Tomorrow, members of the Chargers’ 2017 draft class as well as undrafted rookie free agents will take to the practice field for the first time in their pro careers.
Rookie mini camp is a three-day crash course in anything and everything football. Just ask Hunter Henry, Joshua Perry and Derek Watt; all who were in these 2017 rookies’ shoes a year ago.
“It was a good experience,” Henry said. “It was a lot of fun. I was fresh off the plane Thursday night to get out there and then was in action Friday morning. I was a little tired at first, but it was so much fun to finally play football. You go through this long process of running 40s and doing draft things, so to get back to football was really nice.”
“It was a lot,” added Perry. “The day before (we went out on the field), we got the playbook. You cram it in there and then get on the field. When you’re out there, it’s about learning fundamentals, scheme and a little technique. They want to see how guys can go. It was the first introduction to meeting coaches last year and also, some of my teammates. That’s one of those experiences that I’ll remember for the duration of my career.”
As Perry can attest, the camaraderie built within these three days is second to none. Being that the players are thrown into the fire, forging bonds with fellow rookies certainly helps bring a sense of ease to the three days.
“You have a class of guys who walk through here. You may know a couple, but you don’t know everybody. The best way to get to know people is out there on the football field and coming back in meetings. That was a good experience.”
With three days revolving around practices and meetings, rookie mini camp can at times take a toll. However, it seems the mental part of the extended weekend is more arduous than the physical.
“You have to get the playbook down,” Watt attested. “It’s pretty basic to start off but that’s the main thing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s hard to get on the field. You have to be able to take notes so you can study at home and not need the playbook. The coaches want to see how professional you are and that’s part of your job. You’re not just always going to able to look things up in the playbook; you have to be able to know it on your own.”
“The hardest part is getting in a new system, learning new terminology, a new scheme and being able to communicate with new players,” Perry confirmed. “All of that newness is more of a shock mentally than it will be physically. You have to find creative ways to keep up mentally. If you have a notebook with some good notes, that’s about the best you can do. There isn’t film there. That’s a little bit tough, but it’s part of the game.”
Although the newness can be tough at first, the players admitted that it gets better with time. Along with Perry’s tip on notetaking, they each shared their sage advice to make rookie mini camp go as smoothly as possible.
“Soak it up,” Henry said. “You have to (put in) work every single day and do your best. It’s going to be tough, but don’t get down on yourself if you get beat. Soak it all up and take in every moment.”
“Just come in and study the playbook,” Watt shared. “Don’t try to start fights or try to be that guy on day one. Do your job, do the best you can and show the coaches what you can do. But, let your work on the field do the talking.”