valuable college educations -- on par with those of other students -- after  they arrive with below-average academic credentials, intent on football careers above all else? Here is a link to an earlier story I wrote on this topic.

To his credit, Tate seemed to sense that he needed to prepare himself for life after football. It's just that he has long believed his post-football life is years away -- not right now

"We’ve watched countless documentaries and seen statistics on what happens after college," he said. "It’s rare you see a player after 30 playing. That’s old. I’ve still got a whole lot of life to live."