Did you know that for a single card shot, it might take half an hour of a player running routes on a field or sitting in the hot sun getting grilled about his favorite superhero and the challenges of facing a 3-4 defense?
Getting players on cards isn’t as easy as one might think, and for NFL rookies going through the process for the first time, it can be daunting and exhausting, yet also one of the more enjoyable experiences in the hobby.
I had the chance to attend the NFL Rookie Premier in Los Angeles at the L.A. Coliseum, meeting with some of the players and seeing the ground floor operation on how the card manufacturers – Donruss, Topps and Upper Deck – bring these rookies into the upcoming football card products. And the two-day event only involved 34 players, so this was just a microcosm of one sport in the entire trading card operation.
The Rookie Premier serves as the background for the players to put on their NFL uniforms for the first time – by 8 a.m. on a beautiful Saturday morning, no less. Having spoken with others who have attended this event in the past, there have been some players who didn’t particularly fully involve themselves while at the Rookie Premier, nor show much interest in the youth groups who were guests (and future customers of the very cards being produced from the event).
However, this year’s class was, well, a class act. Though temperature soared to 96 degrees, there wasn’t any major whining or boycotting of activities by the players, and no one demanded more money for having to muster a little extra effort (yes, apparently that has happened in the past).
Players expressed gratitude for the opportunity to attend the event (mostly limited to skill position players taken in the first three rounds) and said it was a dream come true to be on cards, similar to the heroes they looked up to growing up.
“This is a great feeling. I feel very fortunate to be one of the selected players to be here,” said wide receiver DeSean Jackson, a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. “I see a lot of hard work has been out into what we do here, so I’ll keep putting in the hard work and everything will be all right.”
Hard work, indeed. With stations set up throughout the stadium – on the field, locker rooms and in the tunnels, the card manufacturers kept the players moving. While getting shots for the cards, the companies also secured autographs and obtained event-used material. You can also see interviews with the players on the websites of the companies.
While most of these players will provide guarded answers with the mainstream media during the upcoming season, these interviews provided a different angle, talking about childhood heroes, collecting habits and even who would play them in a movie. It’s nice to see a different side of players, especially before the money (Matt Ryan was in attendance, just days before his six-year, $72 million contract) and fame transform them into someone less than desirable to talk to.
Some of the more engaging players at the draft were defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, the aforementioned Jackson and quarterback John David Booty, who was one of the more unheralded players there even though he led the celebrated USC Trojans last year.
Start looking for product from Donruss, Topps and Upper Deck from the Rookie Premier in about a month. I’ll have a complete wrap-up from the event in the next SCD, complete with exclusive photos. Look for the players at training camp starting in July.