Former Raiders Linebacker Kirk Morrison
Former NFL linebacker Kirk Morrison vividly remembers feeling the steel of the gun pushed up his chest. He remembers being robbed at gunpoint, surrendering his money, the contents of his wallet, and most notably, his recently purchased $40,000 chain.
It was a seminal moment for the then-Raiders' linebacker, and one that changed how he went about his business in the NFL.
The robbery taught Morrison something; success in life is not defined by the glitz and glam afforded to professional athletes. Instead, true success is meeting expectations and leaving a positive legacy behind when your playing days come to a close.
It was no doubt a hard lesson to learn, but one that stuck – Morrison never bought a chain again – and it was this wisdom that he shared with the Oakland Raiders' rookies last week during the team's Rookie Transition Program.
Morrison was just one of several former player that spoke to the rookies throughout the week, and when the Oakland-native was asked to return to the Bay Area, he quickly agreed.
"It's what they call the Rookie Transition Week in the National Football League and when I was asked to come down here to talk to them I jumped at the opportunity," said Morrison. "I feel like it was just yesterday in 2005 that I was drafted by the Raiders in the third round, and sat in those same chairs that those guys are sitting in now, and just learning and understanding what it is to not only be an NFL player, but how to succeed as an NFL player."
Morrison's presentation to the rookies was the final event of a week-long seminar put on by the Raiders' Player Engagement department in an effort to prepare each of the Silver and Black's rookies for life as a professional athlete.
"This Rookie Transition Program has taken the place of the previous Rookie Symposium, that format is where we took just drafted players to Aurora, Ohio for about three days," explained Director of Player Engagement Lamonte Winston. "This new Rookie Transition Program format now has been great because it involved all of our rookies, our drafted guys as well as our undrafted guys. All the guys get the same information at the same time."
Rookie defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. – who as an undrafted rookie wouldn't have been able to participate in the now-defunct Rookie Symposium – echoed Winston's statements about the importance of having a chance to learn about the resources that were available to help with the transition to the NFL.
"There was a lot of things that we learned, about finances, about our connections, our network availability, talking to former players like Kirk Morrison, definitely gave us an insight about what we should expect from the season coming up," Townsend said. "It's definitely valuable because it's about things you don't really know about, and it's just bringing things to light. It's letting you know about certain networking opportunities you didn't know you had, certain connections, certain things that are available to you, like the furniture people, everything from that, all the way up to Lamonte being able to help you in any type of situation."
Throughout the course of the five-day event the rookies were exposed to a wealth of information and education, ranging from how to dress as a professional, to responsible money management. While the seminar was largely meant to educate, there was some built-in bonding time for the group, which Winston believes is critical to building team chemistry.
"Team chemistry is invaluable, and that's what [Head] Coach [Jack] Del Rio expresses," Winston said. "That's what he's developed and created in this building. I'm sure you can hear by the music every morning, but that's something that we do, high energy, team building, when guys can work together, learn together, practice and win together, that's what makes the experience great for us."
At the conclusion of Friday's seminar the rookies went their respective ways, and won't be together again until the team reports to Training Camp 2016 next month.
It will be the longest stretch the rookies will have been away from the facility since they joined the Silver and Black, but after their week of seminar training, Winston believes they're ready to face the challenges of their new lives as professional athletes.
"Remember these guys went through a process they've never been before," Winston said. "It was five days of seminar information. They've never done that before, but to see them dial in – they dialed in and they learned. I can look in their eyes today and know that they're ready. They know what to do."