First Game Memories

Omar Gaither

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On His First Game:

My first game. If you were to ask a random person on the street what they would imagine their first game in the NFL to be, they would likely start by saying it was amazing, unbelievable, a dream come true! I'm willing to wager that the majority of the people questioned would imagine their first game to fall along those lines, and interestingly enough, they would be 100% correct! My first game was all of the above, not to mention that I played a lot and I actually played well. My very first play was a tackle for loss. I'm also willing to wager that the one thing that 9.9 out of 10 people would leave out is that, I COULD NOT WAIT FOR IT TO BE OVER! 

Imagine this: Rookie year, Philadelphia Eagles 5th round draft pick at linebacker, drafted to a veteran-laden Conference Championship team. A team with names on defense that may sound familiar to you, guys like Jeremiah Trotter, Dhani Jones, Trent Cole and Brian Dawkins. We also were one of the "lucky" franchises that year, which meant that we were "fortunate" enough to be able to play in the Hall of Fame game.

The Hall of Fame game is not one of the four preseason games you play, the Hall of Fame game is played in addition to the other four. Which meant that training camp started sooner, rookie camp started sooner, and so on and so forth. 110-degree heat with two-a-day practices for a rookie in the NFL, on a franchise that makes sure its stars are well rested and ready for the regular season as opposed to wearing them down during training camp and in preseason games.

Also, Pro Bowl veterans don't typically play in the Hall of Fame game, so at this point right before the game the only thing on my mind was the fact that the end of this game signified the end of training camp. If I had to put a title on my first game, it would be, "The Light At the End of the Tunnel.”  Or simply put, a day off!

Walking through that locker room for the first time in an actual NFL uniform and playing in an actual NFL game was amazing, unbelievable and a dream come true. It was a culmination of all the hard work and the many hours of preparation, all the long bus rides to Florida in the summer to run track, all of the time my parents and coaches spent hauling me back and forth to practice.

It was an opportunity that I had worked for my entire life and that I could not wait to take advantage of, but the only thing that I could think about was that light at the end of the tunnel! I’ll never forget when a veteran walked up to me in the locker room (he must have been reading my mind or maybe he was in a similar situation as a rookie) and said, "Rook, it'll be greater, later.”

Unbeknownst to him, that simple phrase got me not only through my first game but my entire rookie season!



The Hall of Fame game is not one of the four preseason games you play, the Hall of Fame game is played in addition to the other four. Which meant that training camp started sooner, rookie camp started sooner, and so on and so forth. 110-degree heat with two-a-day practices for a rookie in the NFL, on a franchise that makes sure its stars are well rested and ready for the regular season as opposed to wearing them down during training camp and in preseason games.

Also, Pro Bowl veterans don't typically play in the Hall of Fame game, so at this point right before the game the only thing on my mind was the fact that the end of this game signified the end of training camp. If I had to put a title on my first game, it would be, "The Light At the End of the Tunnel.”  Or simply put, a day off!

Walking through that locker room for the first time in an actual NFL uniform and playing in an actual NFL game was amazing, unbelievable and a dream come true. It was a culmination of all the hard work and the many hours of preparation, all the long bus rides to Florida in the summer to run track, all of the time my parents and coaches spent hauling me back and forth to practice.

It was an opportunity that I had worked for my entire life and that I could not wait to take advantage of, but the only thing that I could think about was that light at the end of the tunnel! I’ll never forget when a veteran walked up to me in the locker room (he must have been reading my mind or maybe he was in a similar situation as a rookie) and said, "Rook, it'll be greater, later.”

Unbeknownst to him, that simple phrase got me not only through my first game but my entire rookie season!

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