Over 30 2012 NFL Draft picks have made their way to Hollywood, Calif., for their official coming out party, which has been dubbed the NFLPA Rookie Premiere. Rookies representing over two dozen teams landed in California this week to do some community work, play in a flag football game and participate in a photo shoot for trading card companies.
On Thursday, about a dozen of those rookies made their way to Alexander Hamilton High School for a fitness challenge, basically running football drills with the players to encourage staying in shape.
Before the event began, an NFLPA staffer began getting the students pumped up, asking them to cheer for their favorite teams. The Giants, defending Super Bowl champs, received one of the loudest cheers while the Raiders received plenty of boos, which was surprising for a Los Angeles high school.
The players split into teams of two and ran six different drills, which hit on the basic fundamentals of football. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon manned one station, which had the students back-pedaling through a series of cones before having to hit a target roughly 15 yards away with the ball.
You'd think Weeden, who played in a BCS game not too long ago, would be the best player on the field with this drill. Unfortunately for him, he wore the wrong shoes. Weeden started running through the drill, demonstrating the proper way to backpedal and stay balanced at the same time.
And then...plunk. Weeden slipped and fell flat on his face to laughter from the students at his drill. (No, Browns fans, he wasn't hurt.)
Good lesson to remember: cleats are better than dress shoes on the football field.
Meanwhile, Trent Richardson had students running through a series of cones, urging them to hold the ball tight -- "Never, ever fumble," he said. Two students awed at the reason Richardson doesn't fumble very much -- his massive arms. (And his legs. And chest. A big human being.) "You're gonna hurt somebody with those, man," a student said to Richardson laughing. For Browns fans, let's assume he meant the Ravens and Steelers defenses.
Richardson said he never had an opportunity to see NFL players at his Pensacola high school. "Roy Jones Jr. came one time but nothing like this," he said. Others said similar things, that they would've loved to have NFL players come to their school.
It's a little eye-opening watching the rookies interact with high school students because there's not much of an age difference. The draft picks are 21 and 22 years old (besides Weeden) while the high school students are only three or four years younger in some cases. NFL players make so much money and they're in the spotlight so much -- players were pulled aside for multiple TV interviews during the fitness challenge -- yet they're still just 21 or 22 years old. That was evident when an NFLPA staffer was asking for a volunteer to tell the students about their workout routine and several players were extremely shy, almost like ... a high school student. Others were up to the challenge and not so shy.
This is the first of many community events for the rookies in the coming years. Many people, at least I do, remember having an NFL player come to their school, or meeting one at the mall when they were younger. The lasting power of the impression an NFL player makes is impressive as I still remember the second string offensive lineman for the Chiefs that visited my school. The NFLPA is making even more of an effort to place their players in the spotlight to show that there's a lot more to these guys than three hours on Sundays.