It was a surreal feeling for Chris Rodriguez Jr. as he walked around the Washington Commanders' facility on the first day of rookie minicamp.
Rodriguez, the Commanders' sixth-round pick this year, was surrounded by his fellow draft picks, undrafted free agents and tryout players as they filled out paperwork, went through physicals and tried on equipment for rookie minicamp. It was the unsexy start to a lifelong dream.
"I never thought that I would be in this situation," Rodriguez said.
The disbelief is understandable for Rodriguez and the rest of the rookies who will go through their first practice later today. All of them have worked for years to get to the NFL, and now they're about to begin the first chapters of their professional careers.
There will be plenty of growing pains for all the rookies this weekend, but the rookie class intends to make the most of it.
"Just excelling...being coachable, doing everything right and being the best player and person I can be," said offensive lineman Braeden Daniels.
Washington's rookies will have plenty to do over the next month, but getting to know their new teammates is near the top of their list. After all, they will be spending almost every day together, so it would benefit them to get an early start on building their chemistry together.
For some, like Rodriguez, that has already begun. Not long after he got off the plane, he began chatting with Emmanuel Forbes about their days playing against each other in the SEC with Kentucky and Mississippi State, respectively.
"Something I didn't even realize is that we haven't beat them at home for eight years and they haven't beat us at home for eight years, and I didn't know that the whole time I've been there," Rodriguez said. "We talked about the games and everything and the next time I see him, I'll probably get his number."
The rookies won't be spending too much time on the field with the veterans (that will come during OTAs on May 22) but making a strong impression on them is important as well. Forbes has already met with fellow cornerback Cameron Dantzler and received a text from Montez Sweat, another former Mississippi State Bulldog.
As for Rodriguez, he got a text from Antonio Gibson, who was a role model for him, not long after he was drafted, and he let the fourth year running back know that he plans on asking plenty of questions.
"You can learn a lot from the coaches, but there's a lot you can learn from your teammates and players," Rodriguez said.
As important as it is for the rookies to familiarize themselves with their teammates, learning as much information as possible is their top priority this weekend. The Commanders have already sent out a sample of their offensive and defensive playbooks to the draft picks, college free agents and tryout players so they can slowly introduce them to the concepts and terminology they will be using during minicamp.
Fortunately, nothing the draft picks have seen so far is completely unfamiliar.
"It's pretty straightforward for me," Daniels said. "We had an NFL style offense in college [at Utah] … It's honestly just transitioning the words and understanding the different techniques and how to implement it."
The quicker the rookies can get a grasp on the playbook, the quicker they can make an impact, which it really what they want the most.
"I want to kind of let the coaches know, and my teammates know, what they got out of me as a player," said defensive end KJ Henry. "Start making strides and get...ready for the season."