I can remember sitting in the seats at the Rookie Symposium last year, watching the player panel and thinking, “This is probably the most important part of the whole entire event because this is where I’m going to be in a year.” I knew that if those were the guys sitting up there talking to the rookies, then obviously they’d gained enough respect from the NFL and their peers to be in that position sharing their experiences with the rookie class. And I said to myself right then, “I want to be on that panel next year. And even if I’m not on the panel, I want to have done enough to be deserving of being on it.”
So I took the opportunity to participate in this year’s player panel very seriously. I wanted to share what I’ve learned in one year with a group of young men who are about to go into that. I think that’s awesome, and I looked at the opportunity as a blessing.
There are two key nuggets of information that I really wanted these guys to take away from this. First, stay even-keeled. Never get too high and never get too low. Create a positive environment that allows you to stay in a mindset of peace and focus when it comes to football and your life…and then stay there. If you can stay in that lane, then the game of football is going to come a lot easier. Go to work, study film, spend time with your family, but stay in that lane.
The second thing is don’t ever compare. Don’t look at what this guy over here is getting paid and start changing the way you act in the locker room based on what somebody else has. Don’t look at what another team is doing in OTAs and start wondering why your team is running so much. If you start comparing, you’ll start slacking, and then you’re going to find yourself looking for a different team. Focus on what you have to do and go get that done.
This next month is important. Go get your body healthy. After OTAs and mini-camp, you need a soft tissue specialist or some type of doctor that can put you on a table and tell you what you need to do during the next month to make sure you are healthy for the start of the season. Figure out the ins and outs of your body, what it looks like and what you need to work on.
Then go find somewhere you can train and vacation at the same time. Don’t go to South Beach, kick it all month and think you’re going to come to training camp and take a job. Mentally and physically you won’t be ready. Go to, for example, a place in Cali, where there’s an API, and you can train every single day. And on the weekends, spend it how you want. I would never tell anybody to go into a hole and train because that might get you too stressed out. That’s not for everybody. But you can find a nice place, where, for four hours a day, you’re making sure you’re getting stronger, faster, better at your skills and focusing on taking care of your body. And then you can relax.
I like the quote “The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” There have been enough NFL players who have gone up on stage and talked about how they went broke or how they didn’t take their jobs seriously or how they had to drop out of the league. Let them be the last guys to tell those stories. You don’t have to go through something bad to understand what that experience feels like. Let those guys go through it and you learn from it.
If you take the approach of an undrafted free agent that has to make it everyday, then you can’t help but be successful. It’s a blessing to be able to catch footballs for a job. Just don’t waste this opportunity.