There are a lot of fun things about being a rookie in the NFL, especially when you’re a first-round draft pick, but less enjoyable is one tradition known far and wide as the Rookie Dinner.
This form of financial hazing features a rookie or group of rookies taking their teammates out for dinner and, with the teammates fully aware of who is paying, going out of their way to saddle their rookies with as exorbitant a bill as possible.
We’re talking about stuff like ordering every steak on the menu to sample a bite from each and washing it down with a bottle of alcohol older than the poor kid paying. Imagine the most expensive meal you’ve ever had, multiple it by the number of an entire position group and add on a mandatory gratuity.
It’s something every rookie should dread as he gets to know his teammates, but apparently New York Jets first-rounder Garrett Wilson didn’t get the memo.
The former Ohio State wide receiver appeared on The Pivot Podcast featuring NFL veterans Fred Taylor, Ryan Clark and Channing Crowder. The group discussed several facets of rookie life, but when the subject of the infamous dinner came up, the veterans alternated between laughter and serious concern when they realized Wilson didn’t understand what he was walking into.
The educational exchange:
Wilson: “They did tell me about the dinner. I’ve got to take all the receivers to a dinner. That’s going to be cool, I’m excited for that.”
Clark: “It’s not going to be cool.”
Taylor: “You know they going to run that bill up, like $75,000.”
Wilson: [stunned silence]
Clark: “Oh yeah, you mean like the Louis XIII you gonna have to buy at the restaurant.”
Wilson: “Nah, they ain’t doing me for $75K. I ain’t gonna fake it.”
Clark: “You the 10th pick of the draft, they know you got $20 million guaranteed.”
Crowder: “He thinks it’s his decision.” [laughter]
Wilson’s face when he heard the words “seventy five thousand” tell the whole story:
Taylor proceeded to tell Wilson about his days as a veteran with the New England Patriots, when the entire team treated itself to dinner on the dime of a group of 10-12 rookies. He estimated the bill came in at around $50,000-$60,000, primarily thanks to Tom Brady buying a $3,000-$5,000 bottle of wine to take one sip.
Taylor’s experience is not a rare one. Dez Bryant once had to help bankroll a $54,896 dinner for the Dallas Cowboys offense. The Philadelphia Eagles once racked up a $64,056 dinner (the alcohol is where it really hurts). The Tennessee Titans went relatively easy at $10,487. Taylor’s estimate of $75,000 might have been a bit extreme (and Wilson wouldn’t be the only one paying for it), but these dinners are very real.
Regardless of your thoughts on the merits of hazing, this tradition probably isn’t going away any time soon, not as long as offensive linemen can gorge themselves on steak, lobster and cognac without worry about a bill.
Unfortunately for Wilson.