Bills rookies learn from NFL Rookie Symposium


"It was really positive," said Bills wide receiver T.J. Graham.

Graham and the rest of the 2012 Rookie class traveled to Aurora, Ohio this week for a four-day orientation for the 15th annual Rookie Symposium. 

"It reminds me a lot of the combine," said Bills offensive lineman Mark Asper. "There are a lot of the same faces, same guys… guys that you know that are in the same situation that you are."

The Symposium is designed to prepare the rookies for the next phase in their NFL career, and to give them advice for some of the challenges and obstacles they may face along the way.

"It's a lot different than I expected. They're really trying to get our attention," said Graham. "They're really pulling out all the stops to make sure they get their message across. We've met a lot of people including a couple of speakers that really hit home with a lot of us."

Part of the experience is for the rookies to hear stories firsthand from speakers including former and current NFL players, members of the NFL league office and clubs, and members of the NFL Players Association.  Speaking to the AFC Rookies this year were Adam Jones, Aeneas Williams, Zak DeOssie, Matt Slater, Will Witherspoon, Michael Irvin, Antonio Freeman and Terrell Owens. Learning from some of the former players and hearing their stories really stuck with some of the rookies.

 "You have to be aware of your surroundings and not put yourself in a bad situation," said Bills linebacker Nigel Bradham. "That's what Terrell Owens and Adam Jones were talking about… knowing what your situation is and knowing your surroundings, always being aware of the consequences of your choices and not giving a bad name to the NFL."

Through their time at the Symposium, the rookies learn about the vast amount of resources that are available to them as players in the NFL.

"They're trying to show us what to expect and all the different aspects of what comes with the game both on and off the field…checking your resources, using them and being a reliable person yourself," said Bradham.

The rookies will learn more about the history of the NFL and the game during a tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as it will be the first time to the Hall for many of the new players.

 "I don't really know what to expect," said Graham. "I love football, but I've never been to the Hall of Fame so I don't know what to expect coming in."

Part of the Symposium curriculum is the PLAY 60 Youth Football clinic taking place Saturday. Here, the players will work with 300 local students from the Cleveland area by playing interactive games, sharing football skills, and attending a healthy barbeque. The clinic provides the rookies the opportunity to interact with the community, sharing the positive PLAY 60 message with the children.

The rookies took from the Symposium a better understanding of life in the NFL, and motivational messages and experiences from former players to help guide them on their journey as professional football players.

"They were really good guys and helped guide us in the right direction," said Graham.  "They've been in the league and been successful. I guess we'll have to see how each of us uses the message they gave us as our careers start."

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