One of the most crucial, yet least discussed, aspects of the transition from an amateur player to a professional is the process that is required off the field as you are put in responsibility for taking care of yourself. While in college, players have a lot of things taken care of on their own, and largely just have to focus on football and school work.
When you get into the NFL, you are entering the workforce. Every NFL player is an employee with a job to do, and a life to live, and in order to do the former well, you also have to have the latter taken care of. Settling rookies in and helping them become secure as responsible young adults helps to allow them to focus on their future in the game.
Even with the turbulent offseason, which prevented players from gathering in-person or at team facilities, the NFL, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, did not abandon that necessary process of orientation for their rookie class, and it has proven “so valuable’, according to Alex Highsmith.
“Not only was it valuable for me, but we learned a lot about each other”, he told Teresa Varley for the team’s website. “It was really good. They taught us a lot of things that are going to help us be successful, help us with our careers. They are looking out for what is best for us. I am so grateful for them putting all these things together for us”.
One thing that he emphasized as particularly helpful was a crash course on finances. Most players who enter the NFL don’t have much experience in handling money, coming from less affluent backgrounds. Learning how to manage suddenly having hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars, is not as simple as it sounds—even if it’s a problem all of us would love to face.
“I am glad I am learning about this stuff right now”, the third-round pick out of Charlotte said. “It’s going to help me take care of my money that first year and every year I am in the league. I am thankful and I am looking forward to learning more and more”.
Settling into the responsibilities that come with being an independent adult is a crucial hurdle in building the security to allow one to focus on one’s job. It can be very difficult for rookies, or young players in general, who have an unsettled life while simultaneously trying to familiarize themselves with a new team, a new city, and an entirely new hierarchy of something that is supposed to be very familiar to them.
Because of the pandemic, this process could have suffered a lot, but the Steelers have tried to do everything they can to make sure that their orientation program for the rookies went on unabated. That is hopefully one less barrier toward rookie contributions during on offseason that has already stacked the deck against them.