The 2012 NFL Rookie Symposium is underway in Aurora, Ohio and this year the NFL decided to let the young players know first-hand the risks which come with the choices they make off the field. The league invited two current NFL players with troubled pasts to speak to the rookies about the importance of making the right decisions in life in order to play the game they love as long as they can. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones both spoke to the rookies about the highly publicized scandals they were involved in and how they affected their football careers.
Michael Vick pled guilty in 2007 to federal felony charges relating to a dog fighting ring and was sentenced to 23 months in jail. His seminar at the rookie symposium was titled “Are You Bigger Than the Game?” and he addressed his involvement in dog fighting, how he surrounded himself with the wrong people, and the fact that he took playing in the NFL for granted. Vick spoke about his time in jail where he missed his mother’s 45th birthday and the anniversary of his grandmother’s death and how he will never get those very important moments back. He urged the rookies to listen to him and “do it right the first time” because once you make a mistake in the NFL you rarely get a second chance.
Vick stated, “If you do so much, if you cross so many people, if you don’t appreciate what God gave you and the position that you’re in, he’ll take it away from you. And he took it away from me.”
It seemed as though at least a few players listened to Vick and took in what he had to say, even though Vick himself admitted he didn’t pay attention at his rookie symposium.
After Vick’s speech Dallas Cowboys 6th overall pick, cornerback Morris Claiborne stated, “One of the speakers that really got to me was Michael Vick. Hearing his story – you hear it all the time on TV and you see the shows – but seeing him actually tell his story in person really got to me. It just goes to show you, at any moment, it can be taken away from you.”
Philadelphia Eagles rookie defensive tackle, Fletcher Cox, was also impacted by Vick’s “Are You Bigger Than the Game?” speech stating, “It makes you think. It’s a good thing guys like that come back and tell you about the mistakes they made. Every decision you make, good or bad, can have a consequence.”
Like Vick, Adam Jones has also not had a smooth ride through his NFL career so far and is still dealing with his legal troubles today. Approximately two weeks ago a Nevada jury found Jones civilly responsible for injuries in a 2007 Las Vegas shooting which left one man paralyzed. Because of that shooting Jones was suspended from playing in the NFL for the entire 2007 season and part of the 2008 season. Although Jones was not the shooter, his actions at the club where the shooting took place led to the incident. The court ruled that Jones owes the victims 11.65 million dollars. Jones is going through a rough time in his life and his seminar was similar to Vicks, urging the rookie players to not follow in his footsteps.
Jones stated after talking with the rookies, “I wouldn’t want any of those guys to go through what I’ve gone through. It’s not fun being on the news every day for this mistake or that mistake…”
Along with Vick, Jones admitted he doesn’t remember much from his rookie symposium, which took place in 2005, because he didn’t take it as seriously as he should have. Both players hope that by exposing their pasts to the rookies, they may be able to change the future of a few of the players so they don’t make the same mistakes.
Jones made a boldstatement after the conclusion of his speech saying, “If I could tell them anything, I just want them to realize this is a business. When you sign your contract, you are the head CEO of your company. The Adam Jones Company – whatever it is. We can’t go running down a field for the rest of our life. Every decision you make is critical. It might not get you now. But it will get you later.”
Vick and Jones both wanted to leave the rookies with the same advice – to not take their NFL careers for granted, to surround themselves with the right people, and most importantly, to make decisions which will not lead them to have to deal with serious consequences. Both players realize how lucky they are to have a second chance in the NFL and they wanted to give back by speaking to the incoming rookies and hopefully positively influencing them.
By Carly Szydlowski