ORLANDO, Fla. - If you were a junior computer whiz in college and Microsoft offered you a job that pays a couple of million dollars, what would you do?
You'd leave school, take the money and run. You know you would.
That's exactly the situation dozens of standout college athletes face every year, with the NFL or NBA serving as Microsoft.
And you know what happens? Many of us sports fans sit in judgment on these underclassmen, saying they are making a big mistake turning pro because we think they should come back to school and help our team win.
That, folks, is the definition of hypocrite.
Let's all put our sanctimonious sentiments aside and wish juniors Navorro Bowman and Evan Royster the best of luck, because Friday probably will be the last time we see either of them in a Penn State uniform.
Bowman leaving early for the NFL appears to be a done deal, though the linebacker did indicate Tuesday that "there's a chance" he could return to PSU.
Seeing all those $$$$$$$$$$$$$, however, will make staying in school very difficult.
"I've never been rich before, so it's always on my mind," said Bowman, who will make millions as a first- or second-round draft pick.
Royster's future is the bigger unknown.
"I'm not anywhere close to making a decision," the running back said.
Royster is a humble guy who hates talking about himself, so it was a little uncomfortable watching him squirm as he was peppered with question after question about his looming NFL decision.
"I'm not leaning toward anything," he said.
Royster is waiting to hear his draft grade from the NFL advisory committee, and he called that "the biggest thing" that will determine his decision.
There's only one reason a player on the fence should stay in school, and it has nothing to do with education. The only thing that matters is can he substantially increase his draft stock, thereby earning much more money.
This is the key component for Royster, and one that's up for debate.
Let's assume Royster is a third- or fourth-round pick this year, pretty much the consensus of several mock drafts. If he comes back to Penn State, do you believe he can improve his stock?
I don't. In fact, it's possible he could hurt his stock and go lower in the 2011 draft.
Penn State will have a new, very raw quarterback next season in Kevin Newsome. Opposing defenses are going to stack eight or nine in the box to stuff the run and dare Newsome to beat them with his arm. And of course, PSU's offensive line is always a big question mark, something that won't change next year.
Every team will key heavily on stopping Royster. He has 2,853 yards rushing in three years, and the odds of a third straight 1,000-yard season would not be good.
Royster not only could take a beating, he could get injured and lose any potential NFL money.
"There's always that chance of getting hurt," Royster said.
If Penn State had a dominant quarterback and offensive line returning, then sure, maybe Royster could come back, run for 1,600 yards and improve his pro stock.
Since that won't be the case, it's just not worth the risk.
Asked to describe what he can offer an NFL team, Royster said, "An every-down back type player. I'm not one of those small scatbacks who can only come in on third down and passing downs. I'm somebody to run between the tackles and just move the chains."
He's not overly fast, however, which will hurt him in the NFL. His vision and footwork are terrific, but without breakaway speed, it's difficult to see Royster becoming a lead tailback in the pros.
Still, he's a good enough all-around athlete to perhaps land in the third or fourth round. If that's where he's told he likely will get drafted, then Royster would be wise to go.
Royster said he needs a couple of more classes to finish his degree in management information systems. If he turns pro, he can always come back later and take those courses.
Bowman, on the other hand, not only has millions of dollars waiting, he also already has a degree. He earned his in criminal law.
"One thing that really was important to my mother ... was getting my degree," Bowman said. "That makes it a lot easier. Some guys that's in the league right now, they don't have one, and they're dependent on the NFL. I don't want to do that. I want to go in and enjoy it and play the time that I have and do something after."
Frankly, it would be foolish for the All-American to stay in school. He, too, is waiting to hear from the NFL advisory committee about his draft potential, but unless he tests horribly at the Combine, he's almost certain to go in the top two rounds.
Bowman missed two full games and most of another early this season with a groin injury. He also watched fellow linebacker Sean Lee tear up his knee and miss the 2008 season.
"That plays a huge part," Bowman said of potential injuries.
He knows he has one more game on a national stage against a premier opponent to impress NFL scouts. If he plays well against LSU, that almost certainly would help him make his decision.
"[I'm] really just trying to finish strong, and if I can raise my stock in that area, I have a chance to do it in this game," Bowman said. "I'm just trying to have the best game I can have on [Friday] and see where I end up."
Bowman has an infant son, Navorro Jr., to look out for, so that will play a role in his decision. Although he says otherwise, it's hard to believe he hasn't already made up his mind to turn pro.
These two guys have been fun to watch at Penn State for three years. Think about that when you're watching them for the final time Friday.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and email@example.com.