The lockout’s kept rookies and Undrafted Free Agents from being able to take advantage of the OTA’s and rookie mini camps that normally help them show the coaching staff what they can do and learn the playbooks. Once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is finalized, rookies are going to be under more pressure than normal seasons to get up to speed.
Below are some tips for rookies, to help increase their chances of having a successful rookie year in the NFL… especially in a weird one like 2011.
Hold-off on establishing a foundation. It takes a lot of planning and money to establish a foundation. It’s a noble thing to do, but I’m willing to bet that there’s already a foundation in existence that’s servicing the cause you want to benefit with your own foundation.
Consider waiting until you have some good money saved-up, and until you establish yourself in the league a little bit before trying to take on establishing a foundation.
If you’re anxious to start helping and using charity to build your personal brand, you can get just as much media coverage by helping out an existing foundation.
This approach doesn’t require nearly as much time and financial risk on your end. Plus I’m sure there’s more than a few foundations out there that would love the media attention and perks of having an NFL player involved with their cause.
Don’t resist change. Your NFL coaches are probably going to teach different philosophies and techniques than what you were taught in college. Don’t argue with the coaches and try to do things your own way. Remember, this is a job, and if you become too much of a problem, you can easily end up on the street, with no second chance at your NFL dream (especially if you’re a low round draft pick or undrafted free agent).
You are an employee, and your coaches are your bosses, even if you make more money than they do.
Just say no. When you make it to the NFL, people will come out of the woodworks asking for stuff… from tickets, to appearances, to loans. Either learn to say no, or let your agent be the bad guy and say “you have to run that by my agent, he’s handling all of that.”
You might be able to field more of these requests yourself as you establish yourself in the league, but your main focus as rookie should be on producing on the field and learning the NFL game. If you spend too much mental energy and time on requests from friends and family, you could very well find yourself sitting right next to them watching NFL football on the couch.
Learn how to watch film. One of the intangibles that separates the best players from average players is not only watching film, but knowing how to watch film. Players like Darren Sharper make so many plays because they can anticipate their opponent’s next moves instead of just reacting to them.
Learn how to be on time. Do you have a habit of being late? Set up some safeguards to help compensate for your habitual tardiness. For example, why not find a place to live that’s close to the team’s headquarters or stadium? Developing a reputation for being late all the time not only shows a lack of professionalism,but it can become an expensive habit. Truly being on time means being there early.
Don’t be fooled by the numbers on your contract. After insurance, taxes, agent fees, and 401k contributions, you’re only going to bring home about half of what you make. Make it a habit to plan your spending budget (you will have a spending budget… right?) on 50% of whatever your contract says you’re going to make.
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