The FanvsFan Network had the pleasure of sending me this past weekend to the NFLPA events in Los Angeles. Where several of the top NFL rookies made their way to the Los Angeles area to participate in the annual Rookie Premier, ironically the biggest media market in the country yet without it’s own NFL team. In total 36 rookies made an appearance, made up mostly of the top running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks all now members of the NFLPA-the very organization currently fighting the league to get back on the field.
This was a great opportunity for the players and the community of Los Angeles and media to get acquainted with each other. It’s all about making new connections and becoming a star. It was also the first time any of these players had put on their new uniforms.
For the rookies themselves, the trip began Thursday, when the real point of the gathering took place. Panini, the card collecting company was given the job this year (a job typically performed by Upper Deck) to shoot the rookies for their new football card series. Afterwards, they all met at a bar in Santa Monica where they could relax, mingle amongst themselves, and get a look at some of the latest in men’s fashions.
The next day the rookies had an opportunity to meet the community of Los Angeles. They started by talking to some of the veterans in the VA Hospital located in West Los Angeles. The US military veterans were very please the young rookies were able to take their time and visit.
Later in the day came a bit of the social side of things, as the rookies headed to UCLA where they watched celebrity and retired players play five on five flag football. The game included former players such as Terrell Davis and Roger Craig. While some of the rookies talked amongst themselves and their friends, and gave interviews to the local media, others went out and spent their throwing out Nerf balls to the fans in attendance. They even took the time to meet some of those fans and sign some autographs.
Von Miller-rookie player representative in the NFL courts earlier this offseason-participated in the rookie premier as well. When asked about whether or not the Broncos have scheduled any workouts similar to those coordinated by players for the Falcons, Raiders, and Giants-among others-he stated “In Dallas, I am working out and lifting weights.” He was also asked whether or not he was in contact with the other players on the Broncos, to which he replied; “Yes, especially the rookies, who he was getting to know well because they in the same boat as him.” In response to how excited he was to get back in playing he said; “It’s about being a part of the comraderie, taking it one step at time and one play at time, I am anxious to be a part of it.”
Players came together to put their new jerseys on for the first time on Saturday in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum last used by the NFL by the Raiders in 1994. Being there highlighted for me how long it’s been since Los Angeles had a team of their own.
On Saturday the rookies posed for some more pictures, this time for the media and then some of them even had a chance to have fun tossing the ball around and getting some great acrobatic poses.
In the evening they all got decked out in their stylish attire, with new Panthers quarterback (and first overall pick) Cam Newton looking very preppy with a Ralph Lauren shirt and shorts. Basically they each tried to out-shine the next, dressed in the clothes and accessories that fit with their personality. Newton said “I am happy to be chilling with all the players this weekend”.
The private event took place at a night club in Hollywood. Many as they were greeted by the press on the Red Carpet, and the event wasn’t limited to rookies, several current players were in attendance including players such as wide receiver Steve Smith of the Giants and running back Maurice Jones Drew of the Jaguars. The special guest speaker list that night included Hall of Fame quarterback Warner Moon among others.
2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram was another one of the rookies that made it to the event. When asked about being in contact with the players on the Saints he seemed thrilled knowing that he was going to be a part of a great team. When I spoke with him and asked specifically which players he’d been in contact with he jumped right on it, mentioning “Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Heath Evans among others” He also told me that he’d grown up admiring Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, and Marcus Allen.
The NFL rookie premier was a great event for the NFL, players, and the community of Los Angeles as well as for the rookies themselves. Here they got to spend time in the great city of Los Angeles while at the same time sharing their views on life, the draft, the lockout, and the upcoming season with the media and community. All talked about their excitement and anxiousness get back to playing, while the event itself raised my own excitement and anxiousness not just for the NFL to return, but also for the day (hopefully in the near future) that the NFL will return to LA specifically, as this city is clearly hungry for a football team they can once again call their own.