“Hey! Go get the rookies!”
Practice was over, but Melvin Gordon’s voice blared across the fields at Hoag Performance Center as he started pulling equipment out while waiting for Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome.
This scene has become a familiar one post-practice. Most of the field clears out, but Gordon spends a good amount of time on his own working with the rookie running backs.
“I just feel like if we want to be where we want to be, we’ve got to put a little bit of extra (work) in,” Gordon said. “I know they’ll be up for it, and it comes with a lot like trying to make the team and all that. So (I’m helping) put them in the best position to be successful.”
It may sound crazy, but Gordon is the elder statesman in the running back room as he embarks on his fourth season in the league. In a recent blog post, he admitted he’s aware of the responsibility his seniority carries as he wants to do for others what those before did for him.
“…As the leader in the running back room, I have to set the example. I’ve been that guy before, obviously in college. I’ve been fortunate to have some great mentors showing me how it’s done. Danny (Woodhead), he kind of showed me the ropes. Branden Oliver, too. BO showed great leadership in different ways. You take notes from those guys when you’re in that position because everybody was a young guy at some point. And you’re an older guy at some point as well. So, you take notes from the older guys, so you know how to handle it when you’re the oldest guy in the room.”
His gesture hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Being the fact that I’m a rookie and with him being in the league for (going on) four years, it means a lot,” Newsome said. “He has that mentality where he wants to be better than where he was when he first started. So he took us under his wing to help us get better and hopefully get us to where he’s at.”
“Obviously, as a Pro Bowler and going into his fourth year, he’s already done so much in the league and made waves,” added Jackson. “Any little tidbit of advice that you can take from him, you do. When he’s out here after practice, we’re out here after practice because that’s how he got to where he is. You definitely try to emulate that and learn from him.”
Both rookies say Gordon has been working on technique and fundamentals with them, like speed cuts, spin moves and ball placement. But along with the physical aspects, Gordon is also imparting mental wisdom as well.
“(He’s told us) don’t think about it too much,” Newsome admitted. “When you’re running, just be a runner. Everything is going to come naturally. Have an open mind and just play ball.”
“That’s the thing about being a rookie; everything is going so fast,” Jackson said. “So, to have someone to tell you to just slow it down and just run (helps). Run the ball like you know how to do it, that’s a bit of advice I really liked.”
Having gone through the same rookie experience in 2015, Gordon knows how daunting this time in one’s NFL career can be. But according to Jackson, he as well as the other veteran RBs on the roster are helping the rookies acclimate to life in the league. They’re also ingraining them in the offense, which ultimately, boosts their confidence.
“Him, Derek (Watt), Austin (Ekeler) and Russell (Hansbrough), all those guys, they’ve been so great just talking us through everything. Obviously, we had a lot of questions because it was a whole new playbook thrown at us and everything is so different. You’re going to make mistakes, but you can’t get caught up in that. So just going out there and playing, and him giving us those little bits of advice, it gives us a lot of confidence for sure.”