BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – On the first day of the 2017 NFLPA Rookie Premiere, Joshua Dobbs couldn’t help but sneak in a quick picture. He was walking down the corridor to his next set of player rotations, when he paused to look at the floor beneath him. There were the star-shaped logos designed to look like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, welcoming 40 new rookies to this exclusive business event. Dobbs quickly scoured the floor until he realized he was standing on his star.
“Pretty cool,” he said to himself, before sending out a post via his Twitter account.
— Josh Dobbs (@josh_dobbs1) May 18, 2017
He then searched for the stars of his new teammates with the Pittsburgh Steelers – JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner – and his college teammate at Tennessee, Alvin Kamara, now with the New Orleans Saints, as well as players he’s gotten to know through the rigors of college in the SEC: O.J. Howard (Alabama) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Evan Engram (Ole Miss) of the New York Giants.
“I just like to be well-rounded in all aspects,” Dobbs said. “Out on the field, I’m able to do a lot of different things as a quarterback, bring a lot of different things to the table – leadership, athleticism, play-making ability, being able to take over a game. But off the field, taking pride in my academics, being knowledgeable of and taking interest in also giving back to my community. Because when you’re an athlete, it presents itself with an opportunity to take advantage of the platform that you have.”
That was once again the overarching theme at NFLPA Rookie Premiere – taking advantage of the opportunity and connecting to brands in authentic ways.
For the 24th year, nearly 40 members of the 2017 draft class were in attendance at the Beverly Hilton for Rookie Premiere, taking their first dip into life as a professional athlete while learning how to build and grow their brand, as ESPN Los Angeles writer Jovan Buha discovered first-hand. With interactive activations from an array of NFLPA partners throughout the hotel, players signed trading cards and memorabilia; participated in Saturday’s trading card photoshoot at the Los Angeles Coliseum for Panini America; custom-designed headwear with New Era; learned more about athlete-driven data collection from WHOOP; and even did some acting with Bridgestone.
All of it was designed to integrate players with partners of the NFLPA, while showcasing the players' unique and individual personalities – knowing that when a player’s star rises, often times it is bolstered by his personal story or ability to connect with an audience. All one had to do to see the proof was look around at the stand-up posters of success stories from Rookie Premieres past: Odell Beckham Jr. from two years ago, and Dak Prescott from last year, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe captured in his piece about the event.
One of those unique stories belonged to Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross, who as a kid played for Snoop Dogg in the Snoop Youth Football League in his hometown of Long Beach, Calif.
“The Snoop Youth Football league brings that strength of community,” said Ross. “It basically just brings all the kids together. For example, I played with JuJu Smith-Schuster when I was 10 years old and to this day, we’re still brothers. We talked, and now look at us – we’re in a position to be NFL greats.”
Another belonged to quarterback Deshaun Watson. The first-round draft choice for the Houston Texans not only overcame major odds to win January’s national championship game for Clemson, but he was also the beneficiary of a home from Warrick Dunn Charities – a foundation set up by the former NFL star. It brought things full-circle in the player community, as Dunn was invited to attend the 1997 event shortly after he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It just got me out of the environment that I was first raised in,” said Watson. “It gave me a lot of positivity, hope, and encouragement for my family and helped me fulfill my dreams.”
In additional to the major national coverage of 2017 NFLPA Rookie Premiere, various aspects of the event were chronicled by the following outlets and media members: