No team can exist solely on young players. Even rebuilding teams must give their young hopefuls some veteran influence to look up to in order to live up to their potential. The youngsters take advice from the vets and in many cases pattern their games off of them.
Comparisons are also inevitable. The question of “who is the next...” is thrown around a lot. These players grow up with heroes and aspire to write similar NFL success stories.
Jon Gruden likes to compare his current players with his former players. He knows such statements make some ink. So, when the Raiders signed Lamarcus Joyner to a free agent deal this offseason, Jon Gruden immediately broke out the comparison of his former safety with the Bucs, Ronde Barber.
Joyner was the team’s lone defensive free agent acquisition to receive a long term deal this offseason. He is going to man the nickel corner job primarily, but is versatile enough to play the safety position when necessary.
A few weeks later, the team made a significant investment in the secondary, adding three DBs in the draft including two in the top 40 in safety Johnathan Abram at 27 overall and cornerback Trayvon Mullen at 40.
The two of them will look to the 6th year veteran Joyner who has played at a high level at both safety and cornerback and hope they too can carve out successful NFL careers.
In particular with Abram, Joyner sees a lot of himself
“He’s an alpha. He just has to slow it down, he’s ready to go. He’s been an alpha all of his life and I told him that you just have to think, keep your feet on the ground and let things come to him,” said Joyner.
“I remember being that way, which is why I know – with experience – just relax and your time will come. People know your great abilities and your potential.”
At 41 overall, Joyner was selected in a similar range to Abram and Mullen. He didn’t just burst onto the scene either. He appeared in 10 games with one start as a rookie and had no interceptions and 40 combined tackles. Five years later, he can draw from his first NFL experience and pass it on to his new rookie teammates.
“Like I told him and Trayvon [Mullen], they’re going to be greater players than me someday,” said Joyner. “So, to be able to have that honor and privilege to guide them and them trust me with that, that’s going to transition to a good work and off-the-field relationship.”