I decided to check out one of my favorite annual NFL events on Friday. The NFLPA Rookie Premier League Flag Football game is hosted annually at UCLA and features the top draft picks of the 2012 NFL Draft along with current and retired NFL legends. Since we don't have a football team here in LA it's rare to have an opportunity like this.
As usual I carpooled with my friend Benson. We arrived a bit late due to LA traffic at around 5:40. There were already hundreds of fans inside.
If you notice initially the players had their jerseys on just like last year. However what made this year tough was that the players actually only had the jerseys on for photos then took them off. It was difficult to identify the players when that happened thus it was tougher to graph them this year especially the non notable rookies. Also none of the defensive players were invited to the event. Thus there were less rookies that participated in the event this year compared to last year.
The first autograph I was able to get was from the legend himself Roger Craig. I had Roger sign my mini football. Later on in the day I was also able to get a picture with him. I was a bit annoyed since these random fans decided to jump into my photo as well but was still happy I was able to get a picture with Roger.
Then RG III was being interviewed near us and he was walking over to an area where fans can practice football drills. Then chaos ensued as fans tried to mob RG III for an autograph. Only 1 fan was successful at getting is autograph. Then his handlers told fans that he wouldn't be signing any autographs and that he would only be participating in the football drills.
What's sad is that after doing the drills with the fans along with Nick Foles and TJ Graham (pictured above) RG III and Trent Richardson left the event. There was a rumor going on that they had to leave early for the Laker game. Thus nobody was able to graph them.
To prepare for the event Benson and I did extensive research to figure out which veterans would show up to the event so we can prepare items for them to sign. Last year it was a bit easier since they announced which veterans would show up like MJD, Larry Fitzgerald, Roger Craig and Terrell Davis. This year it was a bit more challenging since the NFLPA only announced the names of the rookies that would attend the event. Benson and I knew that Eddie George and Dwayne Bowe were going to be there so we picked up some mini helmets for them to sign.
Dwayne Bowe was the next autograph I got and I had him sign my KC Chiefs mini helmet.
Next up was Eddie George who signed my Titans mini helmet. Later on I met him again as he was leaving the event and had him sign a mini football as well.
After getting Eddie George's autograph Brandon Weeden walked by the rails and signed for fans. I had him sign three cards for me. Brandon noted that he'd never seen the Upper Deck card before and he liked the card. Thus he signed the Press Pass card for me as well. He was running with a black sharpie so both cards were signed in black. The hit card was signed later as he was leaving when I had him use my blue sharpie. If you notice the players took off their pro uniforms and wore a generic NFL Players uniform. Thus unless you knew their faces it was tough to ID the rookies who were not the top picks.
Next up was Ryan Tannehill. There was so much stuff I brought to this event that it was hard to reorganize everything after everything got signed. Thus I didn't get a chance to take a picture of him signing the helmet. I was happy I got his autograph on my Dolphins helmet.
After getting Tannehill's autograph I noticed that Andrew Luck was hanging out near the corner of the field. Thus I ran over there to get prime positioning to get his autograph. A lot of other graphers did the same. We called Andrew over to sign for us and just like the Pujols press conference Andrew picked me first out of the crowd and signed my Official NFL football for me. Then chaos ensued as I was being pushed into the railing as fans tried to swarm over me to get Andrew's autograph. I felt the bars press up against my rib cage again just like what happened to me at the Pujols Press Conference and I just wanted to get out of the crowd after getting my autograph. There was a young fan who was about 8 years old next to me and he was getting pushed up against the rails as well. I was worried for his safety. Since I was the first person to get Andrew's autograph he was nice enough to add his jersey number as well. He ran with my Silver Deco and since I wanted to get out of the mob I asked Andrew politely for my pen back. Then Andrew ran with a black sharpie.
After getting out of the crowd I made sure the signature would dry completely on my football then covered it with a plastic bag before storing it back into my duffel bag. I didn't want the signature to smear. Andrew was still signing away. Last year Cam Newton only signed for about 5 minutes then left. I was shocked to see that Andrew was signing for at least 15 minutes going down the rails and signing for quite some time. I took the photo above after I got out of the crowd. I decided to try to get my mini helmet signed as well. Luckily he signed for me again. Thanks for being so cool Andrew and looking out for the fans.
Two for two on Andrew Luck. What a lucky day. LOL. After getting Andrew's autograph other rookies were signing along the rail. The only one I recognized out of the group was Isaiah Pead who signed my 2012 Press Pass Card.
Next person to sign was LaMichael James. He's a fan favorite so there was a huge amount of fans trying to get his autograph. I had LaMichael sign an NFLPA Rookie Premier Mini Football that were being tossed to the fans at the event and a card as well. I ended up with two of these footballs (the other one being signed by Coby Fleener later on). LaMichael gave everyone his short signature.
Now that I look back I should have brought a cheat sheet featuring all the players names and faces. I assumed that it would be like last year where each player would be wearing their team jersey thus making it easier to identify the lesser known players. Last year it didn't matter since I did one football with all the rookie signatures. Thus even if I didn't know the player at that time I could go back home and ID each signature by searching for them online. This year I brought specific items for each player such as cards. Thus I ended up taking home a lot of unsigned cards. I also noticed that less rookies signed this year compared to last year so even if I was able to ID all of them it wouldn't have made much of a difference.
The event was about to end so Benson and I waited near the bus where players were leaving. I ended up running into the R&B singer Mario so I got a photo op with him
The next autograph I got was from Coby Fleener who signed my NFLPA Premier League Mini Football. I love free giveaways since that just gives us more ammo to get autographs.
Then Nick Foles walked out and signed two cards for me.
Afterwards Jevon "The Freak" Kearse signed my mini football for me. Jevon is one of the nicest athletes you will ever meet. The NFLPA security tried to rush him off to the parking lot and told fans to get out of his way. Jevon ignored the remarks by security and ended up signing for us and also took a photo with me. Jevon is still in good shape. Looks like he can still play football even though he is retired right now.
The last person to sign for us was Jamal Anderson. I didn't even know he was at the event since he didn't participate in the game. I guess he was an invited guest to hang out and watch. Unfortunately I left my Falcons mini helmet at home. I didn't expect him to be at the event and I already was carrying a ton of items for this event. Jamal was nice and signed my signature card courtesy of Benson. Thanks for hooking me up bro. I seriously need to invest in those blank signature cards just for these types of emergencies when you don't have an item for a player to sign.
After a great afternoon of graphing Benson and I decided to graph the Cardinals post game since we were already in the LA area. Unfortunately it wasn't as successful as the NFLPA event. None of the notable players signed for anyone. I guess it's because the team was in a bad mood after losing to the Dodgers via a walk off walk. Or maybe it's due to the fact that they are the World Champs now so they might be acting like the Yankees who are tough to get. That's a terrible way to lose. I ended up getting two cards signed. One by Tyler Green who signed my 2012 Topps Heritage team card and the other by John Mabry who signed my 2012 Topps Cards WS Game 6 team card.
Overall it was a superb day of graphing. Another long day awaited us the following day for Dodgers Fanfest and the Harmony and Hoops Charity basketball event in Irvine.