MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Ronald Ollie, that gregarious breakout star of “Last Chance U” on Netflix in 2016, assumed the role. Naturally.
Rocking the multi-colored propeller cap that read INTERN, as well as the rainbow sunglasses that came in his gift bag, the 6-foot-2, 292-pound undrafted defensive tackle unleashed his booming drawl, asking anyone within earshot, “Do I look like I can work for Google?”
Laughs and guffaws aside, the plan, obviously, is to have a long and fruitful career in the NFL. Then there’s reality, which can smack you in the face like a linebacker meeting a receiver on a slant pattern.
Because though the Oakland Raiders rookies are living the life -- mandatory minicamp ended last week and they have just this week of player engagement training to fulfill before training camp in late July -- the NFL Players Association says the average career length is about 3.3 years.
That’s why a three-plus-hour tour of Google headquarters last Friday served as equal parts sightseeing and post-football career-planning.
Twenty-three Raiders rookies, including first-round picks Clelin Ferrell, Johnathan Abram and Josh Jacobs, walked the main Google campus in Mountain View, California, imbibing free smoothies, playing games in the old-school arcade, checking their mood by looking at faux Google flowers that changed color based on their expressions, and taking photos with the model T-Rex skeleton named Stan in the middle of campus -- which reminds employees that unless they adapt to an ever-changing work landscape, they will become extinct. The rookies also participated in three seminars with lessons that they could apply not only to the present, but the future.
“You see Google and you bring it up on the computer and you’re like, ‘All right, that’s Google,’” said fifth-round draft pick Hunter Renfrow, a former Clemson receiver. “But you don’t realize there are actual bodies, there’s buildings, there’s people that work there. It’s not putting a face to name, but a building to a website, so that was cool.
“… At Clemson we were exposed to a lot of this -- they did a good job of exposing student-athletes … to life after football because football is not going to last forever, and just knowing that there is more stuff and that football is not the end game.”
The rookies were made to feel at home as they entered the Google Partnerplex conference room to the musical strains of “The Autumn Wind.”
The rookies first learned how to “evangelize yourself and your brand,” which could lead to endorsement opportunities; the power of YouTube, which reaches 1 billion people every month and has 1 billion hours of video watched every day; and, yes, how to create your own YouTube channel.
Ollie, a former reality TV star, perked up at that notion.
Demonstrating the power of social media, pictures of celebrity athletes were shown and players were asked to give their knee-jerk reactions.
Barry Bonds? “Steroids!” someone yelled. “Cheater!” offered another. “The greatest of all time!” said someone else.
Lance Armstrong? Silence.
And while Warriors star Kevin Durant, former Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton were shown to be proficient on their respective YouTube channels, it was Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster who was seen as the social media standard-bearer across different platforms, with 2.6 million followers on Instagram, 953,000 followers on Twitter and 775,000 subscribers on YouTube.
The rookies were told building a diversified brand -- as Smith-Schuster is as an elite athlete, a gamer and a personality -- appeals to a multitude of sponsors. The rookies dutifully took notes, while still realizing they have to not only make the team, but, well, be proficient at the sport.
A demonstration in Augmented and Virtual Reality (think Snapchat filters) followed. And when an app was shown that put a “Game of Thrones” dragon atop New York City’s Flatiron Building, and another placed assorted sneakers on their feet to show them what said shoes would look like before purchasing, and a third made a full-scale Porsche appear in the room, the loudest gasps came when a spreadsheet appeared out of thin air.
Which brings us back to Ollie.
It was Ollie who groaned loudest when Google channels specialist Chase Williams -- who had NFL tryouts with the Raiders, Jets, Titans and Chiefs -- gave his cautionary tale of breaking his pelvis in two places in his first exhibition game.
“When you’re an undrafted rookie and you get hurt,” said Williams, the son of New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, “they don’t care about you.”
More groans. Williams, 27, continued his testimony, telling of his path to Google and how he hung up his helmet and pads and became a recruiter for Asurion Insurance and then recruited for a tech company before Google beckoned.
He talked of having “transferable skills” that came from the football field and advised the young players to take stock of their own such talents for life after football.
And it was Ferrell, the No. 4 overall draft pick whose financial future seems set, who asked how important it might be for a player to go back to school to get his degree.
“Someday, you never know what happens,” Ollie said when asked if he could really see himself working at the multinational technology giant. “You always want to enjoy these types of experiences. You never know what you could get out of it. You just pay attention and you just learn as you go.
“But I’m definitely getting a YouTube channel.”