NFL’s rookie webinar gave players valuable advice

Sports

One of the most-asked questions at the NFL’s rookie webinar last month was how to handle family and friends asking for money.

The advice was simple: Just say no.

“Sometimes you got to just get good at saying no,” said Duke Preston, a former offensive lineman with the Buffalo Bills and current vice president of player engagement for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “There’s people that I just had to cut off. Some people start kind of a slow game and easing their way in but they have an agenda on the back end. And once that becomes clear, I think it’s OK to sever some ties.”

It’s not easy for young players to turn everyone down when they become instant millionaires.

“It gets hard with family but I try to help our guys understand that they didn’t ask to be born to the parents that they were born to,” Preston said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “They didn’t ask to be 3 years old and needing clothes and those kind of things so the idea that someone would need a $50,000 kickback for raising them is an unfounded one. I think a lot of guys end up having a no-person early on, which I think is a helpful tool. But ultimately, they need to be able to speak for themselves and advocate for themselves to where they can, in some respects, explain to certain people that this money isn’t going to last forever if I’m giving out pieces of it everywhere and help that other person figure out the best way for them to get what they need is not over-leveraging a player that really can’t afford it.”

Breiden Fehoko signed as an undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Chargers last year so he didn’t get millions of dollars or guaranteed money. That doesn’t stop the requests.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a pushover but I have a big heart,” Fehoko said. “I would just try to keep procrastinating about not saying no and I think that’s a really tough thing for rookies. These are people that have raised you and have been with you and family members are definitely gonna come out the woodwork. It’s hard to turn them down. It’s hard to say no. But the quicker they get to do it now, the easier it gets later down the line.”

Preston and Les Pico, head of player engagement for the Minnesota Vikings, along with Fehoko and second-year players Tyler Biadasz of the Dallas Cowboys and Austin Jackson of Miami Dolphins spoke to 350 rookies during the virtual webinar.

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, kicked it off and stressed self presentation, community, relationship management, time management, health and wellness, on-field football IQ and self-assessment.

Rookies wanted to know how to assimilate themselves in the locker room, the best way to deal with veterans who weren’t welcoming, and best resources for rookies. They asked about timing for community work, social media practices and more.

Preston urged them to take advantage of a free resource from the NFL and get background checks on anyone they hire.

“Do your due diligence and realize that the people that you’re hiring now are your employees,” he said. “I try to help our guys understand it’s a different paradigm that they’re stepping into where they now are professionals that have a team around them, a team of employees that they need to help, but they need to help set expectations and cast a clear vision for and all that stuff takes time. But you can’t do it if there’s no plan in sight to try to execute that.”

Fehoko emphasized the NFL is a special fraternity and brotherhood filled with players from various backgrounds who will have varying degrees of success.

“Everybody’s race and everybody’s journey is going to be different,” he said. “You can’t look at one person and try to judge your career off theirs because it may not go that way. My career isn’t going to be the same as a first-round pick. So, I wanted the rookies to understand that the NFL is a privilege to have this job. We’re very fortunate and blessed that we’re able to continue this game, enjoy the moment, your journey is your process, focus on you and just let time do its work.”

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