FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Just like many other recent college graduates, Charles Clay has no idea what the future holds in this struggling economy. But he does notice the bills stacking up.
The loans have an astronomical interest rate. The rent, phone bill, car note and insurance are due and the bank account is on life support.
Good thing Clay, the Tulsa fullback the Miami Dolphins selected in the sixth round of last April's NFL draft, found work. Unfortunately, it's not in his chosen field.
To stay afloat during the NFL's lockout, which has entered its third month, Clay's been receiving day labor type work with a company called LPD, which has him cutting grass at oil wells and doing odd jobs like cleaning the jacks to make ends meet.
"Not getting an income right now is tough, especially when I'm trying to have a facility to work out in, and have to pay for things like (trainers)," said Clay, whom the Dolphins envision as an H-back who creates matchup problems for linebackers.
"It's tough, but at the same time you've got to get by somehow," he said. "I'm pretty sure there are other guys doing the same thing. Nobody is getting any kind of income. You have to get money some kind of way."
Hundreds of rookies, and even some players who were on the bottom half of NFL rosters in recent years, are in a similar position. Many are living on loans from their agents, or the bank. Most are paying their medical and professional insurance on their own, or doing without.
Unlike Clay, Damien Berry suffered through the disappointment of not getting selected in the 2011 draft even though one team called the former University of Miami tailback in the seventh round and said they'd take him.
But stomaching that disappointment wasn't as tough as turning down $70,000 from the UFL. That's what Berry was offered about a month ago to commit to the upstart league's eight week season. All he had to do was abandon his life-long dream of playing in the NFL before the lockout ended, signing a iron-clad contract with the United Football League.
"That money's straight, and I sure need it," said Berry, who recently got married and has a newborn daughter, 'but I couldn't give up on my dream. It's tough out here right now, but nothing has ever comes easy for me during my career, and if you really want it you've got to be willing to wait."
The waiting game is what we're all playing during the NFL's work stoppage, which is caused by a weakened economy, and overall greed. Most believe the NBA's headed for the same fate in the coming weeks.
With the unemployment rate rising last month in 13 states during this recession it's hard to shed a tear for professional athletes, especially those who make more in one game check than some families receive in a year. Still, many are indeed struggling as a result of the lockout.
"I just want to get there. When I get there is when I'll feel like an NFL player," said Clay, who scored 28 touchdowns during his college career. "Technically I just feel like a student who graduated."
Clay is a promising employee simply looking for work in his field -- it just happens to be a football field.