The latest class of NFL rookies were in attendance at the 2015 NFL Rookie Symposium in Ohio. Each day started at 7 a.m. and went as late as 9 p.m. The three-day program wrapped up with a trip to the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Here's a picture of the Texans' rookies at the event:
Over the course of the event, the rookies heard from motivational speakers and group panels of former players who outlined the reality of what these young athletes can expect during their careers, and how to avoid devastating pitfalls along the way.
One such speech was from former NBA star Chris Herren, whose very promising career was cut short by a substance abuse problem that plagued him from his days at Boston College. His story now serves as a stark reality and a warning to other professional athletes embarking on their careers. It was also featured in the ESPN documentary entitled "Unguarded."
"In this room, fact, there are more future drug addicts than millionaires. That's a fact," said Herren as part of his speech to the AFC's rookies, which you can see in the video above. Herren, in an exclusive interview with NFL Network's Jeff Darlington, talked about the need for rookies to find the right role models on their new teams. "I believe they should already have in place the research to see who in their locker room is somebody they can buddy up with," Heren added.
"I hope my transparency, my honesty, my struggle, gives them a little inspiration to share a little bit of theirs." Herren commented. "If they can tap into that now, they can have a very successful career and a great start in life."
Texans' rookie wide receiver Jaelen Strong was clearly moved by the message, and shared this tweet afterward:
Today I learned to really understand that my decisions don't just effect me, but my love ones too. Simple but REAL. Thank you @c_herren— Strizzy (@JaelenStrong) June 23, 2015
In an interview following the speech, Chris Herren was asked how he felt about the ironic fact that former New England Patriots' star Aaron Hernandez was in Herren's home town of Fall River, Massachusetts facing a murder trial. His response in relation to preparing for this speaking event to NFL rookies was:
"I was faced with the question 'do I bring that up?' And in my heart, I know a lot more guys in that room will struggle with substance abuse more than a murder charge. My topic to them was very important."
Herren continued; "For me, extremely ironic; polar opposites. How many years ago was it that Aaron Hernandez was sitting in their seats, and probably at that time I was just getting my life back in order. So to be here today, presenting to these young men while he's in my home town hitting his bottom is something that, you know, is touching."
I highly encourage you to watch that brief video. Chris pointed out that a few men from what was arguably considered as the top-fifteen basketball players in 1994 had all suffered tragic endings to their careers: two players who made over $200M were now broke, two men were dead, and one (himself) was a recovering heroin addict.
"I do this, because I sat in your seat, man. My draft class? Antoine Walker; $200 million; broke! Allen Iverson; $200 million plus; broke! Lorenzen Wright; found executed in the woods in Memphis!"
It's very encouraging that the NFL is investing so heavily to try and get these young players off to a good start in an effort to help them avoid the dangerous temptations they will face while earning more money in a brief few years than many people can earn over a lifetime.