SDSU homecoming at 2008 NFL Rookie Symposium
Four San Diego State football players drafted in 2008 were back home for this week's NFL Rookie Symposium at the La Costa Resort, but that's not the only reason it felt like a homecoming.
SDSU alums La'Roi Glover and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila were among the speakers at the symposium designed by the NFL to help prepare rookies for life on and off the field as a pro football player.
Glover, a six-time Pro Bowler now with the St. Louis Rams, played for the Aztecs from 1992 to 1995 and Gbaja-Biamila, who last played in the NFL with the Chargers in 2006, played for the Aztecs from 1999 to 2002.
"There are a lot of San Diego State guys here," said quarterback Kevin O'Connell, who was drafted in the third round by the New England Patriots. "All four guys that were drafted are here, and La'Roi Glover and Akbar spoke in the breakout sessions. So we're proud of the San Diego State presence here. We're proud of each other, and we hope we paved the way for success at San Diego State.
"But at the same time, we know we're back to square one. We've got to find a way to make an impact."
The other three Aztecs that were drafted are long-snapper Tyler Schmitt, sixth round by the Seattle Seahawks; wide receiver Chaz Schilens, seventh round by the Oakland Raiders; and wide receiver Brett Swain, seventh round by the Green Bay Packers.
The four SDSU draft picks is the most for the school since 1997, when wide receiver Will Blackwell was a second-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, wide receiver Nate Jacquet was a fifth-rounder by the Indianapolis Colts, running back George Jones was a fifth-rounder by the Steelers and defensive back Ricky Parker was a sixth-rounder by the Chicago Bears.
O'Connell and Schmitt are sure bets to make their rosters -- teams don't cut a quarterback drafted in the third round or a sixth-round pick invested in a long snapper -- while Schilens and Swain will need to show they can contribute on special teams in addition to playing a backup role as a wide receiver.
"It's been good to come here and see Chaz, Kevin and Brett," Schmitt said. "When I first went to San Diego State, I thought I could play linebacker. I never thought long-snapping would get me this far. It's worked out great for me."
The Rookie Symposium tries to prepare the rookies for many of the problems that develop from NFL fame and wealth. The financial advice can range from how to invest for your retirement years to how to cope with family members with their hands out.
Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher was one of the speakers, and he reminded the players that phones that can take pictures and video are omnipresent. As he made his point, he showed a pictures taken of Titans' quarterback Vince Young partying with his shirt off and drinking from a tequila bottle.
"The NFL has put out a lot of information for us that rookies need," Swain said. "It's a lot of stuff about making the right decisions, about being financially secure and what they expect of you on and off the field. It's a steppingstone to becoming a good NFL player."
In addition to the classroom time, the NFL bused in 200 youths from Camp Pendleton for a clinic with the rookies. The players were split up into two sessions as they ran through drills and played some touch football with the rookies.
About half of the kids had a parent deployed and another quarter had a parent about to be shipped out.
"It's great to see these kids from Camp Pendleton out here," O'Connell said. "They have parents and loved ones fighting for our country. That's a big deal to me, and I know it is to a lot of guys out here."
O'Connell was one of the biggest "kids" out there as he played quarterback, receiver and defensive back in the touch football games. At one point, an NFL public relations official had to pull him away from the game so he could do interviews with the local media.
"It's fun being out here with the kids," O'Connell said. "We've been locked up in meetings all day, and when I come to San Diego, I want to be outside as much as possible to get some fresh air."
Then O'Connell went back to playing with the kids. His next stop, after Sports at Lunch at the Hall of Champions when nine-time Pro Bowler John Lynch of the Denver Broncos and Torrey Pines High welcomes him to the NFL, is July 17 when training camp begins for the Patriots.