Packers rookies received a tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
It took an extra day, but the Green Bay Packers' rookies got to make their trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, and the experience was well worth the wait.
As part of a program launched this year by the NFL, every team's rookies are visiting Canton by the end of June. The Packers' contingent, consisting of the nine draft picks plus rookie free agents, were originally scheduled to make the trip on Friday, but weather delayed the trip one day.
"After we finally got there, I think it was very educational for the guys to get an opportunity to see the history of the league, and maybe give them something else to shoot for," said Rob Davis, the team's director of player development and leader of the trip. "I felt the guys got a lot out of it and from what I saw they really enjoyed it."
That they did. Top draft pick Jordy Nelson had never been to the Hall of Fame before and was intrigued not only by seeing the busts of all the great players he grew up watching, but also by looking at how much the game has changed over the years.
"One thing that was kind of interesting was all the different equipment, how the equipment has evolved over the years, from the helmets to the shoulder pads and stuff like that," Nelson said. "The ideas they had to think of to help protect themselves before the technology got into it was interesting."
Fellow second-round selection Brian Brohm had been to Canton several years ago, when older brother Jeff played in the annual preseason Hall of Fame game, but he didn't remember much. He took this opportunity to research some of the greats at his position – quarterback – particularly Johnny Unitas, who went to Brohm's alma mater, the University of Louisville.
Brohm said he also took some time to learn more about former Packers great Paul Hornung, another Louisville native.
"Just to be there and get to see all the tradition, walk through it, get a tour, it was pretty cool," Brohm said.
The Packers players, who were joined by the San Diego Chargers' rookies for the tour, also were treated to brief talks by former Chargers wide receiver and Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner and Davis himself, neither of whom made a real impact on the league as rookies before finding their way.
"They just shared their experiences of being in the NFL, how they never gave up and kept trying," Brohm said. "Rob was cut a number of times and ended up having a long career, and Charlie Joiner started out as a 'DB', broke his arm his first three years in a row, and then went out to San Diego and became a receiver. That's when his career really started. It was all about just hanging in there and to keep playing and never give up."
Davis, who retired after this past season after a 12-year career, said that's a message worth listening to, whether a young player has the talent to make the Hall of Fame someday or not.
"I didn't know if I was worthy of sitting up on the stage with a Hall of Famer, but basically I just tried to keep it simple, talking about my appreciation of the opportunity I was given back in 1993," he said. "I just spoke about the commitment to the game, how serious you need to take it, knowing this isn't college football anymore, this is a job with grown men trying to feed their families."
Davis hopes in future years the league will continue the Hall of Fame trips as part of its rookie orientation program, which continued on Monday with the first NFL Player Brand University and also includes the annual Rookie Symposium in San Diego from June 29-July 2. But he does have one suggestion for improvement, stemming in part from the team's travel troubles at the beginning of the journey.
"I would suggest they make it a two-day trip," Davis said. "It's a lot to have people fly out there to Akron and get over to Canton in one day. If they did it as an overnight trip, I think the guys would have a great opportunity to build some camaraderie.
"But I like the fact that they took both drafted and free agent players, unlike the symposium where they only take the drafted players. I think it's important for all of them to learn a little bit about the history of the game. There are 13 guys who were free agents who made the Hall of Fame, so they do have a place in there."