The NFL held its annual rookie symposium from June 21-27 with AFC rookies, including the Buffalo Bills, participating during the first half of the week, June 21-24. The players learned about the history of the game and what challenges they will face during their pro careers. They were taught based on the four core values of the league: responsibility to team, respect, integrity and resilience.
Players got up early in the morning on the first day to go to breakfast and head into a ballroom where they would play the Ultimate Rookie Challenge—a trivia game.
"The Buffalo Bills ate a lot together. We had a really good rookie class, we've been around each other for a very long time," Bills fifth-round selection Karlos Williams said. "We answered a lot of questions right [during the Ultimate Rookie Challenge]."
Although the Bills ultimately lost the challenge to the Chicago Bears, they still walked away with five footballs as prizes.
After the challenge, players broke off into groups to discuss what they were learning and build relationships with players on other teams. They then went back into the ballroom to hear from current and former players about the struggles of being a professional football player.
"Some players were telling us how hard they're going through it with their families," Bills second-round selection Ronald Darby said. "Some of them couldn't even go back home, like Brandon Marshall. That was a real eye-opening thing to me."
The league also emphasized things like avoiding domestic violence and drunk driving. Donté Stallworth, who was charged with DUI manslaughter in 2009, spoke about the latter. According to Williams, these talks really hit home.
"Every year, the guys that sleep during the meetings… are the guys that this ends up happening to," he said.
The players also learned about the countless possibilities they have as professional athletes. Williams said that learning about these options was really eye opening.
"I didn't know the opportunity that you had to expand and how much business was a part of NFL," Williams said. "I didn't know how much former players fought for us. As a (Players Association), we had to fight for so long. It was really amazing to learn about the history of league and of the players."
Off-the-field topics were not the only thing discussed; Darby said that one of his biggest takeaways from the symposium was how to transcend greatness on the field. Hall of Famer Cris Carter was especially impactful in this discussion.
"All of [the Hall of Famers] said the same thing: they did things that others wouldn't do or didn't want to do," Darby said. "They stay out there just to work on something little, just putting in that extra work will make them that much better … the ones that really put the work in, it shows."
One of the high points for all of the rookies was their tour of the Hall of Fame, especially for Williams.
"I am a football junkie," he said.
Bills third-round pick John Miller was also excited about the excursion.
"It's not every day that you get to go into the Hall of Fame and see some of the players that played way before you," he said. "It was an awesome experience."
Darby enjoyed the tour as well, getting to see one of his all-time favorites in Canton.
"[I saw] one of my favorite players, Darrell Green," he said. "I saw his bust and clicked on his highlights … it was great."
Finally, Carter made a point of reminding the players just how lucky they are to be playing football professionally.
"There's only been 17,000 guys that have been paid to play this game," Williams remembered Carter telling the rookies. "Out of those 17,000, only 295 are Hall of Famers."