When they were rookies and looking for NFL guidance, today’s Indianapolis Colts veterans had several recognizable names showing them how to be a professional.
Those providing the examples included the late Reggie White, Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Jevon Kearse, Hugh Douglas, Hollis Thomas, Jason Taylor and even head coach Bill Parcells.
Colts outside linebacker Erik Walden was in Miami in 2008 when Parcells, the Dolphins' executive vice president of football operations, enlightened the rookie.
“Like my man Parcells sat down and told me, the three things that destroys guys’ careers, I can remember, the I.R.S., drugs and alcohol, and women. Straight like that,” Walden said of Parcells, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck recalled how his head was swimming while trying to learn the Green Bay Packers playbook in 1998. He also didn’t have a car at the time, so there was a lot on his mind.
“I’m laying on the ground in the locker room,” he said, “and I hear this guy behind me, and he’s like, ‘Aw, don’t worry about it, brother. Just keep practicin’,’ or something like that.”
It was White, the Hall of Fame defensive end who is second on the NFL’s all-time sack list with 198.5. White died in 2004.
“He was good. He was very helpful,” Hasselbeck said. “My locker was across from his.”
Colts outside linebacker Trent Cole started his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005. The fifth-round draft pick saw a lot of seasoned defensive players in Kearse, Douglas, Thomas and Darwin Walker. They taught him to respect everything about the process, starting with taking a serious approach to practice.
Now 32, the three-time Pro Bowl selection brings 85.5 career sacks and a wealth of experience from his 10 seasons with the Eagles. Cole recently signed a two-year contract in free agency to join the Colts.
“Those guys helped me out a lot as a rookie,” said Jones, who is entering his season season with the Colts. “There (were) days like, ‘Man, there’s got to be a better job out there than football.’ When I was a rookie, we had the two-a-days (practices). It was a lot tougher than it is now. I remember days blacking out at practice.
“Those guys said, ‘You’re here for a reason.’ They kept coaching me, I kept being accountable and it paid off.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.