NFLPA Rookie Premiere Flag Football Game Brings Out the Stars

May 20, 2012

Los Angeles -- The top players from the 2012 NFL rookie class were joined Friday night at UCLA by a mix of former NFL players and Hollywood celebrities at the NFLPA Rookie Premier Celebrity Flag Football game.

Former players included “The Freak” Jevon Kearse, Roger Craig, Jeff Blake, and J.J. Stokes, among others.

Hollywood was represented by Sean Astin from the football movie classic Rudy, Donald Faison from the television show Scrubs, and many others.

Fans had the opportunity to watch the celebrities and former players square off in an entertaining game. Kearse was all over the field, catching and breaking up passes, pressuring the quarterback, and making “tackles.” Clearly, “The Freak” hasn’t lost much since he last stepped on the field with the Tennessee Titans in 2009.

Stokes also shined, making several spectacular catches on the campus of his alma mater. It has been a little longer since J.J. last played in the NFL, but he still exhibited an excitement and passion for the game.

The 2012 NFL rookie class didn’t participate in the action due to the potential for injury, but instead spent the evening interacting with the fans in attendance. Each walked the perimeter of the field signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans.

Robert Griffin III endeared himself to the crowd by embracing his passion for attention-grabbing socks while handing out pairs with the Washington Redskins logo to the most vocal fans. Griffin was joined on the night by Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon, Ryan Tannehill, LaMichael James, and close to 30 others.

Each rookie participated in rookie camp with their new team last weekend. The first exposure to NFL action was eye-opening to some, as new Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Blackmon, noted, “It went well. The overall level of athleticism is exciting.”

The rookies were certainly not overwhelmed at these camps, as Miami Dolphin tight end, Michael Egnew, remarked, “I’ve been playing football my whole life, so I felt confident going in. It was all rookies so we were all in the same place.”

The rookie camps provide an opportunity for players to get acclimated to their teammates as well as to their new coaches. Egnew enjoyed working with his new potential quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, who “looked good. He and (David) Garrard will have a good competition for the starting job.”

For San Francisco 49ers running back James, the rookie camp was “really good for me, to go out there and get an understanding of the offensive scheme, meeting the coaches, and just finally getting down to San Fran.”

James enters an interesting situation in San Francisco where he finds himself as one of four highly-regarded running backs on the roster, leading many to speculate that one of the veterans might be out.

However, James remarked that “anytime you have a great player like Frank Gore in there, he’s going to be there. No one is going to come in there and take his spot. He’s been productive for many years. He’s the vet. He deserves it. He works hard. I’m just going to sit back and learn from the guys in front of me.”

Each of the rookies goes through an adjustment period transitioning from college to the bright lights of the NFL. Egnew reflected on his time at Missouri, stating that he will “miss Columbia, but is excited to get out and compete with my new teammates at the highest level.”

James leaves behind great memories of Oregon, but carries with him a special bond with his running backs coach, Gary Campbell.

According to James, “Coach Cam is like my dad, he’s been tremendous, always been there for me . . . I still talk to him every day.”

Overall, the NFLPA Rookie Premiere Celebrity Flag Football game proved to be a great opportunity for fans to come out and watch some old favorites play, while also getting a chance to meet the stars of tomorrow.

It was also a great opportunity to get the new players exposure to the increased media attention they will encounter throughout their NFL careers. The positive experience for both fans and incoming players figures to make the Rookie Premiere a staple of the NFL offseason for years to come.

By Chris Harker
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

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