The transition from college to pro sports can be tough on any athlete: the competition may be stronger, the media scrutiny more belittling, the stakes often several hundreds of thousands of dollars higher.
Don’t let their steely exteriors fool you: many players are nervous wrecks.
“I was walking on eggshells,” said Clint Ingram of the “fear” he had to surmount to make the 2006 NFL draft. “Everything counts to you.”
Ingram, a durable East Texan line backer from Oklahoma University and the subject of a Sarasota Film Festival documentary that debuted Sunday, ultimately found his way to the Jacksonville Jaguars. But he says it took some extra training to get there.
“I grew up in a country town," he joked Sunday, sitting in the filmmaker's lounge with Freddie Mitchell, former wide-receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. “And when I say ‘country,’ I mean, we had chickens."
In “Two Days In April,” viewers get a peek at Ingram's three-month stint at the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, where he and seven others trained for the NFL combines and, they hoped, the “real world” of football.
“Every aspect that could be covered, we covered,” said Trevor Moawad, IMG’s director of mental conditioning. For nearly a decade, Moawad helped young hopefuls at the academy finesse what he calls their “emotional intelligence” for life in the public eye. His syllabus covers everything from managing anxiety to taming insecurities (“What if the coach isn’t supportive of me?”). He also shows them how to cope with the chronic pressures of celebrity.
“Christmas is the worst time,” he said, “because everyone wants everything.”
Of course, no one ever wants as much as the media; giving “good interviews” is another skill set emphasized at IMG and tested, again and again, on the professional circuit.
“They really teach you at IMG to think before you speak,” said Ingram. “Less is more when you do an interview.”