Class Begins for the Rookies
Still wet behind the ears, the New York Jets rookie class took part in their first professional practice on a rain-soaked Friday morning. While all of the rookies seem to fall under the category of young, athletic and eager, none of them seem to be expressing the same thoughts and emotions of their first trip to the big show.
The majority of the latest Jets have a familiar idea of how to quickly settle into their latest gig, which happens to be the NFL. For some, the publicity and pressure is much like their college days, where stadiums were filled to the brim with season ticket holders and millions of dollars of support. For others, it's a considerable transition from their alma maters, some just a few thousand students deep, meaning, the professional taste will take longer to swallow.
"It's been very different, especially coming from a smaller school - I'm still adjusting," said Pierre Lee, a defensive back from Virginia State, as the media horde was focused elsewhere. "The coaches have been getting us acclimated to the conditions that we are going to face, and it's been very helpful, they've been doing a very good job. It makes it easier for me to focus on getting out on the field and doing my job."
When speaking of transition, perhaps no rookie faces a larger one than Brad Smith, who holds numerous Missouri and NCAA records as a quarterback. He came to camp knowing that he will most likely be about 10-20 yards wide of his usual comfort zone under center. Although he goes from taking snaps to running routes, this marvelous playmaker's mindset remains the same regardless of position.
"I was like, just get the ball; I wanted that ball in my hands," said Smith about his first time lining up as a wide receiver. "It's a little bit of an adjustment – I don't think it will happen over night but I always give the best I can."
Since the players arrived, they have been served a healthy portion of Jets football. There isn't much time to take in the excitement or nervousness of the situation. To say the least, football is the task, and nothing, even their own emotions, will be able to distract these young men.
"You don't really have the opportunity to fathom what's going on," said DonTrell Moore, a running back from New Mexico. "There's a lot of stuff happening, a lot of people talking and every little bit is important. You got to go and absorb and apply. I haven't had an opportunity to do anything but study and sleep."
For the big names – and bodies that come with them – the hurdle into the pro ranks has been less of a jump and more of a long, slow, stride. Center Nick Mangold, the 29th overall selection in April's draft, says he is "cheating the system."
"I'm still in school, physically taking classes," said the Ohio State product who was the Jets second 1st round selection. "To me, I'm still a college player which makes it more weird being in the Jets locker room – I don't know how to describe it. It's weird sitting in class and looking around and a lot of these people are looking for jobs and I already have a job."
While many are traveling home and deciding what arrangement of flowers to pick up for Mother's Day this Sunday, Mangold has some other important plans. On top of his four inch thick playbook, there will be some other studying going on throughout the next few days.
"I need to fly back on Sunday for Monday morning classes," said Mangold. "I have a 9:30 physics lecture and four business classes, and a midterm, too. I'm going to graduate in three weeks and then move back here."
Although Therese Mangold – Nick's mother - may have wanted to see more of her son on her special day, there is a future present that Nick will be proud to provide.
"I'm graduating in four years, which I know will make my mom happy," he said.