NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Former Titans Chris Hope, Chris Sanders and Donnie Nickey spoke to the entire Titans rookie class at team headquarters late last month, sharing experiences and advice to guide the new players as they transition from college to life in the NFL.
"You don't have a coach knocking on your door to make sure you are doing the right thing or even a parent for that matter," Hope said to the rookies. "This is a grown man's game, but it is a livelihood and it's a job now. It is still fun, but the faster you figure out how important it is to be a pro, the longer your career will be."
The understanding that these men have walked in their shoes created a sense of comfort for the new players as they sought guidance during this time of transition.
Money was a hot topic, with many rookies seeking advice on how to handle requests from friends, family members and hometown acquaintances. Hope spoke of his own experiences with family members and emphasized that learning to say "no" – or finding a professional to say "no" for you – is of vital importance in maintaining long-term financial stability.
Time management was another point of emphasis. Nickey led the charge in encouraging rookies to stay away from the temptations a new and exciting city brings and instead focus on learning the playbook, building relationships with the coaching staff and teammates and finding a veteran mentor. Hope and Sanders both agreed and spoke to the influence of their own mentors during their playing days.
"I shared with the rookie class the importance of finding a mentor on the team that does things the right way on and off the field," Hope said. "A true professional, from being on time to eating right, being well-conditioned, stretching, getting treatment or prehab [treatment to avoid injury[, spending extra time in the hot and cold tubes, doing extra work after practice [and] learning to watch and study film like a coach does."
These three alumni are now familiar faces to the rookies, people they can talk to and lean on throughout the season – and beyond.