The Raiders' hiring of Lamonte Winston as the team's director of player engagement is another sign of the culture change under way at 1220 Harbor Way Parkway.In layman's terms, Winston helps players, particularly the younger, more wayward players, find their way in the high-stakes, high-money, high-temptation world of the NFL. And prepare them for a return to a somewhat normal life.Someone like JaMarcus Russell could have used Winston's guidance a couple of years back. Someone like Rolando McClain might do well to take his advice now.
Now, this is not a shot at the Raiders' middle linebacker who was arrested last year for allegedly firing a gun near a man's head and then mugging for pictures as he was put in the police car, per se. But Winston's role is to get to the younglings and warn them of such perils and pitfalls.That Winston is an East Bay guy himself with more than 25 years experience "advising and consulting professional athletes in both life skills development and post-NFL career development," per the Raiders' release announcing his hiring, should only add to his gravitas.Consider: Winston went to Skyline High School in Oakland, Merritt Junior College and San Francisco State and coached at S.F. State and UNR before joining the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993 as an area scout and then moving into the life-skillslife-coaching role.He founded the Chiefs' executive director of player development and was a founding member of the NFL Player Development Steering Committee. He also helped create the NFLNCAA Champs Life Skills Program to "educate athletes on the business of the NFL and their preparation for life after football."Winston forged his own life-skills company, The Winston Group, where he has been the President and CEO the past two years.How respected is he throughout the NFL? The league's "WinstonShell Award" for the most outstanding player development directorprogram is named after him and former Pittsburgh Donnie Shell for their respective contributions to such endeavors.Yeah, the Raiders recognized a need, and they have addressed it.