As is typically the case for soon-to-be NFL athletes who are preparing for the draft, opinions are afforded around every bend.
Avoid this, try that … go here, don’t say that. Much of the content is noise, but some is of a valuable nature. Such was Shaun Alexander’s advice to Derrick Henry, given from one former Alabama running back to another – even if it was unsolicited.
“Surround yourself with good people,” Alexander said during his keynote address to the Great Alabama Council’s Boy Scouts of America luncheon at the BJCC in Birmingham, Ala., as reported by Al.com. “There needs to be an elder around you and a brother who’s gonna do it with you. Usually those two people will guide you and tell you whatever you need to do to help you still be who you are, and grow and become a man — and at the same time nudge you back from the path that could be dangerous for you.”
Alexander suggested that Henry call the former NFL MVP “all the time, and for any advice.” Henry should definitely take him up on that. He should also use Alexander’s words as precursory sentiments to get more good advice.
The NFL Teaches
The NFL offers a multi-day rookie symposium that addresses topics like: sex education, drug and gun awareness and financial advice. This program provides an early look at some of the trials and tribulations NFL players may go through, taught using history lessons from life experiences.
The learning shouldn’t stop there, though.
As an eight-year member of the Atlanta Falcons’ media corps, I was able to watch as tight end Tony Gonzalez added to his Hall of Fame resume from 2009-13.
Gonzalez came to Atlanta with 10,940 receiving yards and 76 touchdowns and a work ethic rarely seen in professional sports. He outworked everyone before practice, during and after. Gonzalez ate better than his teammates – he even wrote a book about his All-Pro Diet – and was a shining beacon of how one person could achieve greatness.
What surprised me the most during Gonzalez’s five years in Atlanta was that of all the backup tight ends who sat behind him on the depth chart, none seemed to adopt his path to success. Gonzalez walked onto the practice field every day and took extra reps by himself.
Henry would be smart to find a future Hall of Famer on his team and attach to his hip. The NFL is an elite fraternity, but Canton, Ohio is for the best of the best.
When Alexander offered Henry those thoughtful words, hopefully a light bulb went off. Advice is only good from the right sources, and the first bit of advice is only strong if there’s knowledge obtained later too. And wise words don’t always have to be taken with the utmost seriousness.
Former running back Steven Jackson can talk about the benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle for athletes. New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz can bend your ear (see what I did there?) about yoga for NFL stars and former Falcons center Todd McClure offered the best advice on cooking a turkey I ever heard.
NFL rookies should open their ears to advice, it’s all around them. Henry got a good taste from Alexander, but he shouldn’t stop eating.
Find a Giving Teammate for Sage Advice
Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews returned to the rookie symposium as a second-year veteran to offer his take. It’s very likely his sage advice would have been available in a one-on-one platform too.
Henry – any rookie for that matter – should find the Matthews’ of the NFL and pepper them with questions. Matthews not only offered advice on learning from mistakes of others, but gave some good medical information too.
“This next month is important,” Matthews’ words were echoed on his blog. “Go get your body healthy. After OTAs and mini-camp, you need a soft tissue specialist or some type of doctor that can put you on a table and tell you what you need to do during the next month to make sure you are healthy for the start of the season. Figure out the ins and outs of your body, what it looks like and what you need to work on.”
Not Too Many People
Alexander told Henry to surround himself with good people. He probably should have said, but not too many.
Too many athletes have found out the hard way that personal entourages can bleed a bank account dry. Hanger-on’s shouldn’t be tolerated. According to a Sports Illustrated report, NBA star Ron Artest sent six of his friends packing after he realized the odd jobs they were doing for him didn’t amount to the $30,000 a year he was spending on a house for them.
There are likely thousands of tales from professional sports about athletes spending hard-earned money to make fringe-friends happy.
“Dude, Where’s My Money?”
That phrase was a rallying cry, according to Esquire, for athletes who signed big contracts, but didn’t have much in the bank to show for it.
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lost a good portion of his nest egg when a real estate deal he wasn’t even aware of didn’t pan out.
“I chose my financial manager, who I later discovered had no financial training, because a number of other athletes I knew were using him,” Abdul-Jabbar said in his Esquire piece. “That’s typical athlete mentality in that we’re used to trusting each other as a team, so we extend that trust to those associated with teammates. Consequently, I neglected to investigate his background or what qualified him to be a financial manager. He placed us in some real estate investments that went belly up and I came close to losing some serious coin.”