For NFL rookies, the transition from college to the pros can seem a bit overwhelming. Between adjusting to a new city and new playbook, there's certainly a lot to take in. At the Buffalo Bills, the newcomers took part in a comprehensive Rookie program to help make their transition as smooth as possible. The seven-week initiative, run by Buffalo's Player Engagement Department, covers a wide range of topics such as, character development, finance, credit, mental wellness, substance abuse and social media. By building an early foundation for success, Director of Player Engagement and Bills alumni Marlon Kerner believes the rookies will not only be prepared for the NFL but also for life after football.
"I think all the topics that we covered are really important because we're trying to build a foundation," said Kerner. "If you can come up with a game plan when you have the resources available, it makes that transition process a lot smoother for the guys. We're trying to get them to understand that it's a two-fold process.
"We want to make sure that we arm them with the right tools for when they get out. So really trying to get these guys to think outside of the box to figure out what they're passionate about, so when they get done they can still feel passionate about getting up and going to work. We just want to echo what our coaches have, and I think Coach McDermott and staff have done an amazing job talking about character and doing the right thing. All these guys are really great guys…they really have great priorities and goals."
2. Bills alumni take trip to Israel with Robert Kraft
Bills legends Bruce Smith and Andre Reed joined a group of 16 other Hall of Famers and their guests for an ambassador trip to Israel led by Patriots Owner Robert Kraft. The weeklong excursion, called 'Touchdown in Israel II,' took place from June 13-21 and allowed the football greats to immerse themselves in the country's history and culture. While abroad, the group heard from a variety of Israeli speakers and engaged with some of the nation's most passionate football fans. For Reed and many others, the experience proved rewarding and deeply impactful.
In a phone interview with ESPN's Mike Reiss, Reed reflected on the trip.
"You read a lot of things about the Holy Land, about Jerusalem, and all the sites and things Jesus touched, where he did his sermons, where he was born, where he was crucified, where he was resurrected, it's all there," said Reed. It's a great thing to be a part of. As a believer, you're overwhelmed."
3. Kyle Williams and Jack Eichel team up at Democrat and Chronicle AGR Sports Awards Banquet
On Wednesday, June 21 the Democrat and Chronicle held its first-ever All-Greater Rochester Sports Awards Banquet. The event, which honored the best student athletes and coaches in the region for the 2016-17 season, brought in upwards of 1,000 guests including, Bills veteran DT Kyle Williams and Sabres C Jack Eichel. In true One Buffalo fashion, the duo worked together as featured speakers to share their unique backgrounds and answer questions from the audience. Explaining how they got their starts proved inspiring for the young athletes in attendance.
"I did it all, said Williams. "I played baseball, played football, played basketball up until high school. I did track in high school. I was well rounded. I got involved with everything from individual sports to team sports…I'm a huge proponent of doing multiple things. Finding what you're passionate about, seeing what you fit in with best."
"I think that was one of my parents' biggest things for me," said Eichel. "When I was young, I loved hockey, hockey was number one for me, but as soon as the season ended in March or April I was into baseball, I played lacrosse for a bit…My parents were also real big on me playing other sports."
As the night progressed, Williams and Eichel had the opportunity to meet and take photos with the student award winners and the Coach of the Year – Irondequoit High School boys basketball head coach Chris Cardon.
4. Rookies Rehkow and Dawkins visit Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo
Although their time in Western New York has been brief, Bills rookies Austin Rehkow and Dion Dawkins have wasted no time getting out into the community. On Wednesday, June 21, the duo made their way to Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, where they met children. Making memories and friends along the way, Rehkow and Dawkins both took to Twitter to share their excitement.
5. 'Zo makes dancing debut
It seems that Lorenzo Alexander really can do it all. From being named the 2017 Pro Bowl MVP to making a big impact in the community, 'Zo is as well rounded as it gets. Recently, the Bills LB added another talent to his repertoire. As posted on his Twitter account, he can also dance. Debuting his skills in an adorable duet with his daughter, the performance gives new meaning to 'jack-of-all trades.'
A look ahead:
50 Yard Finish
Bills fans, there's still time to register for this year's 50 Yard Finish! The 5K race will be held at New Era Field on Saturday at 9 a.m. with a Kids Fun Mile to follow at 10:30 a.m. The family-friendly event will give runners an opportunity to see themselves displayed on the videoboard as they proudly cross the 50-yard line! There will also be a post-race party on the field, featuring activities and photo opportunities. Those who are interested in participating can still register today from 7-8:30 a.m. at the ADPRO Sports Training Center. For more information, click here.
Alexander's ACES Foundation holds free youth camp
Lorenzo Alexander will be back in his hometown this weekend for his foundation's "Hold the Line Skills Camp." The free youth football and cheer event is open to all youth ages 5-14 and will take place at Castlemont High School in Oakland, Calif on Saturday, June 24.
Wright to host first annual football camp
Bills cornerback Shareece Wright will also be giving back to his community this summer as he hosts his first annual football camp. The camp is open to youngsters ages 10-14 and will be held at Colton High School in Colton, Calif on July 21. At the event, the participants will learn the fundamentals of football, along with important life skills such as team building and leadership from Wright and other NFL players and coaches.