5 Ways NFL Rookie Minicamp Is Like College Summer Orientation
Rookie Minicamp in the NFL is similar to summer orientation for incoming college freshman. When the newest players on the Cowboys’ roster report to The Star in Frisco for Rookie Minicamp, they may experience flashbacks to the first time they stepped on a college campus. Here are 5 Ways Rookie Minicamp is Like College Summer Orientation:
1. You get your new (play) books!
Actually, it’s a Surface tablet. But the rookies will be hitting-their-playbooks early and often. There’s a steep learning curve for all rookies entering the NFL because the systems on offense and defense are more in-depth than what players learned in college.
2. Living Quarters
It’s not exactly a dormitory setting, but most of the incoming rookie class is staying at a hotel and taking a team bus to The Star for workouts and minicamp. So while it’s not a true campus life, there is an opportunity to create camaraderie among the rookies. Jason Witten loves to tell the story of the first teammate he met when he arrived in Dallas after being drafted by the Cowboys in the 3rd round of the 2003 NFL Draft. Jason was riding a bus from the team rookie hotel over to Valley Ranch when he struck up a conversation with another rookie who was an undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois. That guy’s name was Tony Romo. The two would later combine for 649 pass completions that totaled 7,287 passing yards and 37 touchdowns.
3. Small Fish in a Big Pond
Do you remember when you left the comfort zone of your high school and started college? Even if you were the coolest, most-likely-to-succeed student at your high school, there was still trepidation when you took the next step in your education. You went from being a big-fish-in-a-small-pond to being the small-fish-in-a-big-pond.
The same is true for the incoming rookie class. They were the star players on their college team, truly a big-man-on-campus. Now they’re walking into a locker room with the likes of Jason Witten and Tyron Smith and Dak Prescott and Sean Lee.
4. Getting Acclimated
Remember your first days on campus when you were just trying to find your way around? Where do I eat? Where do I buy books, and which building is the one for biology class?
Rookie minicamp is the chance for coaches to acclimate rookies to the standards of the Dallas Cowboys, a chance for rookies to get their feet wet before they have to jump into the deep end of the swimming pool.
Coaches want to introduce the rookies to the pace of practice, as well as specific drills. The rookie will learn where to go, and when they need to be there. Not just on the practice field, but practical things such as location of meeting rooms and the Training Table (our fancy name for the cafeteria at The Star) as well as the real trainer’s table (for getting your ankles taped by the athletic trainers).
5. One-on-One Tutorials
Most colleges do a good job of providing learning resources for incoming freshman, whether it’s tutoring or study groups. Rookie Minicamp is the best opportunity for rookies to get one-on-one instruction time with position coaches. When regular OTAs and Minicamp roll around, the veterans will be on the field and most rookies will be buried on the depth chart behind the veterans. The coaches won’t have the same amount of time to devote to the new rookies. So the new guys – if they are smart – will take advantage of the extra focus and attention from their position coaches. In the many years that I’ve covered Rookie Minicamp, many coaches have told me they enjoy these days with the rookies because they can give them their undivided attention.
So this weekend is definitely the best opportunity to make hay while the sun shines. Making a positive impression in Rookie Minicamp could lead to increased practice reps in OTAs and regular Minicamp and, hopefully, Training Camp and Preseason Games.