"I came in with hype and a persona. Things came out of left field that I didn't expect. That I didn't know how to deal with at the time."
Shawne Merriman uses those words to begin describing his whirlwind rookie year Tuesday afternoon for nearly two dozen Chargers rookies.
The 12th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft took the league by storm as a 21-year old, showcasing why he earned his "Lights Out" moniker. The outside linebacker earned Pro Bowl honors after notching 57 tackles and 10.0 sacks, and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
However, expectations on and off the field weighed heavily on Merriman. While he went on to author an injury-shortened but memorable career to be named a member of the Chargers 50th Anniversary Team, there are things he wishes he was aware of back in 2005.
That's why for the second straight year, Merriman was a guest speaker at the Chargers' Rookie Transition Program to set the record straight on what to expect.
"I want them to know what the expectations are of them from the team. That they know what's important around them. Doing things the right way goes a long way, and it sets them up for the future. That is one thing I wish I knew. I didn't have this as a rookie. Every player is different when they come in, and people can tell you different things. When I was a rookie, I didn't have one-on-one time to ask someone who went through it questions I had at the time. I wish I did. I think it could have made things easier."
As a result, Merriman made sure to devote ample time to give the rookies the floor to ask whatever was on their minds.
"I think that's the biggest part; answering the questions they have for me. No question is stupid. There may be something they are thinking about they might encounter in the future, and they want to know how I would deal with it after being in their shoes as a rookie. Obviously I'll talk about the transition, things they may encounter and what to look out for. But really, the biggest thing is the questions, because those are things they feel important enough to ask. That's the information they want."
The opportunity to pick the brain of a Chargers legend was something second-round pick Forrest Lamp appreciated.
"It was awesome. Any time we can get a guy who has been in our position before to give us advice, it's great. That's why we listen to the vets so much now. They've been there. They've done it, and they can help us know what to expect."