John Copeland on the Transition from College to the NFL
Thursday's opening night of the 2019 NFL Draft turned into one of the most life-changing moments for three former Alabama star players.
Back in 1993, one of Alabama's greatest defensive ends had his big NFL Draft day. Former Crimson Tide defensive end John Copeland was chosen as the fifth overall pick and the first defensive lineman in the draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
He played eight seasons with the Bengals recording 318 tackles, 24 sacks, eight forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Earlier this month, Copeland accepted the head football coaching position at Tuscaloosa Academy.
Following a big opening draft night for Alabama, the former Crimson Tide defensive end shared his thoughts on the transition from college to pro ball on Inside the Locker Room.
To begin the conversation, Copeland shared his initial introduction to the Bengals organization.
"When I got drafted by the Bengals back in '93, I didn't get to the team complex until May for that first mini-camp. We stayed in contact. They kind of give you a work-out thing, their expectations and they expect you to come in shape, ready to go, but it was a couple of weeks before I actually got to meet anybody from the Bengals organization." Copeland said.
The former Crimson Tide and Bengals defensive end described when he first realized that he was among the ranks of an NFL player.
"It didn't really set in that I was an NFL football player until I got that check. Once I got the check, I said 'Ok now,this is real.'". Copeland said.
For players like Quinnen Williams, Jonah Williams and Josh Jacobs that are about to enter the world of professional football, Copeland offered a word of advice about managing their soon-to-be big paychecks.
"The number one thing you got to watch out for first and foremost is families and friends. They'll drain you dry before anybody. You think you owe them something because they've been around your whole life and everybody's going to have their hands out. You got to learn to say no, and you have to learn to say no early." Copeland said.
Copeland noted the how the coaching in the professional ranks emphasizes game preparation more than teaching technique.
"Once you get to the NFL, you're a professional. You should know this stuff and they don't spend a whole lot of time on different techniques. They spend more time on preparation, getting ready for what the other team is going to try and do to you." Copeland said.
He also pointed out the differences in demands placed on an NFL player from a collegiate player.
"In college, they're standing over you, making you work out, screaming at you and hollering at you. In the NFL, they don't do that. You're expected to get your work done during the off-season. You're expected to get your work done off the field, and you're a professional. It's a nine to five. You go in about 7:30-8:00, and you get off about 4:30-5:00 every day." Copeland said.
Copeland later shared stories about his rookie season in the NFL and taking the head football coaching position at Tuscaloosa Academy.
Catch Inside the Locker Room every weekday from 7-9 AM on Tide 102.9/100.9 and the Tide 102.9 app.