There’s a saying that goes “you get what you give” and in the game of football, it’s a very appropriate one. As we are just now several weeks out from training camp, it’s imperative for NFL athletes to be using the down time to stay in peak physical condition. Every year at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA it’s apparent during the conditioning tests which Steelers spent their time training for the rigors of the upcoming season and which ones spent their time partying or packing on the pounds.
For the eight newest members of their 2015 rookie draft class, as well as the several undrafted free agents they’ve signed, they’re no longer college students or the “big man on campus” where they got by on talent alone. They’re now professional football players and that entails working your tail off because at this level, there is no inferior competition, and if that was the case, then that player wouldn’t be in the league.
“When I go home, I can study a defense for 10-15 minutes, then I’ll take a small break, and then study another coverage,” rookie cornerback Doran Grant said, according to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I can kind of take my time with things because I don’t have to have homework.”
Along with Grant, the team’s second round pick, cornerback Senquez Golson, was another important piece in the team’s obvious efforts to overhaul the secondary, especially the corner position. After Pittsburgh lost both the retired Ike Taylor and Brice McCain to free agency, it will look to the two youngsters to aid the recently-sagging unit. The two haven’t appeared lost thus far, and that speaks to their ability to study and perfect their craft.
“Everything is starting to slow down,” Golson said, according to Adamski. “Every day, I’m starting to get comfortable. I’ve definitely got a bigger role with learning both the nickel and the corner position.”
There was the rookie minicamp in May as well as 10 OTA practice sessions and the team minicamp, so that’s a lot of practicing crammed into a small window of time as these rookies learn the ropes of the type of work it takes to be successful at the NFL level. Working hard is something that’s already ingrained in himself, according to rookie wide receiver Sammie Coates, but he feels the biggest adjustment from his SEC days at Auburn to now is the free time.
“I’ve always worked hard,” Coates said, according to Adamski. “But you’ve just got more time here to work on your craft. You get more time in the weight room, more time on the practice field, more time just doing your own thing when you can work on little things, than you had in college. You become a better player in a couple weeks now than you did over a full season in college because you’ve got more time to spend on it.”
This time of year is most important mentally more than physically for the rookies as they look to wrap their brains around their new NFL playbook. True, the pads have yet to be put on or any preseason games have been played, but the rookies have some key veterans in front of them whose work ethic is legendary, including wide receiver Antonio Brown, who’s been labeled “OCD” in terms of his preparation by coach Mike Tomlin, and James Harrison, who’s weight room feats are insane.