Going from college to the pros in many ways is like graduating to the next level of schooling. You have all new teachers, new classmates, going to a different place. All of a sudden you’re the new kid all over again, starting from scratch, just trying to find your place.
That is the reality for every rookie as they make the transition into the NFL, whether it’s via the draft or through college free agency, or any other means by which they might find their way into the league. Fourth-round running back Benny Snell is no exception. He talked about that mentality prior to the break.
“I do feel like a freshman again”, he told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last month as the team was winding down its spring drills. “I’m the freshman and there are all the vets, and they are like, ‘look at that rookie’. I take that into consideration and go day by day”.
In other words, keep your mouth shut and your ears open, and go about your business. Often enough, outside of asking questions, that’s the way that you learn in this game. You’ll get the instruction that you need for the most part unless you have a specialized question or concern.
One of the most underrated aspects of making the transition from an amateur player at the college level to a professional whose literal job it is to play football is understanding just how different the amount of work must go in to maintaining both your body and your mind to perform at its best.
We saw how a rookie’s experience can vary last season between their first two draft picks. Terrell Edmunds already had a brother in the league, and a father who was a Pro Bowler. They were able to advise him about what to expect from a conditioning perspective and otherwise, and he was able to perform as a full-time starter.
On the flip side, second-round wide receiver James Washington recently talked about his struggles adjusting to the game, realizing that at the NFL level, there are no overmatched opponents. Everybody is good, and everyone is conditioned. You have to keep up and in many ways live the game, from snap to snap.
That’s what Snell is learning now, and also paying attention to his body, because there is also such a thing as overworking. “You have to know how to balance it”, he said to Rutter.
“You’ve got to be able to get your work in and be able to give your body that rest at the same time. With camp coming up, it’s make-or-break for me. I have to lean toward making sure that my body is correct. I’m going to get my time a little bit, but I know I have to get after it these next few weeks”.
That time is coming up, with the trek to Latrobe just a couple of weeks away now. Snell and the rookies had better have learned what the coaches expect from them on the first day of training camp and beyond.