By Peter Yoon
(Courtesy of www.NFLPlayers.com)
SANTA MONICA, Ca -- Jimmy Clausen sat down to sign his first autograph at the NFL Players Rookie Premiere Thursday and made what has to be called a rookie mistake.
Clausen, a second-round selection by the Carolina Panthers in last month’s draft, signed his name and then added the number 7, which he wore in college at Notre Dame. The trouble is he’s now No. 2. Luckily it was a quick fix.
“I just put another line on the bottom and made it into a two that kind of looks like a Z,” he said.
No worries, there would be plenty of chances to get it right.
Clausen and about 35 other members of the 2010 NFL rookie class arrived at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel for the Rookie Premiere—a weekend filled of autographs, photographs and interviews put on by NFL PLAYERS, the licensing and marketing arm of the NFL Players Association.
Trading card companies Topps and Panini produce their valuable rookie card sets during this weekend. Video game giant EA Sports makes three-dimensional digital photographs of each player to be used in the popular Madden NFL game and NFL Auctions collects signatures on memorabilia to be auctioned off for charities.
The players also sat down for interviews with CBSSports.com and NFLPATV.com, a recently-launched website that covers union issues. They also had a chance to sample new products on display by Nike.
“It’s been a real cool event so far,” said Colt McCoy, a third-round pick by the Cleveland Browns from Texas. “I had no idea what to expect coming here. I definitely didn’t think I’d be signing my name so many times.”
The highlight for most was seeing themselves in the Madden NFL video game. Although their faces are not yet incorporated into the game, they are on the rosters of the teams that drafted them. Some, however raised an eyebrow at their player rating—a number from 1-100 that determines the skill level in the game.
“Eighty five? What? That’s all wrong,” said Ndamukong Suh, the second overall pick by Detroit.
Told his was the highest rating of any rookie, Suh then accepted his number.
“I’ll take that,” he said.
The event, now in its 14th year, is designed to introduce the rookies to NFL Players and the NFLPA and to give them exposure to some of the NFL’s major sponsors and licensees, which in turn gives the players exposure.
“That’s what this weekend is all about,” said Suh. “They’re here to provide you with things outside of football. They’re basically there to help you any way they can outside of football. They help you plan for the future and they help you with dealing with things in the present. The media and different activities and ventures. They are someone I can lean on and it’s a give and take relationship. The more you help them, the more they can help you. That’s the way I see it.”
And there were plenty of ways to help out on Thursday. Trading card companies Topps and Panini had each player sign dozens of cards and jerseys. For Topps, the players had to put on and take off four or five jerseys so the company could market them as “worn” by the player.
Players also had fun in what became known as the “trash talk room,” where they recorded various taunts to be used in interactive fantasy football leagues.
“That’s three touchdowns today, I’m going to need to ice my arm after all those passing yards,” McCoy will say to his fantasy opponents in leagues that use the service.
For some, the fun began once they landed in Los Angeles. Armanti Edwards, the Appalachian State quarterback drafted by the Carolina Panthers, said he’d never been to Los Angeles and was enjoying the different culture.
“They got palm trees in the hotel here, that’s a lot different,” he said.
McCoy also waxed philosophical for a moment, soaking in the idea that so many of those drafted last month were together in the same place.
“We’re all on different teams, but we’re all kind of a team,” he said. “We’ll always be linked by this class, so it’s cool that so many of us can be here at one time. Probably the only time there will be this many of us in the same place.”
The Rookie Premiere continues through the weekend. On Friday, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith will address the rookie class in the morning and then the players will attend various fan events in Southern California.
On Saturday, the players get to don their full uniforms for the first time when Topps, Panini and Upper Deck shoot action photos of each player at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“I’m definitely looking forward to that,” Edwards said. “I got to wear the jersey today, but I can’t wait to see what that uniform looks like on me.”
Clausen echoed the sentiment.
“I’ll even sign it,” he said. “I’m getting used to signing things now.”