To be successful in the NFL, rookies have to work hard, study film, make sacrifices and take care of their body like a Formula 1 race car. For a player to get drafted, he already must be doing many of these things. It’s elementary that hard work and focus while under the eyes of a coaching staff will lead to getting an opportunity and having a decent NFL career.
A player’s genetic make up and his talent gets him in the NFL door, but what usually exits them prematurely is what they do on their own time away from the facility. The formula to having a prolonged NFL career can be simple but also hard to stay committed to because of temptation, distractions, bad advice and/or even the weight of family and friends wanting to ride along the journey.
Here are 5 ways rookies can maximize their opportunity to have a successful rookie season:
1) Do not put anything in your body without doing the research first:
The stakes are high (getting and keeping a job), and players are always looking for an edge. They want to be more alert, get bigger, faster and stronger. Unfortunately, there are alot of products that promise they can deliver on safe, natural, and clean performance enhancement. The truth however is that many over-the-counter supplement companies farm out the production of their products and/or use the same vats and processes to produce all their products. In doing so, they can’t guarantee what’s actually in their products.
In regards to prescription drugs, there is protocol for the use of such drugs that rookie players (even Vets) aren’t clear on how it works. So it’s best not to take anything without talking to their team doctor, trainer and/or agent first.
So to be safe, don’t put anything; I mean anything in your body, with the exception of an NSF certified product like EAS or an informed choice product like Advocare, even then always use the NFLPA resources to check the products label/ingredients, as nothing is 100% guaranteed.
2) Stay off Twitter and Instagram:
In the movie "Draft Day”, there was a line about twitter and how much teams hate when players use it. It’s so true, especially for young players. NFL teams can’t take away a players right to express himself socially but they can and will encourage them not to.
When Jim Harbaugh was at Stanford, he was a twitter darling with the opportunity to exponentially grow his personal following by millions upon taking the Niners job. Growing a massive following can translate into endorsement dollars. However, Jim quit twitter once the Niners hired him. He told me, “It’s not something he wanted to encourage his players to do and didn’t want to be a hypocrite by still doing it.”
Many of the Patriots players also avoid twitter because they know Belichick can’t stand it. The NFL is very competitive and teams don’t want anything proprietary leaked to the general public.
Furthermore, when a player voices his personal opinion of football and non-football matters, an unpopular tweet can mean damage control for a team. GMs, owners and head coaches despise dropping what they are doing and going into damage control mode. So it’s just best for rookies to stay away until they’ve been in the league for a few years and have established themselves. Even then, I would advise to limit the use of all social media tools.
If a young player is compelled to use social media, use it to bring attention to the community, charitable causes, congratulating teammates, promoting the team, and/or to thank well-wishers.
3) Don’t believe the advice you get in the locker room:
If NFL players collectively have high rates of bankruptcy/going broke (75%), divorces, and/or many social mishaps, they probably aren’t a good resource for advice.
On the contrary, NFL players do take good care of each other and there are a few guys worth listening to. I had a mid round pick last year that ended up playing a lot and looks to have a promising future. By mid season, veteran teammates were making fun of him for driving his old beat up college car. They were actually "encouraging” him to buy a car costing over $60,000 and up to $100,000. He held off until after the season and bought a modestly priced Jeep and he’s very happy with it.
It’s okay to take advice from vets on certain matters but always get a second opinion from someone else you trust.
4) Live like your peers and don’t forget who they are:
I encourage my players to live below their means and don’t mirror the lifestyle of their teammates. I also remind them that their peer group are those they graduated college with and not the players in the locker-room. The locker room that’s full of temporary millionaires is an apparition not to be mimicked. Young players have to pull into a work parking lot every day full of $100,000 plus vehicles, admire millions of dollars worth of jewelry and watches being adorned daily, and thousand of dollars being gambled away. It’s easy to get sucked into the lifestyle.
I remind my clients that their peers are making between $40,000 and $65,000 a year right out of college. They are making ends meet while trying to build a career. In addition, an NFL career can be over in an instant and the odds say the average player will only last about three or four years. Therefore, when the urge to splurge creeps in, just remember you are already exponentially way ahead of them financially but there will be a time your first job after football will be equivalent to where your peers started when they graduated.
5) Limit your social activities:
Once you become an NFL player you will be asked to participate in every social event on the planet. Unfortunately rookies have a hard time saying “No!” The problem is when you over-commit, you have no idea how it will affect you until later.
Weddings, bachelor parties, fundraisers, golf tournaments and family gatherings usually are abundant and concentrated from April through July. These are also the months where rookies need to focus on learning the playbook and getting their body ready for the longest season of their life.
When a rookie commits to these events they don’t realize that each commit involves a flight (or long drive), three to four days, lots of drinking and eating, and everyone wanting more and more of their time. This results in losing traction on workouts, good nutrition, and rest. Even just attending one wedding and two golf tournaments in June or July equates to about twelve lost days of taking good care of the body and getting deeper into the playbook.
Players can still attend some of these things but instead of making a long weekend out of it they can do local events and limit it to one day and maybe a night.
Two years ago, I sat down with one of my clients and we added up his dead days (days spent traveling, weddings, golf tournaments, or bachelor party, etc.). We estimated he had about twenty-five dead days between June 1 and camp. This didn’t even count his personal vacation time.
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