It’s called the Rookie Transition Program. And for good reason – from the day the Colts rookies arrive in the building, it’s all about helping them transition from student to professional.
“From how to deal with the media to how to deal with social media, using it as a platform – not a pitfall, community service, mental health, league policies, club policies, every day is designed for something different,” says David Thornton, Director of Player Engagement for the Colts.
The Colts are focused on building a team, building players, and building men.
“The Colts are really intentional about preparing their guys for life on and off the field,” Thornton says. “Part of being a pro is being prepared. And that’s one of the things we really stress with our guys.”
On Monday, the rookies prepared to meet, dine, and socialize with other professionals during an etiquette class at the Lucas Estate – attended by Forrest Lucas himself.
“Confidence, you guys have got the confidence to go out on the field and beat the hell out of somebody else. But, it’s also nice to have the confidence when you’re going out with some lady. You’ve got a date and you know how to handle yourself, you know how to dress, you’ve got the confidence to pick up the right piece of silverware.”
“Work outside, that’s what I took from that,” says rookie Trevor Bates on picking the right utensil.
As an outside linebacker, Bates also works from the outside on the field. He sees the value in being prepared for every aspect of professional life.
“We’re obviously going to be around a lot of donors and a lot of business events, so learning this and knowing how to properly go about it is definitely important for us,” he says. “I obviously want to represent myself the best I can and represent my team, my coaches, and do it properly and do it professionally.”
The Colts rookies come from different backgrounds and have different life experience. But no matter where they started, they’ve all grown over the past few months.
“A lot of guys have different exposures,” says rookie center Ryan Kelly. “And some guys are learning things for the first time. Everybody is learning something new for the first time. And I think the Colts have just done a great job so far of getting us acclimated and kind of sped up to be a professional.”
And part of being a professional is learning how to dress for success.
“Unfortunately, in the society that we live in, people judge you based on how you look right away,” says local clothier Andrew Porter. “So if you come in looking sharp, looking put together, they’re going to look at you and say, ‘Wow. He really cares about the way he looks.’”
A custom clothing designer, Porter dresses many of the Colts. He reviewed the team dress code with the players and talked appropriate attire for casual, business, and formal events.
He also made sure they all knew how to tie a tie.
It’s a team effort – literally.
What used to be covered extensively during the NFL Rookie Symposium is now handled internally by the teams. And because the symposium was designed specifically for drafted players, the teams can now include all the rookie players in their orientation program. Which is something the Colts have done all along.
“For us, it’s nothing new,” says Thornton. “But at the same time, it’s exciting to see that we’ll continue to kind of build a brand for everyone – drafted or undrafted guys.”
And as a team that’s had an undrafted rookie make the 53-man roster for the past 17 years, the Colts will continue to invest in all their players.
Thornton says he enjoys seeing them grow up along the way.
“To see the guys come in the first few days and not really have a clue of what to expect, but the more we give them knowledge, encourage them, challenge them to grow in certain areas, it’s really exciting and rewarding to see how far they’ve come in such a short period of time.”
With just a few days left in their transition program, the rookies will get about a month-long break before they report to Anderson for training camp.
And that’s where the real work begins.
In the NFL, the training never ends. It just evolves with the player.