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Friday, December 5, 2008
Atlanta, Carolina dominating NFL's rookie program

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The NFC South is dominating the NFL's new Brand University program, which works with rookie players to help them make good choices on and off the field.

Carolina's rookie class will receive an award today the NFL said. The only previous award was given to Atlanta's rookies about a month ago.

Rookie classes were asked to set goals in four areas: On the field, in community partnerships, player development and citizenship and award winners were decided on how many goals were met.

Carolina's goals included having at least two rookie starters in the games in Weeks 9 through 12. Gary Barnidge, Charles Godfrey and Jeff Otah got starts in those games and the Panthers also got significant contributions from Jonathan Stewart and Hilee Taylor. As part of their community involvement, the Carolina rookies dressed up in Halloween costumes and visited Levine Children's Hospital. They also served 200 steak dinners at a homeless shelter in Charlotte and purchased holiday food and toys for a family of five.

Atlanta's rookies earned the award in Weeks 5 through 8. Their on-field goals were to have at least one starter per game (they averaged 2.75 in that stretch) and have rookies play at least 5-percent of the plays (they participated in 20-percent). The Falcons rookie also made eight community appearances through Week 8.