If you thought you might have missed the St. Louis Rams signing their 2013 NFL Draft class, don’t worry, you didn’t miss a thing. The Rams are the only team yet to ink even one of their most recent draftees to contracts, and they have a very sound reason behind their methodical approach.
Earlier in the offseason, a story emerged about top 10 pick Tavon Austin saying that several people from his past had already resurfaced and tried to ‘borrow’ some money from him. With all of the horror stories of pro athletes who were once millionaires now being in substantial amounts of debt, the Rams decided to be proactive in their approach with the 2013 class.
Head Coach Jeff Fisher explained just what the team has been doing to prepare the youngsters for their newfound wealth. In typical Fisher fashion, he said:
“We just feel like they’ll be better suited if we can take them through step A and B of Financial Planning 101 before we give ‘em the money. It’s just that simple. We’ll get them all signed and we’re communicating with them. It’s a life-changing event for them. We try to better prepare them for that. They’ve got a roof over their head and three meals, and they’re doing fine right now.”
While Fisher obviously has his tongue firmly planted in cheek when delivering this message, it makes sense to teach these guys about the potential pitfalls that could happen along the way. The best method of prevention is preparation and the Rams have clearly taken this adage to heart.
Executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff also offered some insight on the team’s thought process with the rookies. He said:
“A big focus of our entire program, with an emphasis from coach Fisher and (General Manager) Les (Snead) is on player development and skill development. One of the things that we think is important with that is bringing the rookies in as a group, having them live together as a group, and not having any real differentiation between the first-round pick and the undrafted rookie. They’re in the hotel together. They’re eating meals together. They’re doing things together. And then (by the time) they all scatter, we’ll sign their contracts. They’ll leave knowing the contract’s done, so they don’t have to worry about that headache when they go on vacation.”
Their bank accounts will clearly separate the undrafted rookies from the first rounders eventually, but this tactic seems very sound. The Rams are dotting all of their i’s and crossing all of their t’s prior to forking over substantial amounts of money to these young athletes. By giving them all similar living arrangements, this allows them to see that things don’t have to be grandiose to be functional.
Given the trouble that the team’s 2012 draft class has already experienced away from the football field, the Rams have to be holding their breath as they prepare to send their most recent rookie crop out into the world. All contracts are likely to be completed before the players take off for a brief vacation prior to training camp beginning so that the players can be focused on football when that day arrives. Hopefully this meticulous program to prepare these youngsters for fame and fortune pays dividends in the coming years for the franchise.