COSTA MESA, CA – Trial by fire. That’s probably the best way to describe collegiate football stars going the drills of their first taste of life in the National Football League (NFL). Like taking an exam for the first time, rookie minicamp at the NFL level presents its own daunting challenges and hurdles.
For the rookies drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers, drafted or snapped up through free agency, the onus on the first day of actual live drills could be overwhelming, but exciting as well.
But the rain coming down sporadically at the Hoag Center on Friday, May 10, may have thrown a bit of a wrench into the introductory session for the young players getting their NFL feet wet. That wasn’t the case for Jerry Tillery, the Chargers top draft pick in this year’s draft.
A reported shoulder injury (torn labrum) and subsequent surgery weren’t enough to scare the Chargers away from making Tillery the No. 29 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Thus, Tillery was not out on the field mixing it up with his fellow rookies. And it may be a while before the former Notre Dame standout does take to the football field.
In speaking to the media after Day 1 of rookie minicamp, the listed 6-foot-7, 290-pound defensive tackle talked about the disappointment of not being able to take the field.
“It’s very frustrating,” Tillery said. “I wish I could be out there competing and getting better today physically, but since I can’t do that, my world is just being with my coaches, being around my coaches, watching the drills that we’re doing and I’m learning from that and I’m getting better mentally.”
For quarterback Eason Stick, the Chargers fifth-round draft pick (No. 166) out North Dakota State, the processing of information from the office to the field has been rapid.
“A lot of information quick(ly), but that’s to be expected,” Stick said. “That’s the exciting part; that there is a lot to learn and in a great spot to do that, obviously. So, looking forward to continuing to learn and at some point, it starts slowing down.”
At 6-2, 221 pounds, Stick has been compared to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who also played his collegiate career at North Dakota State. In his senior season, Stick threw 2,752 yards and 28 touchdowns. Adding to his passing pedigree is the fact that Stick, like Wentz, can make defenses pay with his legs.
He rushed for 677 yards and 17 more scores on the ground in getting the nod on the AP All American First Team in 2018 and leading North Dakota State to the NCAA Division 1 Football National Championship. That may seem like eons ago to Stick, whom the Chargers signed to a four-year contract. Now it’s all about getting up to speed in grasping the playbook and figuring out who’s who among his teammates.
“Obviously, it is a lot and it’s a new environment,” Stick said. “You’re around new guys. You’re getting into the huddle, and you met a guy five minutes ago. It’s just a different dynamic. I think it goes back to, obviously, studying and getting yourself prepared, but also reaching out and getting to know guys you see walk in the huddle and you know what’s going on, and you’ve got relationships built with guys. So, that’ll just come with time.”
Safety Nasir Adderley, the Chargers second-round pickup in the draft, only wants to keep his mind where it is supposed to be at the present time. That is understanding the learning curve on how to make it through rookie minicamp. The Chargers go into organized team activities (OTAs) May 20, so that learning curve is going to be tight and right for Adderley and the other rookies.
“I’m only focused on being a pro and talking with some of the older guys, and just trying to learn the ropes and just focusing on the task at hand,” Adderley said. “I’m just focusing on mastering the playbook and that’s what I’m devoting a lot of my time to. I’m just trying to stay locked in and staying engaged and doing what I’m supposed to do.”