Becoming a professional athlete definitely has its perks, but often times there is more involved than fame and fortune. The road is sometimes rocky, but judging by the 2004 NFL Rookie Symposium, the Packers latest draft class will handle it just fine.
All six of the Packers draft picks attended the symposium which was recently held in San Diego, Calif. It's mandatory that all NFL draft picks attend the event designed to give rookies an idea of some of the things they may face during and after their career. This is the eighth consecutive year the four-day orientation has been held for drafted rookies.
League personnel, expert facilitators, as well as former and active players are involved in delivering a program specially designed to give incoming players detailed information about life in the NFL. Although information dealing with a player's active career (league policies, media relations and benefits) is provided, a major part of the symposium focuses on life outside of football.
The program provides work shops on educational life skills such as personal finance, substance abuse, safe sex, gambling, and domestic abuse.
Packers director of player development Edgar Bennett joined the players on the trip to California. According to Bennett, the players appreciate hearing from the facilitators that run the symposium.
"The young guys get to hear from many different people in a variety of areas," Bennett said. "When you have an opportunity to hear from people who were in your shoes at one time and see how they handled it, it definitely helps you as a rookie."
Several speakers, including Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly, former Minnesota Vikings receiver Cris Carter and current Kansas City Chiefs running back Priest Holmes offered their perspectives on NFL life.
"It was an overall good experience," said rookie Scott Wells, a seventh-round draft pick. "They gave us a lot of information we needed to know and it gave us a chance as rookies to bond a little bit in the sessions we had. The question and answer segment with former players was very helpful."
The Packers' draft picks picked up the information quickly as they placed second overall -- behind the Buffalo Bills' rookies -- in the Ultimate Rookie Challenge, a trivia session based on the information covered throughout the weekend.
Punter B.J. Sander, the Packers third-round pick out of Ohio State, felt the competition was definitely worthwhile.
"All the teams are matched up against one another in the challenge," Sander said, "and it's great when you can place as high as we did because that builds team chemistry.
"We received advice from some players and coaches that told us what to expect in our careers. They wanted to make sure we were educated on financial aspects and when you are a rookie that is beneficial. Overall, it was very informative."
Bennett was pleased with the team's results.
"Our players took notes, paid attention and made the most of the information that was given to them," Bennett said. "It was a clear reflection of the group and the type of guys our staff wants to bring in here. They did a fantastic job in the program."