College football's version of graduation day is but four days away, with caps and gowns traded for jerseys, bear hugs from Roger Goodell and million dollar signing bonuses.
With the NFL about to accept its own freshman class, future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald offered some advice to the Class of 2016 on The Players' Tribune. While aimed at players heading to the next level, this advice could work equally well for players moving into high school or college football.
When I first came to the Cardinals, I tried to make sure I only caught the attention of the veterans because of my play on the field. I was fortunate to share a locker room with Emmitt Smith, and I was struck by the way he conducted himself. This guy was the leading rusher in NFL history, and he played 14 years in this league. I figured he must know a lot of things I didn’t, so I watched him closely. I watched the way he ate, how he trained and how he generally handled himself on a day-to-day basis. I learned so much just from watching Emmitt, and I’m really thankful that I had the opportunity to learn from him.
I advise you to find a guy on your new team that’s had the kind of career you’d like to experience, and then spend your first year in the league just observing him. Don’t badger him with questions (unless he’s open to that sort of thing), but instead make a note of the things he does right and try to replicate them. If you do things the right way, your teammates will notice and you’ll gain their respect.
I’ve worked with several guys who worked extremely hard. Two of the best players on our team right now are Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they were also two of the hardest working rookies I’ve ever been around. You never heard a thing from either of those guys. Never. They didn’t speak a lot, but when it came to practice and conditioning, they were always first. First guys in the building, last guys to leave. They had the mindset that they were going to come in and be productive players. They didn’t say it, they showed it. That’s a good example to follow.