Lions rookies learn about life in the NFL

Josh Katzenstein, The Detroit News
Detroit Lions draft picks Alabama rookie defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson and Ohio State rookie offensive tackle Taylor Decker and the Lions rookie class work with Detroit PAL athletes.

Detroit — With the NFL cancelling its annual rookie symposium in Ohio this year, the Lions’ first-year players stayed in the area to learn about life as a professional athlete.

Dr. Galen Duncan, the team’s senior director of player development, led the “Rookie Transition Program” this week, a series of events that included emphasis on mental health awareness, financial education, career development and continuing education.

“Some of it is just getting these guys acclimated to being adults, to being professionals,” Duncan said Thursday at Renaissance High where the rookies coached a camp with about 100 Detroit PAL football players. “It would be great if we could do that for all people that get out of college.”

Although Duncan said players miss out on a bonding opportunity with fellow NFC rookies without the symposium, he said Lions rookies received much of the same information this week and since they arrived after the draft. Plus, the symposium was just for draft picks, so the undrafted rookies had an equal opportunity to learn about life in the NFL.

“The unfortunate reality is that some of these guys are not going to be with us,” Duncan said. “They’re going to be with other teams, or they’re going to be doing other things in life. But one thing they will always be is a Detroit Lion.

“Once you’ve worn this, you’re always going to be identified as a Detroit Lion, so we want to arm those same guys with the ability to go out there and be productive citizens.”

In addition to the symposium-like seminars, the rookies went through etiquette training and a fashion class in which they learned how to tie ties, though some of the players already knew.

“My tie game is strong,” strong safety Miles Killebrew said. “I love dressing up. So, I appreciated that presentation, but I’m good with that. … Oh, I know all the Windsors. I even know the Windsor, Canada.”

Multiple players, though, appreciated the dining etiquette course from Scarlet Communications.

“Just the fine dining things, I didn’t know what all the forks were for,” center Graham Glasgow said. “I’ve been to a couple events and I’ve just been, I guess, a bull through a china shop just ruining everything, drinking other people’s waters.”

Former Lions center Dominic Raiola was among the speakers, and Duncan said coaches did presentations, too, including advice on how to take notes.

Having each team hold its own rookie seminars also provided the chance to tailor the program to the specific group, and with Duncan raving about the team’s high-character rookies, he could focus on “higher-functioning behavior.”

“The way the Lions are set up, we’re not going for it if you’re not handling your business,” Duncan said. “Off the field if you’re not able to take care of what you’re supposed to do, you won’t be with us.”

But, after the events this week, players feel more prepared to succeed on and off the field.

“Their goal was to really make sure that we knew what we were doing here, and I feel way more comfortable than I did when I got here,” Killebrew said.