NFL rookies will sign their names about 4,000 times this week at the annual NFL Players Association Rookie Premier. A large chunk of them will wind up inside upcoming football card boxes.
Forty top rookies from the 2017 NFL Draft class will gather in Los Angeles from May 18-20 to learn the business of football at the 23rd annual Rookie Premiere, which is sponsored by Panini. In all, the NFLPA says 160,000 autographs will be signed.
The multi-day event is hosted by the NFLPA via its marketing and licensing arm NFL Players Inc. It offers the opportunity for Panini to take staged photos at the Los Angeles Coliseum, grab those signatures and get to know some of the athletes it’ll be dealing with.
“The NFLPA Rookie Premiere is the foundational event for our NFL/NFLPA licensed trading card products each year. It’s the first opportunity for us to photograph the top 40 most collectible rookies in their NFL uniforms,” said Mark Warsop, Chief Executive Officer, Panini America.
Panini will also acquire over 100 pieces of “event worn” memorabilia per player from the Rookie Premier for use in its cards. Players will don their jerseys during the photo shoot and those jerseys will be cut up and used for relic cards.
Photos for cards will be taken on Saturday. It’s an offensive-oriented event. No defensive players are among the approximately 40 athletes—even those taken at the top of the draft.
Among those expected to participate are (based on draft order): Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina, Chicago Bears), Leonard Fournette (LSU, Jacksonville Jaguars), Corey Davis (Western Michigan, Tennessee Titans), Mike Williams (Clemson, Los Angeles Chargers), Christian McCaffrey (Stanford, Carolina Panthers), John Ross (Washington, Cincinnati Bengals), Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech, Kansas City Chiefs), Deshaun Watson (Clemson, Houston Texans), O.J. Howard (Alabama, Tampa Bay Buccaneers), DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame, Cleveland Browns), JuJu Smith-Schuster (Southern Cal, Pittsburgh Steelers), Davis Webb (California, New York Giants), James Conner (Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Steelers) and Josh Dobbs (Tennessee, Pittsburgh Steelers). For a complete roster click here.
It’s not all about getting the rookies’ pictures taken and getting them to site down and cards and stickers, though. More than 20 NFLPA business partners will be on site to engage with the latest group of promising NFL stars to “create brand content, secure endorsement deals and promote licensed products through group player rights,” according to the NFLPA.
The NFLPA Rookie Premiere is the first major business event following the NFL Draft, where players will gain insights and make connections that the NFLPA says will assist in the development of their careers. Participating players will also go through a brief orientation which will highlight the union’s programs and services.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our players and partners to interact in an intimate setting,” said Ahmad Nassar, president of NFL Players Inc. “For 23 years, NFLPA Rookie Premiere has been the foundation of players learning about the business and benefits of their union, as they begin their journey into the league. Putting their personalities and passions on display in front of the right brands, allows their stories to spread to a wider audience, while reinforcing what the NFLPA is about – benefitting the players.”