Rookies debut their NFL strut at card hobby event

The 2008 NFL Draft wasn’t as loaded as in years past in the skills positions, making the speculation of who will make it big and whose cards to collect all the more fun and challenging for the upcoming football card season.

Thirty-four members of this year’s rookie class made their debut this past weekend at the Reebok NFL Players Rookie Premier presented by EA Sports and hosted by NFL Players Inc. Held once again at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the two-day event was geared toward making great cards for the upcoming season’s football products, as Donruss Playoff, Topps and Upper Deck photographed the players in their NFL uniforms, while also securing autographs and event-used memorabilia.
Four of the top five picks from the draft were present, including No. 1 pick Jake Long, quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Darren McFadden and defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.

“I think overall it was a smashing success,” said Terry Melia, Upper Deck’s public relations manager. “We had 34 rookies go through the paces, 17 in the morning, 17 in the afternoon. All of the kids were cordial, inviting and very receptive to questions and picture taking.”

Of the 34 players present, 10 first-rounders attended, along with offensive skill position players mostly drafted in the first three rounds, including quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Brian Brohm, running backs Jonathan Stewart, Felix Jones and Rashard Mendenhall and wide receivers Donnie Avery and Jordy Nelson.

“Honestly, I can tell you, every year these guys get better and better, and this class was one of the best classes we’ve had in a long time,” said Scott Prusha, marketing director for Donruss/Playoff. “This class is great. When we have a good class, they usually perform well, and I’m pretty excited about when these guys are going to perform.”

The players, too, knew this event was more than just getting their feet wet in their new uniforms.

“It’s a wonderful feeling. You grew up as a kid collecting cards, hoping that one day you get to be on one,” said Dorsey, a first-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs.” 

Added Rashard Mendenhall, running back and first-round pick of  the Pittsburgh Steelers, “It feels cool. It’s pretty fun to be around the other guys and moving around and putting your uniform on for the first time.”

Quarterback Brian Brohm, a second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, said the event was a dream come true.
“When I was a little kid, I used to collect trading cards and wanted to be like the guys that were on the trading cards,” he said. “Now I’m there, so it’s a pretty cool feeling.”

Manufacturer plans
Here is a recap of what the card manufacturers did at the event and when hobbyists can expect to see the first products from the Rookie Premier:

Donruss Playoff: Donruss had three stations set up, taking action shots of the players, interviewing them for the company’s website and having them sign items for future contests. Donruss already featured many of these players in Playoff Prestige Football, and Prusha said the first products from the Rookie Premier will appear in Donruss Classics, which is scheduled for an early July release.

Topps: Topps took photos of the players on Thursday to produce cards that were then handed to the players on Sunday. Players also signed cards to be used in upcoming Topps product.

Upper Deck: Upper Deck had seven stations set up, including having players jump on a porta-pit for action shots, conducting interviews for its Diamond Vision and posing for self-portrait shots. The first Upper Deck product to feature these players will be Upper Deck Series 1 in mid-July.

Leading up to the event, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson and New England Patriots quarterback Kevin O’Connell appeared at Beverly Hills Baseball Card Shop.

“It was great to be able to give back to the community and the little kids,” Jackson said. “Me and Kevin O’Connell were out there having a good time signing autographs.”

The day before the photo shoot, the rookies led more than 150 middle school students in drills as part of a youth football clinic that promoted healthy living.

Biggest collectors
Among those players interviewed, the biggest collector was John David Booty, former quarterback for the USC Trojans and fifth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings.

“Man I had thousands of cards, baseball, football – everything you could imagine. We had tons and still have them to this day,” Booty said. “Growing up, it was always a big deal in our household to have those cards out and talking about them and making trades between the brothers. It was a lot of fun.”

Booty said his favorite players to collect were Brett Favre and Troy Aikman.

Dorsey was a big collector, too, often looking for players such as Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders.

“Back in primary school, we used to have our own drafts. We used to trade cards,” Dorsey said. “I held onto my Ricky Watters card back when he played for the 49ers, when the 49ers were on top.”

Tight end Dustin Keller, a draft pick of the New York Jets was a big Michael Jordan fan growing up.
“I was a real big basketball fan. I had a lot of basketball cards – that was my thing,” Keller said.

Now Keller will be a part of another youngster’s collecting “thing.”

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