Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags Offer Help to Young Pros; the Team's Rookie Club Is Taught Many Lessons That Are Useful Later

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags Offer Help to Young Pros; the Team's Rookie Club Is Taught Many Lessons That Are Useful Later

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL C. WRIGHT

Every now and then, evil innocence lines the fences at the Jaguars' practice facility.

The smiling faces, the blank sheets of paper, the autograph requests -- they can morph from a pleasurable experience to horrendousness in minutes.

Ridiculous it seems, but definitely possible, Jaguars rookies soon learn.

"One thing they told us," Jaguars defensive end Brent Hawkins said, "is not to sign autographs on plain white pieces of paper. Something happened a long time ago. A guy signed a plain white piece of paper, and someone did something illegal with it, like scanned the signature and wrote a bunch of checks in the player's name."

Hawkins' primer on the pitfalls of fraud came during a seminar last year, his first season in Jacksonville as a member of the Jaguars' rookie club. What started as a simple fishing trip to help rookies relax and learn a new hobby has developed into the blueprint for helping them adjust from college life to the NFL.

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio and manager of player relations Bahati Van Pelt established the rookie club in 2003.

"You have all these unanswered questions when you get to the league that you soon find out about," third-year running back Alvin Pearman said. "The programs help with the transition and with getting a better understanding about where we are, the roles we have. There's just so much you don't know."

There's a June 12 speeding/DUI seminar, a June 14 clinic on credit and a session on how to handle friends and family, some of whom want a slice of a player's money. The Jaguars also bring in financial advisers to help players make prudent financial decisions.

When Del Rio entered the NFL as a New Orleans Saints linebacker in 1985, he said he "literally watched" a member of his draft class cash his check and put the money into his back pocket. Del Rio declined to name the player, but "by the end of January, he was broke," the coach said. "He was asking everybody for a loan. …

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