One of the areas in which the NFL has been attempting to improve itself in recent years has been to do a better job of setting its players up with more discipline and more resources to manage their lives as they transform overnight from often poor college kids to, in many cases, millionaires overnight.
It’s not just a transformation in lifestyle of course, also of life as a whole. When you move from college to the NFL, you are moving from an amateur to a professional. You now have a job and that comes with a lot more demand and responsibility.
Meanwhile, you’re settling into a new life, typically the beginning of your adult life, often living on your own in a house for the first time in your life, as you look to relocate to a new city and try to find people to help you that you can actually trust will not take advantage of you.
The easier teams can make the lives of their young players, especially their rookies, the more easily they can focus just on the football aspect of their job, which is the part that they get paid for. The Pittsburgh Steelers have take strides in this area.
In 2015, they hired Terry Cousins as Player Engagement Coordinator, in which capacity he is responsible for helping players adjust to life in the NFL. The team also moved John Mitchell to full-time assistant head coach, with which post his responsibilities have shifted full-time to off-field concerns.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin believes that the strides they have taken in easing player transition into the NFL life has yielded positive results, as he talked about earlier this month, and he also discussed the importance of a rookie class growing together.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with those guys this time of year, not only in terms of the football, but we have a rookie orientation program”, he said of this year’s class. “We’re introducing them to life in the NFL, to life specifically in Pittsburgh, to life as a non-college student. It’s been fun to watch them go through all those transitions and get acclimated”.
Every team has, or at least should have, some sort of comparable program that seeks to aid in the transition. The Steelers intend to be among the best in the league in accomplishing this, but that also included drafting the right players.
“They’re a good group of guys. They’re a smart group of guys. They’re becoming a close group of guys, and I think that helps them all collectively”, Tomlin said of this year’s class. “They’re going to be facing tremendous challenges, and to uplift one another, to help each other through it, I think it helps them all, and it appears that group has the makings of that”.
It helps that second-round pick James Washington and third-round pick Mason Rudolph played together for four years. Safeties Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen also forged a fast friendship, while Joshua Frazier has the benefit of having his college position coach on-staff.