The fast track to professional football is reserved for the few.
And all too frequently, those who are in a rush to get there often get tripped up along a road that is filled with obstacles.
Erick McIntosh, the third-year defensive back for the Tampa Bay Storm, learned that the hard way.
Prior to making his professional debut, McIntosh starred at Florida Atlantic University, where he was two classes shy of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Arts and Humanities when opportunity came knocking on his door. On the other side were of course the front office executives of the Storm, who liked what McIntosh had to offer as a player, and subsequently signed him to a contract in May of 2010.
But while McIntosh has enjoyed success on the field, there is perhaps more work still left to accomplish off of it, which includes not only going back to school to complete his degree, but also coming to terms with one’s self in the process.
“To be honest, it wasn’t a difficult decision to leave school and go play football,” McIntosh said. “It was actually probably one of the easiest. I had always wanted to play football at the professional level and I knew that going and playing at the collegiate level could help me get there. The opportunity came and I ran with it, and to be honest, at the time, I had no intention of returning to school.”
He did indeed run with it, until he simply couldn’t run anymore.
McIntosh got off to a hot start, making four tackles in his professional debut and corralling his first interception the week after that. The touchdowns eventually came, as did the weekly in-game awards for a strong performance on the field. And then, as they often do, the injuries followed. In a game on July 17 at Jacksonville, McIntosh suffered a separated shoulder and missed the final three weeks of the regular season, which included him going on inactive status.
Fortunately, he returned in time for the Storm’s playoff run, which culminated with a tough defeat at the hands of the Spokane Shock in the ArenaBowl, causing McIntosh and his teammates to return home empty-handed. It proved to be a tough lesson, but an important one nonetheless that helped him realize the difference between knowing what you want to do, and simply knowing what you should do.
“Football might not always work out,” McIntosh said. “The injuries taught me you need a Plan B.”
Following the current season McIntosh will return to FAU, where he will trade in the playbook for the textbook to complete his degree, which encompasses a broad variety of academic avenues including music, theatre and art history. McIntosh, however, said that when his football playing days are over, he would like to pursue a career in music above all else.
“It’s always been a huge part of my life, but I think it’s interesting just because it’s so powerful and has a huge impact on our society,” McIntosh said. “That’s part of what I liked about my area of study. It doesn’t just limit you to one thing when you’re finished, but it’s so broad that it gives you the freedom to choose from a lot of options.”
McIntosh credits Storm President Derrick Brooks, Vice President of Football Operations Jeff Gooch, and his own parents for helping guide him in the right direction and to help him realize the significance of receiving an education.
There is also an additional set of circumstances that McIntosh believes will make the fulfillment of his goal even more rewarding.
“When I was at FAU, there were a lot of people who didn’t believe that I would make it far,” he added. “I was always hearing doubts from critics, but I believe in God’s plan and I have faith that he is helping me finish what I start.”
Using many of the same qualities attained on the football field, such as accountability and commitment, McIntosh is doing just that. Not just for his critics or even God, but most importantly, for himself.