Rookies Learn Lessons at the 2009 NFL Rookie Symposium

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Rookies Learn Lessons at the 2009 NFL Rookie Symposium
(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images for PLAYERS INC)
From June 28 – July 1 over 250 players selected in the 2009 NFL Draft attended the league’s Rookie Symposium in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The symposium is the yearly NFL freshman orientation basic skills seminar that tells the players all of the Do’s and Don’ts associated to being an NFL player.


Though some younger players may “think” they already know or can learn the ropes from veterans, there is nothing wrong with getting a concentrated dose of learning from the four-day session.

Many of the rookies have come into money for the first time in their lives and sure enough like Notorious B.I.G once said, “More Money, More Problems” including family, investments, friends, girlfriends, cars, etc. 

Hopefully the players were all ears and took advantage of the many speakers taking time out of their valuable schedules to “school” them on life in America’s No. 1 sports league. 

Some of the highlights from the Rookie Symposium included:

2008 Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talking in a very frank manner about developing the proper work ethic to stay in the NFL.   Tomlin, who I am a huge fan of, told the rookies in his no-nonsense manner that the “NFL is a Job” that they have to take seriously.

Second year pros New York Jet tight end Dustin Keeler and Atlanta Falcons receiver Harry Douglass, who both attended the 2008 Symposium, talked about dealing with family and close friends.  As we all know some family members want to treat players like ATM’s and then there are the many ticket requests.

Fellow second year player Rams DE Chris Long, son of Hall of Famer Howie Long, talked about being frugal with your money and not treating your salary like a bottomless pit.

Life Coach Zach Minor had some great real life scenario skits making players act-out probable situations for NFL players.  Minor also dealt with the important topic of “frienemies,” which stands for friends who really your enemies by dragging you down.

I thought Minor’s discussion topic was right on point as every NFL player that has gone through the league’s disciplinary process from Tank Johnson to Michael Vick have all said they needed to surround themselves with “better” people.

The star of the whole symposium was saved for the last day as future Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter talked openly and honestly about his 16 years as an NFL player including his early career struggles. 

Carter came into the in the NFL through the 1987 Supplemental Draft after being kicked out of college for dealings with an agent and quickly developed some bad habits—alcoholism and addiction—that almost ended his career. 

Luckily Carter was able to learn after being released by his former head coach Buddy Ryan in Philadelphia that playing in the NFL is a privilege and soon turned himself around on and off the field with the Vikings.  Carter left the game in 2002 with 1101 catches, 13899 yards, and 130 TDs in a career and now has forged a career as an analyst for ESPN.

The eight-time Pro Bowler lectured players about the dangers of making poor life decisions.  “I was here when Ryan Leaf was here. But also I was here when Michael Vick was here. And I sat up here and talked with Plaxico Burress. And Pacman was sitting right there, too.

I seen all these kids come through the National Football League and every one of them—I tried to tell them the truth—and every one of them looked at me and said, ‘You know, Cris. It ain’t gonna be me. It ain’t gonna happen to me.’” 

Carter even laid the smackdown on a dozing player, reportedly telling the unnamed rookie, “if you don’t want to listen to people who know more than you and who can help you navigate through what lies ahead, odds are you won’t be in the league for long.” It’ll be interesting to see if the player is exposed later on. We’re betting he will be.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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