The biggest unspoken as it concerns the transition from the college level to the pros is how players deal with becoming an independent adult who is fully responsible not only for their actions, but for their lives. For some, they may never have been asked to be a fully autonomous person before, not to mention paying bills and things like that.
This is obviously most difficult on rookies making that transition, since it’s newest to them. Even when you’re the first-round pick, as is Devin Bush for the Pittsburgh Steelers, which came with it a signing bonus of nearly $12 million. Many athletes, however, have found out how quickly the money can disappear.
The 21-year-old starting inside linebacker appeared on the Rich Eisen Show yesterday to talk about his rookie season, among other topics, and he discussed that transition, as well as head coach Mike Tomlin’s role in assisting with it.
“Once you punch out, it’s your life”, he said. “What you do with your life is what you do, and nobody’s there to walk behind you and make sure you’re doing the right thing. Every decision you make is what you want to do”.
He said of his head coach, “Tomlin’s the type of guy where he’ll say, ‘if you don’t have any place to eat or you want to come chop it up, my office is here, my house is here’. He put his address up on the big screen to take it down. ‘Come whenever, talk whenever’”.
I have no idea how common or rare it might be for head coaches to publicize their home address to their players, so I’m not going to comment much on that. Still, the point is that he has a reputation of making himself available to his players, not just professionally but also personally. If he hasn’t met your kids, or your latest girlfriend, that’s probably on you.
“There’ve been times me and Tomlin talk”, Bush said. “Of course during practice. He’ll come in the locker room and walk around the locker room and just talk to guys. You’ll catch him in the hallway and quick chop it up, just [him making sure you] stay on the right track and make sure my head is on straight”.
The Steelers obviously have a lot of incentive to make sure Bush keeps his head on straight. He’s not just their starting inside linebacker, he’s their starting inside linebacker they traded up for, expending a lot of resources to acquire.
He did turn in one of their most impressive rookie seasons in years, finishing his rookie season with 109 tackles with a sack, two interceptions, a forced fumble, four fumble recoveries, and four passes defensed. Both he and the team anticipate a significant jump in his game in year two, where perhaps he’ll join the likes of T.J. Watt in the Pro Bowl.