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Three Takeaways: Chargers Rookies Lace Up Their Cleats for First Practice as a Pro

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Below are three takeaways from the Chargers' rookie minicamp press conferences on Friday as Zion Johnson, Jamaree Salyer, Otito Ogbonnia and Isaiah Spiller spoke to the media following their first practice with the Bolts.

Taking in the 'special moment'

Last Friday and Saturday, the Chargers held a two-day rookie minicamp that featured the newest members of the Bolts' squad.

Following Friday's practice, Chargers first-round pick Zion Johnson, offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer, defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia and running back Isaiah Spiller recapped their first practice in a Chargers uniform.

"It felt great," Johnson said. "It felt good to learn new things. Now I know the techniques that [Offensive Line] Coach [Brendan Nugent] wants to do and I have the opportunity to go work at it on my own and just get better at those things that he likes to do."

Salyer, who talked about 'learning how to be a pro' and taking in all the new information at camp, expressed the emotions going through one of the first steps of his pro career.

"Man, it's just crazy to kind of take it all in," Salyer said. "Even just walking right here, it's like crazy. When I first got into the locker room for the first time, you look around and it's like, 'Man, I'm here.' It's a special moment, but you have to make it special fast and then get to work. It's a cool experience."

Ogbonnia is already ahead of the curve when it comes to playing football in Los Angeles by spending his collegiate career at UCLA. He explained where his focus was during camp.

"You work your whole life for this," Ogbonnia said on being a part of a NFL team. "And now that it's finally here, you want to get that 'finally here' thing out of the way and really get to work. That's what I'm focused on doing; How can I make an impact on this team?"

Transition from college to pros

From meeting with coaches to bumping into veteran players at the team facility, the Chargers' rookies used all of the tools they could get their hands on to jump start their pro careers. After practice on Friday, Johnson even got pointers from second year tackle Foster Sarell as he headed to the podium to speak to the media.

Salyer, who said he got a chance to talk to Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater last season, talked about what he needs to do in order to have a seamless transition to the pros.

"For me, just showing that I am the player that I am," Salyer said. "Learning, No. 1, how things go around here. Picking the vets brains as I see them in the locker room. I've just seen some for the first time today. I'm picking their brains and learning what it is to be a Charger. Learning how to be an o-lineman in the pros and just taking coaching, learning this system and integrating. That's what it is, integrating."

Running back Isaiah Spiller gave insight into how he describes his running style and talked about how the offense he was part of at Texas A&M will help him pick up what he's learning now in L.A.

"It's pretty similar," Spiller mentioned. "[Texas A&M Head Coach] Jimbo [Fisher] runs a pro-style offense, so it kind of prepares you for the [National Football] League. I'm able to pick up on stuff a little faster because I've seen it before."

Ogbonnia had a unique opportunity being the only defensive lineman at rookie minicamp to get one-on-one coaching with Chargers defensive line coach Jay Rodgers. Ogbonnia talked about what it means to team up with elite players like OLBs Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack in the NFL.

"It means everything," Ogbonnia said. "I've been watching Bosa since his time at St. Thomas Aquinas [High School]. Khalil Mack, I've been watching for a while now. To see two possible future Hall of Famers, and to play with those guys, it's crazy. I'm just trying to take everything away that I can from them and learn from them as much as possible."

Odds and Ends

  • College reunions: Ogbonnia had the chance to reunite with former UCLA teammate and Chargers running back Joshua Kelly: " He was a little bit more elated than he typically is to see me," Ogbonnia said. "He was like, 'Let's go.' It's crazy how full circle that's come because I was there with him my first two years and to see him and be his teammate again, it means everything to me." Salyer was able to reconnect with former Georgia teammate Mark Webb Jr. and is looking forward to seeing tight end Tre' McKitty. He explained how having two college teammates on the Bolts helps lay out a 'blueprint' for his success as a pro.
  • Learning from Brandon Staley: Salyer talked about his first meetings with head coach Brandon Staley and what stood out most to him: "It's the way he breaks things down...It's like, 'I want you to learn how to play football our way. The way that we do it. I want you to learn how to be a Charger, learn how to block, learn how to tackle, learn how to break tackles.' He's broken it all the way down, straight like that. Literally, like pee wee football. I thought that was pretty cool. It kind of gives us a sigh of relief as rookies to come out and just learn it."
  • Spiller describes his running style: "I feel like I can do it all. I can run inside and outside, between the tackles. I can make you miss, run you over. I feel like I really can do anything, and I'm ready to show that."
  • No shoes, no problem: At the NFL Combine, Johnson cranked out an impressive 32 reps on the bench press, the most reps amongst offensive linemen. Johnson managed to hit that number while he was barefoot, a technique that he started when he began training at Exos. Johnson explained why he uses that technique: "I like to train my feet to feel contact on the ground. It just helps me, in particular, feel more in control having all points of my feet on the ground. I can feel my toes on the ground and everything."

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