RENTON, Wash. -- Seated in the back of the Seattle Seahawks' defensive meeting room, vice president of player engagement Maurice Kelly raised his hand because he needed to hammer home a point that Dr. Tim Benson was trying to make to a roomful of rookies.
"If you’re the smartest guy in your crew, you need to get a new crew," Kelly said. "Know that."
Benson, a clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, spent about an hour with Seahawks first-year players Wednesday afternoon. He told his personal story of nearly quitting medical school and went over key points from his book, "Surviving Success: 7 Critical Skills Needed To Thrive Under The Pressures of The Athletic, Academic & Professional Spotlight".
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for Seahawks rookies. They sat through the draft, traveled to a new city and now will be expected to show they can learn and adapt quickly. Some will be counted on to start and play right away, while others will be competing for a roster spot.
Benson talked to them about the added pressures they face, the expectations from family and friends and how they are likely to become targets because of their success.
"Think about who your personal board of directors is," Benson said. "You are now CEOs of your own organization, and you need to start thinking about that.
"A lot of people surround themselves with too many people who are just there to validate them -- the yes-men in life, your boys. But the question is: Who is going to be there to support you when you’re down the most? But more importantly, who’s going to be the one that challenges you to go to that next level?"
The NFL decided to end the rookie symposium this year and put the onus on each of the 32 teams to provide resources to new players. For many, this is the biggest transition of their lives. They are no longer stars of their teams and don't have the general structure that college provided. It's Kelly's job to help them adjust, and that's why he brought in Benson, who spoke to them about the challenges that come with transitioning roles.
"One of the biggest things that needs to happen is you need to learn how to confront reality," Benson said. "A lot of people get stuck on how I was and how things used to be and not necessarily are willing to adequately face what is. That’s the biggest thing that I really help people with."
The talk Wednesday was just one part of the program that Kelly has put into place. Earlier in the week, the rookies were schooled on credit. On Friday, they’ll tackle financial literacy.
"Their finances, to me, that’s the most important thing," Kelly said. "Talking about not how much you make, but how much you keep. So that’s one of the things we’re constantly hitting home with because the majority of these guys have never had a job that paid more than $20,000 in a year. So now we expect them to be successful with no education, no knowledge? That’s wishful thinking."
Kelly and Benson made a point to emphasize that football was just one part of who the players are and shouldn’t define who they can become.
"We pay you to do a service," Kelly said. "This is not what you are. This is what we pay you to do. So that’s what you’ve got to realize, and get it in your head."
Added Benson, "It’s what you do. Use it to be able to get to where you want to go and open doors for others."