Steelers rookie LaMarr Woodley wrote a pre-draft journal for Sporting News. A defensive end at Michigan, Woodley was selected in the second round and is being moved to outside linebacker in Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense. Following are some of his thoughts as he prepares for the first training camp of his NFL career.
I really enjoyed the time I spent with the other young guys at the Rookie Symposium in Palm Beach, Fla., last week. The league did a good job of educating us on many of the situations we are sure to encounter as first-year players. The days were long, but knowing this is now my livelihood, I made sure that I paid attention to everything being sent my way.
Guys such as Vince Young of the Titans and Reggie Bush of the Saints were there to talk to us specifically about some of the things that they dealt with as rookies last year and warned us of certain situations we might face. I also enjoyed the time down there because I was able to catch up with some of my old teammates from Michigan.
Another first for me came this past weekend when I appeared at two different locations to sign autographs and meet fans. The first was in Norfolk, Va. I was signing with former Steeler linebacker Levon Kirkland, which was an awesome experience. He let me in on many of his veteran secrets and told me what to anticipate as a rookie. I was surprised to see how many Steeler fans from the Norfolk area came out to meet us. I had always heard about how die-hard Steeler fans are, and now I am a believer.
I again received a warm welcome at my appearance in Harrisburg, Pa., on Sunday. The fans were great and the family atmosphere reminded me of our support at Michigan. Knowing that so many people want to see you succeed really motivates you to perform on the field.
Speaking of "on the field," my NFL experience did not get off to the best start. On the first day of minicamp I reinjured my hamstring -- the one that had hampered my Combine training -- in a drill, forcing me to spend the rest of the camp on the sideline taking mental reps. It was frustrating, but my coaches told me to make sure I treated it right, so it wouldn't linger all the way up until training camp. While I would have done anything to get on the field and start working, I actually benefited from the chance to learn our schemes through watching instead of having to learn on the run. I feel that my understanding of our defense benefited from that time; it was a good foundation for really grasping our system.
Then we went through organized team activities. NFL OTAs are a lot like spring ball in college, without pads or contact. We usually had an early-morning lifting session and got back together after lunch for a two-hour practice session. I spent my afternoons meeting with coaches, breaking down film and further installing our defensive system. Because preparation is so important to success in the NFL, our coaches gave us as much film as we could handle, allowing us to continue the learning process at home.
For a rookie, being able to see my mistakes on film is invaluable. I consider myself a real student of the game, something I took pride in back at Michigan, spending extra hours with my head in the playbook in my downtime.
I am now on my way back to Athletes' Performance in Tempe, Ariz., to train with some former teammates. I really want to push myself before camp opens July 23. As the season gets closer I am eager to get down to business, so I want to make sure I am in the best shape of my life when we report. Coach Mike Tomlin has done a great job of refocusing our group as a whole, and I really believe guys are ready to get back to a championship.
For Sporting News