You work hard all through college to prepare. At the career fair, you prove you can handle the heavy lifting and complete all required tasks quickly. At the interviews, you answer all the questions, even the stupid ones, the right way.
And you get the job.
There’s just one hitch: No one can tell you when to report for the official first day of work.
So it is for this year’s NFL draftees, including Alex Green (Packers), Greg Salas (Rams) and Kealoha Pilares (Panthers) from the University of Hawaii. On the heels of being chosen, they’re left to cool them.
Because of the league lockout, there are none of the traditional team-organized rookie camps next week. Normally, that’s when the draftees and rookie free agents can begin to get the feel of their new work homes and meet coaches, teammates and staff.
TCU quarterback Andy Dalton did get to tour the Cincinnati Bengals facility and get fitted for his uniform. But because of the lockout, the second-round pick couldn’t even take a playbook on his way out.
MAYBE DOING The Limbo should’ve been part of this year’s combine. The rookies who succeed will be the ones who deal best with being neither here nor there for however long the lockout lasts.
Prepping for the combine and the draft was a test of self-starting and discipline, but at least there was a stationary target. Now, there’s no date to circle on the calendar.
If you know Green, Salas and Pilares — who were drafted in the third, fourth and fifth rounds, respectively — you doubt this will be a problem for them. Their bodies of work and the work on their bodies (the muscles, not the tats) indicate they are NFL worthy. But their diligence and day-to-day work ethic will be key in this new challenge: Getting ready for a rookie pro season that at this point no one can guarantee will even happen this year.
Most athletes who make it this far possess the same kind of sense of mission they do. But — especially with uncertainty and the lack of an actual team structure in which to work — some will get distracted. Some will fool themselves into not working hard when they don’t have to answer to coaches. There’s absolutely no reason, though, to think any of the three UH draftees will fall into that group.
WHAT IS CERTAIN is that it’s time for UH fans to stop playing the dog-eared no-respect card, at least for now. Sure, ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio needs to work on his pronunciation of "Kealoha." But that butchering was part of a report suggesting the drafting by the Panthers of Pilares provides insurance for the possible departure of All-Pro Steve Smith.
And there was draft analyst Todd McShay, calling Salas the steal of the third day after the Rams grabbed him with the 112th pick. Some Warriors fans lost sleep Friday night when Salas didn’t get selected by the third round as had been projected. They should feel better with McShay’s contention that Salas will end up a more productive pro than third-round choice Austin Pettis — another receiver plucked to catch passes from Sam Bradford, who was the No. 1 pick of last year’s draft. The fact that Pettis comes from rival Boise State adds to the fun for the type of UH fan who proudly displays the boulder on his shoulder.
Pilares’ agent, Wynn Silberman, said the Panthers like his client’s versatility and maturity. "Kealoha has the ability to excel on a roster as a slot receiver, kickoff returner, punt returner, and kickoff coverage man. And he has a powerful blend of social leadership qualities and raw athleticism that will pay huge dividends in the league for him."
That is, once the lockout is over.
For three UH alumni who possess the potential for long, solid NFL careers, the who and the where is answered. All they need now is the when.