By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
To say that former San Diego Chargers offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger and linebacker Wesley Woodyard of the Denver Broncos (now with the Tennessee Titans), annoyed the living daylights out of each other on the field, would be to put it mildly. On more than one occasion during games, they had to be separated by officials and teammates.
But, things change. If you ask a retired NFL player what they miss most about their playing days, the answer you get most frequently is, “the camaraderie.” Working together for a united cause forges bonds that often last a lifetime, but that daily interaction is missed. And that’s where the NFL boot camps step in.
The variety of NFL boot camps and continuing education programs – from broadcasting to finance to MBAs – all provide targeted, in-depth and valuable training and resources, as well as the ability to learn from some of the top professionals in their fields. But, what they also provide is an opportunity for connection, reconnection, and networking with other current and former NFL players in an environment very different, from, but equally beneficial to, the playing field.
Ohrnberger and Woodyard had that experience at this year’s NFL Broadcasting Boot Camp.
“It was a great way to connect,” said Woodyard, who has also attended the NFL’s Coaching Boot Camp and its Sports Media Boot Camp. “It was generations of football. You get that camaraderie. We’re all trying to figure out this life after football, but we still get to talk about our stories. It brings you back into the locker room and everyone was interested in everyone’s well-being. It makes you feel welcome.”
Ohrnberger, who has also attended the Sports Media Boot Camp, concurred. “The amazing thing is the intersection where you used to battle these guys, but now you bond over the lifestyle that you’ve led and your familiar interests now. You see the guys behind the facemasks.
“[Woodyard] was a good linebacker, he’s a tough guy. It’s just one of those things where our playing styles were oil and water on the field. There were battles every time I had to block him. It feels now like ancient history, but then again it seems like yesterday. He’s such a nice person and you think, ‘Man, when you’re on the field you just want to kill him.’ So, it goes from those hostile interactions to these relationships.”
“He absolutely got on my nerves,” Woodyard laughed describing his memory of Ohrnberger. “Every time we played San Diego, I knew we’d be going to war. That’s the thing about football, you kick somebody’s butt and sometimes they kick your butt, but you grow that bond because you know what type of person they are. It’s a great bond that we’ll share for the rest of our lives. Taking two guys who despised each other on the football field and then putting them together and having them excel together in a different area.”
Both men also described the reward from being able to both compete and cooperate with former opponents in this different arena. Challenging each other to create their best product in the boot camp, among people who may have been adversaries, but are now offering support and inspiration.
Ohrnberger embraces that bond and any chance he has to interact with or work with members of the NFL fraternity and the boot camps provide that every time.
“Any opportunity to spend time with my guys is great,” he said. People who understand where you’ve been from is fantastic.”
And Woodyard has one simple, but important, piece of advice for his NFL brethren.
“My advice, especially to the younger generation, is to take advantage of this opportunity early in your career. This is something I wish I had done earlier. These are going to be relationship you build on.”
For a full listing of 2018 Offseason Programs please visit:
2018 Boot Camps
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.