<strong>June 6, 2005</strong>
Source: <a href="http://www.chargers.com/news/headline_detail.cfm?news_key=2190">Chargers.com</a>
Luis Castillo had been out of the classroom for less than a month when he went back to it last week. But instead of working toward a degree, Castillo was learning some of the ins and outs of his new profession.
The former Academic All-American, along with the other members of the Chargers' 2005 draft class, spent five days in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida last week for the NFL's annual Rookie Symposium. The newest Chargers joined the rookie classes of all 31 other teams to get a tutorial on what they can expect from their new lives and lifestyles.
"This helps the rookies get off to a good start with regard to the new lifestyle they are about to enter," said NFL vice president of player and employee development Michael Haynes, a Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback. "The lessons learned at the Rookie Symposium help players develop personal and professional goals that will sustain them during and beyond their playing careers."
The symposium's agenda consists of topics such as personal finance, life skills, personal conduct, life as a rookie, media policy, substances of abuse, personal experiences, family issues, player development, success in the NFL and life after football, football operations, and NFL security. The event featured several special speakers including Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, Jets All-Pro center Kevin Mawae, former All-Pro wide receiver Cris Carter.
"I thought the league did a really good job of lining up speakers that drew our attention," said offensive tackle Wesley Britt, the Chargers' fifth-round draft choice. "Tony Dungy and Kevin Mawae are a couple of guys that I've respected for a long time. It was good to hear their perspective on things."
Many players were taken back by Carter's story. The second-leading receiver in NFL history spoke candidly about his battle with drugs and alcohol that he faced early in his career.
"Cris Carter really got to me," said running back Darren Sproles. "He went through a lot, but he overcame it and had a great career. He had some good advice on how to avoid some of the mistakes he made."
Last Tuesday, a group of second-year NFL players led a panel discussion on their rookie years. Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall, Jets safety Erik Coleman, Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, Seahawks safety Michael Boulware, and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald provided valuable insight on their first years as NFL players.
"It was good to hear what DeAngelo and those guys had to say because they just went through what we're about to," said wide receiver Vincent Jackson. "People have told me a lot of things about what I'm about to experience, but it makes it more real when you talk someone who has just been down that road."
In addition to the seminars, players had an opportunity to get to know their teammates on a new level last week. Due to the cross-country trek, the Chargers rookies arrived in Palm Beach a day earlier than most groups, and the extra time allowed them to enjoy the scenery. Since the event was held at the PGA National Convention Center, the players got to spend a day on the golf course together.
"We've been in camps together throughout the spring, but this was the first time that we got to hang out in a non-football atmosphere," Jackson said. "I got to know these guys a lot better, and by the end of the week, I felt like I really knew them, even though we've been together off and on since the end of April."
San Diego hosted the event in 2004 and the symposium is scheduled to return to the area in 2006. While they love their new homes, the 2005 Chargers class wasn't disappointed about having to travel.
"It was really nice to get away and do something outside of our normal surroundings," Britt said. "There were parts of the symposium that were more pertinent than others, but overall, it was a great experience."