He led his team to victory at Indiana State with a performance impressive enough that he was named “Missouri Valley Football Conference Newcomer of the Week.”
“If you step back and look at it, this is everybody’s dream that plays this sport, to be here,” Stick said. “When you take a step back and get a little perspective on it, yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous.”
This was only the first day of rookie minicamp but Stick, a fifth-round selection last month, led the group through a rainy workout at the team’s Costa Mesa facility.
On Monday, Rivers and most of the rest of the Chargers veterans are expected to return for voluntary workouts. Until then, this time belongs to the franchise’s latest crop of prospects.
“You work really hard to get here,” Stick said. “There’s that aspect too, where [you say], ‘I’ve worked hard and this is what I wanted,’ and here’s your opportunity. Now, I’m just trying to do the most with it.”
While Stick was running around displaying the athletic ability that initially attracted the Chargers, first-round pick Jerry Tillery remained limited by his surgically repaired shoulder.
The defensive lineman finished last season at Notre Dame playing with a torn labrum. He said doctors have told him he should be cleared for full participation before the start of training camp in July.
He called the situation “very frustrating,” noting he has spent much of his time as a Charger in the training room and in meetings with coaches. Tillery did say he and fellow first-timers are getting along and starting to dream.
“We were talking and one rookie class every year wins a Super Bowl,” he said. “We were saying, ‘Why can’t it be us?’ I think that’s something. … that’s our goal. That’s what we want to do, and that’s why we’re here.”
Third-round pick Trey Pipkins spent the on-field portion of practice at left tackle, where he played most of his career at the University of Sioux Falls. Head coach Anthony Lynn said the plan is to keep Pipkins at that position, where he can be mentored by veteran Russell Okung.
Entering his 10th NFL season and third with the Chargers, Okung was one of the veterans who spoke to the rookies Friday. Keenan Allen and Brandon Mebane were among the others interacting in the locker room.
“These guys, they have to get obsessed with learning this system and these schemes so that they can play to their true ability,” Lynn said of the newcomers. “But right now, their heads are spinning.”
Lynn explained that the best way for any rookie to learn what it takes to play in the NFL is to observe the veterans as much as possible. He said he told the group to seek guidance from more experienced teammates.
“These guys, they’re new employees,” Lynn said. “They have veteran guys to take them under their wings and teach them. …That’s the quickest way to get these guys to fit in here.”
Another early message: football is now your job.
“I told these guys, ‘You’re not here to wear Chargers hoodies and walk around the South Coast Plaza mall,’ ” Lynn said. “Every hour, every minute is dedicated to that playbook — and if not that playbook, then your position coach.”
One potentially notably development Friday was Patrick Afriyie working with the linebackers.
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Colgate a year ago, Afriyie spent 2018 listed as a defensive end on the Chargers’ practice squad. His size — 6-feet-2, 240 pounds — suggests he could play off the line of scrimmage.
“We’re trying to create a little more versatility for Patrick to see if he can play that outside linebacker for us,” Lynn said. “That’s why he’s in this rookie mini-camp.”
Practices will continue Saturday and Sunday before the veterans return and the Chargers move closer to more traditional organized team activities that are set to begin May 20.
As for the remainder of this weekend, the head-spinning and learning will continue.