The transition from college to professional sports can be an overwhelming experience. But if results from the latest Ultimate Rookie Challenge are any indicator, the Packers' draft class of 2003 should have a bright future ahead.
Those nine players recently attended the NFL Rookie Symposium in West Palm Beach, Florida. Held each year since 1996, the symposium is a four-day orientation into the NFL for all 262 drafted rookies, giving them a glimpse of what they may face during their NFL careers.
Topics covered in this year's event included finance management, team building, media training, friends and family situations and NFL player policies.
"It was a lot of information at one time," said wide receiver Carl Ford, a seventh-round pick out of Toledo. "They talked about a lot different issues from money, to sex, to family and just your personal conduct when you're out in the public. I definitely got a lot out of it. It was a good time."
Several current and former players and coaches were on hand to offer their advice and experiences including all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith, former Vikings receiver Cris Carter, Broncos running back Clinton Portis and Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves.
"Just having those guys up there made you pay attention," Ford said. "They know what's out there because they've been there and you just want to listen to every word they say."
And listen they did. As a group, the Packers draft picks placed third in the Ultimate Rookie Challenge, a trivia competition based on the information given within the four-day seminar.
Defensive tackle James Lee, the Packers' fifth-round pick from Oregon State, took home third place in the individual competition as well.
"It was fun," Lee said. "I got a majority of the questions right and won a DVD player. The team also won DVD players for placing third, so I got two of them.
"It was just a good experience. They talked about financial situations that we might be faced with, things that can happen like domestic problems or dealing with the media. Basically, as a professional athlete, you just have to watch what you do and don't be foolish."
Packers director of player development Edgar Bennett accompanied the rookies at the symposium. Having played seven seasons in the NFL, Bennett knows very well the pressures placed on professional athletes and serves as a mentor for both rookies and veteran players, making sure that they get the most out of programs such as the Rookie Symposium.
"It's a great program that the NFL offers and I think it will be very helpful for them in the long run," Bennett said. "I wish it would have been there when I came into the league because it would have been very beneficial to the guys in my era. We had to rely on guys in the locker room to help us figure things out."