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NFL rookies must learn to just say no

Among the lessons being taught at the NFL's rookie symposium in Carlsbad is how players can deal with newfound fame and the out-of-the-woodwork attention it attracts, such as being contacted by friends or family members they didn't know they had.

June 28, 2010|By Sam Farmer

Reporting from Carlsbad — Before they get their house, their car, their snazzy watch, many NFL rookies get something else:

About 1,000 new friends and family members they never knew they had.

Or, in the case of San Diego Chargers rookie Ryan Mathews, too many Facebook friend requests to count.

"I've had people hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, everything like that, saying they're my cousin, all kinds of stuff like that," Mathews said Monday during a break in the rookie symposium at La Costa Resort and Conference Center. "I've had brothers and sisters I haven't seen since I was like 2 hit me up, and I don't even remember them.

"It's strange how they see your name up there and they want to be part of your life again. I've already got my small circle of family and friends that are close to me. I'm not going to shy anybody away, but that main circle is going to be the ones that I help and take care of."

Learning how to deal with those situations is part of the curriculum at the four-day symposium, which is designed to prepare first-year players for the opportunities and challenges they will face as professionals.

Mathews, a Fresno State running back drafted 12th overall, said he's careful when dealing with new people who approach him but doesn't want to become overly suspicious.

"Some of them have better intentions than others," he said. "Some of them just want to be there and share with you. Some of them, they either need something or are going to ask for something. Those are the ones you've got to recognize fast and kind of get them out of your life."

So that they don't have to be the bad guy in those situations, a lot of NFL players steer those inquiries to someone — a financial advisor, or maybe a close family member — who will say no for them.

"Everyone wants this, everyone wants that," Chicago Bears rookie Major Wright said. "You've just got to know how to control yourself and have a 'no' man. I'm going to have my mom as my 'no' man. 'If you need anything, call my momma.' And I'm going to have her tell them why I can't do this.

"She's going to be the bad cop."

Mr. Irrelevant

Much as he's enjoying being in the NFL, Detroit rookie Tim Toone knows Wednesday will be a drag.

Toone, you see, is this year's Mr. Irrelevant, the last player selected in the draft, and therefore will be honored at a tongue-in-cheek banquet Wednesday at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa. As part of Irrelevant Week, he'll also get to drag the infield at an Angels game (because throwing out the first pitch would actually be relevant). Several well-known sports personalities are scheduled to attend this year's roast, including Norm Chow, John Robinson, Jim Tunney, John Naber, Mike Haynes and David Baker.

Toone, a receiver from Weber State, is taking it all with a smile. He's excited about the pile of gag gifts he's going to receive, among them a towel to keep him warm on the bench this season, and the Lowsman Trophy — as opposed to the Heisman — which depicts a player fumbling.

"I didn't know about all the stuff that comes with it," Toone said, "But I knew what the last pick is called."

If Toone was one of the bookends in this year's draft, the other was Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, drafted No. 1 by St. Louis.

Asked whether he and Bradford discussed that, Toone chuckled and said: "No, I don't think he knows who I am."

What's cookin'

The rookies took a break from their seminars Monday and hosted a barbecue for 150 children of Marines stationed at nearby Camp Pendleton. The players led the kids in exercises, threw footballs with them and staged skills challenges.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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