While most of the veterans on the 49ers roster left town at the conclusion of the team’s offseason program, the rookie class stuck around the last week of June for Player Development Week.
Or as 49ers Director of Player Development Tyrone Knott dubbed it, “49 U.”
The week consisted of daily meetings between Knott and the rookies, a visit to a local business, an investment simulation seminar and wrapped up with a trip to the NFL Rookie Symposium.
The entire week brought the group of rookies even closer.
“I knew all the guys prior to that, but I feel like we know each other 10 times more from going through that experience,” rookie tight end Nate Byham said. “We all know each other on the field already, and have become friends, but this was a good experience all around to build on that brotherhood that we’re developing.”
The week began with a visit to local video game manufacturer Namco Bandai, located a couple of blocks from 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara. The players toured the Namco facility and listened to a presentation from offensive lineman Tony Wragge, who recently concluded a six-week internship in the offseason with the help of Knott and Namco’s operations analyst Charmaine Morena.
“I wouldn’t have went on this type of tour if I had a regular job or if I was in college,” cornerback LeRoy Vann remarked. “I think it was a great opportunity to experience something cool.”
Although he’s entering his second NFL season, 49ers defensive tackle and avid video gamer Ricky Jean Francois wanted to be a part of the Namco tour. He also wanted to get first-hand knowledge of Wragge’s experience in the gaming industry.
“It opened up your eyes to the real world away from football,” Jean Francois said. “That’s something all of us needed.”
Another highlight of the week was the investment simulation, which featured teams of rookies investing Monopoly-like money in various stocks to learn about the ramifications of long-term investments. The winning team ended up being linebacker Mike Balogun and offensive lineman Matt Kopa.
“That’s that University of Oklahoma education right there!” Balogun proudly stated to the group upon being announced as the winners.
At the conclusion of “49 U” the drafted players took part in the NFL’s four-day Rookie Symposium, a staple of the NFL’s Player Development programs since its birth in 1997. The gathering of players from all 32 teams in Carlsbad, Calif., provided a great opportunity for players to understand the best way to conduct themselves as they enter professional football.
“It was definitely a long couple of days, that was to be expected, but I really got a lot out of it,” Byham said. “When you think of the Symposium, you think of 12-hour days full of meetings. But now that I’ve gone through it, I was able to take a lot away from it.”
Byham especially enjoyed the lectures from former NFL stars and Commissioner Roger Goodell, but found the separate meetings with the rookies from the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints to be most interesting.
“We did a bunch of activities and brainstormed ideas. We talked about stresses and realities of being rookies in the NFL and how you have to live your life. It was pretty cool. It was nice to have other people to talk to who weren’t just your teammates. You see how we’re all going through the same stresses coming in as a rookie.”
Having graduated “49 U” the rookies hope to take the next step and become members of the 49ers 53-man roster. They’ll have their chance when training camp opens Aug. 2.
Tags: LeRoy Vann, Mike Balogun, Nate Byham, Ricky Jean-Francois
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