Many football players dream of playing in a big game like the Super Bowl, but they get their start with youth, high school and college ball. College football, in particular, gives them a taste of what it might be like to reach the professional level.
The players are recruited to schools to play ball in a system that brings millions of dollars to those schools.
They face risk of long-lasting injury. They face the risk that an immediate injury that limits their ability to play could also mean they lose the scholarships that allow them to attend school.
Recently players at Northwestern University filed paperwork to try to change that, aiming to create the first labor union for college athletes.
They say they often put in 40-hour weeks for football-related activity and face potential injury while doing it.
The players want fully funded, multi-year athletic scholarships, due process when they are accused of NCAA violations, and to be ensured they can have continuing medical care for future conditions caused by playing their sport.
They bring up good points.
The NCAA makes billions of dollars a year from the student athletes' play. Some individual schools make hundreds of millions.
But to form a union, they will have to prove they're employees of their school, something the NCAA disputes.
A National Labor Relations Board hearing will be held Friday.
Salaries for players are not realistic, and a unionized system, which might affect only private schools because public ones are subject to state laws, may not be the best answer.
The basic purpose of any school is to prepare students for a successful future.
The work student athletes put in clearly benefits their schools, and the schools should be willing to give them a guaranteed education and continuing medical care when needed to reward their work with a chance at successful futures.