High school eligibility for football players varies from state to state. However, most high schools have similar rules in regards to eligibility. To be able to play high school football, players typically need to be in good academic and judicial standing with the school.
If a football player wishes to participate at the college level, there are lots of steps in order to make that happen. A player needs to be skilled enough to get in contact with college coaches and coaches need to be interested enough in him.
The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has a set of very structured eligibility rules. The NCAA consists of three different divisions, Division I, II and III. Divisions I and II have the exact eligibility rules while Division III differs from the other two just a bit.
First, there are rules in regards to academics. There is a set of standards called "initial-eligibility standards" outlined by the NCAA. In regards to these standards, standardized tests and high school course grades will be taken into consideration. After an athlete meets the standards set forth by the NCAA, he will also have to meet the standards of the specific college or university in which he chooses to attend. Division III has very similar academic to rules to Division I and II with some minor differences.
There are also rules to ensure that football players continue to be legally eligible during their college careers. These rules involve aspects in regards to academics, amateurism, professional draft, reinstatement, and transferring.
There are specific regulations when it comes to who is eligible for the NFL Draft. First, a football player must be out of high school for at least three years and it must be during the year that his college eligibility has ended. As for underclassmen and players that graduate from school before using up all of their eligibility, they can seek to get approval from the NFL to be eligible to enter the draft. There are also certain circumstances in which there are exceptions and players can try to get a particular waiver.
In order to ensure that every football player entering the NFL draft is eligible, NFL employees sift through 3,000 player profiles. These employees screen every player to make sure NFL teams can legally draft them if they wish to.
Players that enter the draft and do not get drafted become free agents. As free agents, they are eligible to sign with any NFL team that chooses to sign them.