By Cynthia Zordich
It has never been more awesome of a responsibility to be a "Mom" than it is right now. If you are standing back and letting your rookie player go because he is pulling away- it is time to circle back around.
Sure, he has his own money now. He's his own man. Perhaps he has a girlfriend. You don't want to push, etc. But, do me a favor and imagine that same boy, as a toddler on a cliff with red-tailed hawks circling all around him. Would you have let him go then? No. You would have dived on top of him and battled each hawk bare-fisted and lured him away from the cliff. It's not so different now. If you are the "Mom" in your rookies life, whether it be actual, spiritual, grand or aunt - take note.
As I sit here, privileged as I am, to be a part of the 2013 Rookie Symposium, I am aware of the weight in the room and the hawks circling above. Sure, there is pressure to learn the playbook, to make the roster, to live up to the hype. But, there is an underlying pressure that keeps surfacing in the conversation and that is the expectation of taking care of well... everyone. The demands of the family, the dares of the friends, the need to please and the pleads to provide well...everything.
As Maurice Clarett put it, "It is not a job to be a friend." His words, however, are reflective. "Everyone was there for something I created, shared Clarett. Wait, he said, when there is no one left in the room to call on but God. Wait, he said, until you spend 7 months in a 6x9 like a caged animal. Wait, he said, 'cause when it hits the fan - they fly."
From the Senior VP of Player Engagement, Troy Vincent to transition coach Irving Fryar, to current player Adam Jones, and former players Brian Dawkins and Aeneas Williams and circling back to first year players Dwayne Allen and Greg Scruggs, the answer is simple. JUST SAY NO. NO you don't have it. NO you can't do it. NO you can't pick up the tab. NO you can't co-sign. NO you can't make it. NO You can't take it. NO!
But, there's a problem and one rookie raised his hand and revealed it. "But, he said, "they put it in the paper. They know we got it." Rumbling is heard around the room. It is true, the world and their home towns and their friends know what they signed for. It's in the paper, on the news, on twitter along with their addresses. They know what they have and they know where to get it.
The advice is awesome - JUST SAY NO, but you know what? By the body language in the room, the thought of it is painful, almost impossible. For a lot of these players, their families have sacrificed everything for them. They have supported them. For many, there is a feeling of obligation, of duty. It's a time to say thank you. A new house, a new car to get to their games, an overdue vacation, tickets, jerseys, the chance to see their mother rest, for once. And for even more, it isn't an obligation really, it is a dream come true. The dream of a better life for everyone they love.
So with all of the precautionary tales spun and the point honed in, the question becomes How? How do you say NO without feeling like you just pulled your heart out of your chest.
This is where the mom in you realizes that this is not the time to rest. It is time to step up and either BE that NO person or FIND that NO person. A good mother will be it, a better mother will admit she's not cut out for the job. Don't be offended. It could be that you are too kind, too soft, too impressionable, too sweet. The NO person in your rookie's life needs to be unbending, unflinching and resolute.
"Find someone who can say no, but still respect them", offered Adam Jones. "Otherwise, added Maurice Clarett, you'll be surrounded by dudes having a good time off your life."
The No Person in your rookie's life could be his agent, a mentor, a former player, a veteran player, a trusting relative, or a reliable friend. It's a pretty simple formula, "Ah, I'd love to, but you gotta call ( ) he/she takes care of that for me."
The NO person protects the brand which is the business of the player while nurturing the relationship. Advices Brian Dawkins, "Don't knock down the credibility of your corporation by damaging your brand. Surround yourself with people who shoot you straight."
Without contradicting the JUST SAY NO guidebook, there are times when the player will want to say YES. This is when the NO person must take advantage of all of the NFL services that are in place to protect the player through the NFLPE. For instance, no matter what the situation; an investment, an investor, a possible endorsement or appearance, a business venture, a home purchase, or any purchase or service being considered by the player, the league through Proactive Security will perform background checks, for free, for any player or coach and their family. For more information contact your team's Director of Security.
The No person may also want to say YES (on behalf of the player) to charitable organizations, nonprofits and individuals. This will also require documentation for tax purposes, background checks, contracts and agreements. This business of being a No person is a full time job and should be treated as such.
Fortunately, If you are elected - you are not the first to take on the work load. If (when) you have questions, I strongly suggest you contact Denise Wayne, mother of Colts WR Reggie Wayne and President of The Professional Football Players Mothers Association. I personally had wonderful talks with Denise and am inspired by the relationship of trust and partnership she and Reggie have solidified throughout his career.
By being well informed, connected and unwavering you will eliminate extreme burden from your son's rookie year by giving him a peaceful mind. And Brian Dawkins put it "A peaceful mind produces power."
In the process you will help the rookie in your life pave the way for a successful and productive NFL career on and off the field.