NFL Draft 2011–A warning to rookies

In Royal Wedding news, the British Monarchy is still boring.

This concludes the Royal Wedding report. Now on to football.

Tomorrow I will have an analysis of the 2011 NFL Draft, with a heavy focus on the first round.

Today I just want to offer some heartfelt words to the rookies.

You are not boys. You are young men. You are about to live a dream that only few people ever get to realize. You will get paid to play the greatest game on Earth, professional football.

Buddy Ryan once told his players that he would make them several guarantees. He guaranteed that they would make a lot of money, have a lot of fun, and make friends they would have for the rest of their lives. What he would not guarantee them was a Super Bowl ring. You have to earn that. On page one of his playbook it said, “Get on the train or get off.”

While I agree with him, I have a different message.

Every moment for the rest of your lives, honor the game of Pro Football.

Whatever you do, don’t ever tarnish the National Football League. It is bigger than any one of you.

This means you must live honorably on and off the field.

On the field, play hard. This starts with playing hard in practice. Don’t be lazy. Don’t take plays off. Show up early and leave late. Absorb information. Be a sponge. Respect your elders. Listen to them.

JaMarcus Russell was given $40 million dollars in 2006. Now he is out of football. His phone is not even ringing to offer him the league minimum. He had talent. Yet too many people said he lacked desire. They cannot all be wrong. So no matter what, work hard.

When Jerry Rice offered to spend his Summers working out with the new receivers, some of them declined. They were also out of football before he was.

Bill Parcells would tell his players “This is why you lift all them weights.”

The reward in February cold does not come without hard work in the August heat. Be in shape for training camp. It matters.

Yet hard work must also be smart work. Do not be reckless. If you have a concussion, you can’t play. Don’t try to cheat the tests. You want to have a life after football. You do not help your team by prematurely ending your career. Merrill Hoge and Al Toon existed before we knew how severe concussions were. Talk to them. When you take the field, make sure your head is clear.

Off the field, be good citizens. You are going to have women throwing themselves at you. You will have hangers on. Some of these people will be losers. Stay away from losers.

You don’t need to be in the club at 3am wearing expensive jewelry and waving a pistol while drunk.

So many good athletes have thrown everything away. Darrel Henley sits in a jail cell. So does Rae Carruth.

Ray Lewis is one of the great players of all time, but he nearly got dragged down because friends of his were accused of very bad things. He almost lost his career.

Steve McNair was also one of the all time football warriors. Yet he got involved with a troubled woman and it cost him his life.

Remember that when you put on that helmet, you are playing a game that fathers may…or may not…pass on to their sons.

Archie Manning passed the game on to his sons, and Eli and Peyton have lit up the league. Yet for every Peyton Manning, there is a Ryan Leaf.

Leaf had talent. He just had a bad attitude. He derisively referred to Manning as “Perfect Peyton,” but there is nothing wrong with being squeaky clean and behaving oneself. John Elway was not out carousing every night. Elway became a successful businessman after football. Ryan Leaf got arrested and spiraled downward.

Some players like Michael Vick are lucky enough to get a second chance. Yet there is no second chance for others. It can be arbitrary, but that is life.

The old days when “boys will be boys” is over. We now live in a world of You-Tube. Every person with a cellphone is a potential reporter. Don’t give those people ammunition.

Don’t be in the strip club and getting into fights. Adam “Pacman” Jones threw away potential quicker than the dollar bills he tossed on stage.

Stay away from steroids and other illegal drugs. You don’t do your team any good by getting suspended.

Just be men of good character.

None of us are perfect. We are all flawed. Yet when you look in the mirror at night, just thank God for the opportunity you have been given. Don’t blow it.

Oh, and never forget the fans. We root for you every Sunday with passion. If a young boy comes up to you and asks you to sign his baseball cap or pennant, you had better do it.

Just love the game of football. Be good to it, and it will be good to you. Betray it, and it will break your heart faster than you break its.

Before you know it, your career will be gone. You will beg God to give your body and mind the strength to play just one more game. You just want to walk on the field one more time. It will not happen.

You have your whole careers in front of you, but that is fleeting.

So enjoy the game. Be good to the NFL on and off the field.

Be honorable.

You get to be a part of the greatest institution in the history of the sport. You are the very few who play in the National Football League.

Respect that every day of your lives.

That uniform jersey you put on is a badge of honor.

Now make us all proud.

Get ready to play some football.


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