Genard Avery was faced with a harsh reality when he was drafted by Cleveland in the fifth round and arrived at the Browns' facility in Berea.
He was raised in Mississippi, where Southern soul food is a staple. He played college football at Memphis, where BBQ and fried food — mixed with the normal food of the South — are king.
But professional football doesn't allow for that. Rookies have to adapt. There are no college meal plans and fried-food buffets. The NFL is a different animal.
"It was a nutrition plan we had in college, but not like here," Avery said. "Certain foods I can and cannot eat."
Rookies all over the league are adapting to new playbooks, new coaches and new workout plans. These include lesser known transitions such as nutrition plans and lifting requirements.
The Browns have a plan of action to help the rookies get acclimated to the NFL as quickly as possible. There are financial classes — as seen on HBO's Hard Knocks with Carl Nassib — meetings and appointments.
In the cafeteria and kitchen, Browns performance dietician Katy Meassick helps the youngsters with their eating habits and weight control. Training camp is a grind for every player, but for rookies, it's their first taste of that grind. The process involves evaluating rookies' eating and workout situations, helping them find foods they like and making them eat foods that will help them succeed at the highest level.
"We'll evaluate and see what goals they might have," Meassick said. "And then kind of figuring out how do we get to those goals? If they like to cook, then we'll focus on cooking. If they don't like to cook, we'll find a meal service for them. Having them adapt to the NFL lifestyle. They don't have a lot of the challenges they had while in college, meaning classes and tutoring and academics and maybe lack of funds, so that kind of is new here where they don't have all those other parts of their career. It's just football and working hard. So it's kind of just getting adjusted."
As the young players become adjusted to life in the NFL, they quickly realize the difference. It's is hard to notice on the surface. It's still football. Yes, it's faster. It's more physical. It's a business, not a extracurricular activity.
But once they dive into the playbook and learn how to be a professional, the difference is clear. It didn't take rookie wide receiver Da'Mari Scott, who was undrafted out of Fresno State, to figure it out.
"It's more taking care of your body at this point," Scott said. "In college, the coaches were trying to develop you, get you bigger, stronger and faster. Here, you're pretty much just trying to maintain that and take care of your body at the same time. Not trying to beat up your body because it's a long season."