Speed of the game.
Ask any rookie, from the first round pick to the last tryout guy onto the field, and that is almost certainly the biggest adjustment you’ll hear they need to make. It’s no different for fourth round pick Jerald Hawkins, a junior who made the early leap to the pros. But talk to him about it and odds are, he’ll respond with a smile.
“I’ve been loving it. It’s been great out there,” Hawkins told the media following Day 2 of rookie minicamp. “”The atmosphere around here. Back to playing football again. I just love it.”
And as is his reputation, Mike Munchak has proven to be an immediate asset as a teacher.
“It’s more than what I expected. I was expecting a great time, loving it, learning it from one of the greats. And it’s been exactly that and more. He’s been teaching me a lot. Just these two days, it’s been perfect.”
The value of having someone who played the position, much less a Hall of Famer, is an incredible benefit in earning credibility as a coach. Getting players to buy into your system. The ability to say, “look at what I did,” to turn it into “you can too.”
CBS’ Pete Prisco sat down with several veteran offensive linemen about their experience as the most underrated and misunderstood players on the field. Two comments from Kyle Long and Chance Warmack stood out to me in response to buying into a system.
“Show me your All-Pro jersey, coach, and I will do what you do,” Long told Prisco.
And Warmack told a story about playing for a coach who had never played the position before.
“I had one dude (coach) who played D-III football at linebacker. And he’s teaching me how to play offensive line? We’re talking about the highest level of football in the world. And you have a guy who has never put his hand in the dirt teaching me how to block. You don’t think there’s anything wrong with that?”
There’s certainly a mindset and respect level that has to be mutual. Players who are open to coaching but playing for a coach who has a level of credibility. Munchak, a nine-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, offers as much credibility as a player can ask for. And while he isn’t a miracle worker who can fix everyone, you’ve yet to hear anyone say a bad think about Munchak.
And though Hawkins is far, pretty much everyone involved in drafting him admitted as much, he says LSU had the NFL as a focus point from Day One.
“They tell you, we’ll focus on getting you to the next level. We’ll do everything in our power to get you there. And that’s what happened.”