Thursday, December 05, 2013

Taking a Step Back

     Being caught up in the everyday tasks of life and football can be overwhelming at times.  Working from 7 to 5 everyday at a physically taxing job and having one off day, there is always something to do and little time to do it (sound familiar?).  I am a very organized person and the type of guy that likes to have my to do list and get things done.  But I have soon come to realize that the so called to do list is a never ending document!  If I just focus on getting things done or just getting by, then often my priorities get skewed and I miss out on opportunities to serve others and become more involved.  With December coming and rookie issues like taxes and financial advice taking most of my off time along with football, I had to take a step back to focus on what is most important.  As I have mentioned before I want to continue to progress in my giving back to my community and get involved in service to others.  I had the opportunity to visit the St. Louis Children's hospital along with Rampage and cheerleaders Autumn and Hannah.  There were also groups from all over St. Louis and some also brought their mascots like: Fredbird, Louie the Bear, Ronald McDonald, and Santa.  Even though it's hard to compete with Rampage for fan favorite with the kids, it is always fun to see their reaction to him.  Some kids love him and some aren't too sure about him.  But between the trio we had we were able to make the kids smile and had a blast.  I hope to have brought some holiday cheer to kids that are in a tough situation.  Everyone wants to do the big charitable acts and make the big plays, but we often miss the small opportunities that are right in front of us.

     We are traveling to Arizona to face the Cardinals this week.  Since making my first tackle against the Colts I have been able to improve and make more of an impact every week, making some more tackles and knockdowns.  We have to continue to fight and improve each week as we come together as a team.  Until next time!

-Student of the Game

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Finding our Rhythm

Credit: St Louis Rams

     After two weeks of coming close but just not getting the win, we came into Indianapolis trying to get back to playing our game and find a way to win.  Well to say the least we came out firing on all cylinders and quickly gained the momentum and confidence that we have been searching for.  That rhythm we have been trying to put together seemed to click and even spilled over into quite a lot of dancing celebrations.  It seemed to be contagious and after the touchdown by Chris Long, the big plays just seemed to roll in.  Everyone seemed to get in on the action and I also got the play I had been looking for... my first NFL tackle!  I was not being blocked by a front line guy so I was free to the off returner, the player who runs in front of the ball carrier.  I saw my opportunity to cross the blockers face, I took my shot, and it paid off!  I didn't even realize I had flipped him until my teammates had told me.  In this business it is all about what you put on the field, and as you start to make plays you gain more respect with both coaches and teammates.  I'm glad to start building that respect and finally have an official stat on my resume.  But the most important stat of the day was the victory and the fun we were having out on the field showed.  We are going into an off week and will get a chance to rest, get back to fundamentals, and prepare to build off of this win.  Until next time!

-Student of the Game

Friday, November 01, 2013

My Road to the NFL: by Benny Cunningham

     My NFL experience has been a roller coaster to say the least.  My senior year of college I ranked in the top ten in the nation in both rushing yards and touchdowns.  But the hype soon came to an end with a season ending knee injury mid way through the season forcing me to think about a life outside of football.  The night of my injury I received a call from Phillip Tanner whom I consider a brother/mentor.  He helped me to stay focused on my dreams and gave me advice because he had suffered a knee injury as well but still earned the opportunity to play in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys.

     Once I had my surgery I started my road to recovery with the NFL on my mind and I knew it would be challenging to even earn a chance.  So I did everything possible to give myself an opportunity to prove to the scouts that I could still play.  My days started at 7am and ended at 5pm with me putting all my time into my recovery.  Draft day came and my name wasn't called... at first I felt like my long days were a waste, until I received a call from the St Louis Rams later that day wanting to sign me as an undrafted free agent.  I felt that this opportunity was a blessing from God and all I needed to prove to the world is that my knee was fine and that I could play at this level.

     The first meeting with the team came and seeing so many undrafted players in the room and knowing that the number of spots were limited made every day nerve wrecking.  I had to do everything right and try to separate myself from the group.  As the group decreased my nerves along with the pressure increased.  The day came that the 53 was announced and I had made it, but I didn't get the rush of joy I thought I would because I knew that now I would have to fight to keep my spot.

     The season started and with each game I grew more confident that I could play at this level.  But once again I am faced with an obstacle.  Against the Houston Texans I suffered a high ankle sprain and I am forced to prove once again that an injury cannot keep me from achieving my goal!

Thanks Benny for the guest post.  Be sure to go follow him by clicking below!
Twitter: @BCunningham36
Instagram: BCunningham36

-Student of the Game

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Physical Game

     Coming off our first outdoor game of the season, one of only three this year, we took a big blow in losing not only the game but our starting quarterback also.  Tempers flared which led to some fights, an ejection, and penalties.  One reason is that we played our most physical game of the year and stuffed the run.  This is a great place to start and must build off of this.  We still have work to do, but I can't break it down any further than that because that is not my place.  I have confidence in the players on the field that we can still be a great defense.  We have all the pieces but we must continue to work and come together to make a unit.  As for my current role on special teams I continue to learn off the more game reps I get.  I started again on KO, KOR, and PR.  You can't duplicate game reps and when they happen is the only time you figure out what techniques truly work and don't.  NFL blocking on special teams is almost the opposite of what you think.  Instead of pushing someone out of the runners way, they grab and pull you in close to them as they drive you.  Notice I say grab instead of hold haha, it's an art.  Whatever you call it, defeating and applying these blocks are something I continue to work on.  We won the special teams battle overall and as we face more teams I continue to be impressed with our tenacity.  We have to keep working hard and it will pay off in the end... keep chipping away like the parable of the stone cutter, will have to explain that one later.

     Prayers go out to Sam and his family as he begins the road to recovery.  As a team we must pull together, step up our play, and keep playing.  Kellen Clemens will lead this team and we have confidence that he is ready to step in and take the reigns.  I am excited to be back home this week and playing Monday Night Football!  Whether there is a full house stadium or us just on the practice field, we are ready to play and find a way to win.

-Student of the Game

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Texas Homecoming

     We headed down to Houston, Texas this week to face the Texans and this was my first "homecoming" of my NFL career.  My family is closer to Dallas, but driving around the big state of Texas is nothing new to my supportive family.  I had quite a cheering section as I had to buy 18 tickets to the game!  Now I have seen "Broke" and had enough financial rookie meetings to know that this is one of the many reasons that players end up losing money, so thankfully my family understood that they had to pay me back for the seats.  I can provide for my immediate family sometimes, but there is a big jump from college to NFL on the price of tickets and the number of games we play.  Just a small detail that if you don't keep track of as a player can get out of hand... on average players spend $10K on tickets every year!  Nevertheless, I loved being back in Texas and getting to play in front of family and friends.  

     Reliant stadium is an awesome stadium and fun place to play.  I didn't have bug eyes though because I played my last bowl game in the stadium.  Both teams were coming into the game 2-3 and looking to get back on track.  It was one of those games where we started out hot and the momentum and fun just continued to build during the entire game.  I secured some spots on special teams for the time being and performed well but still have yet to get my first tackle.  The best part was scoring on all three sides of the ball!  The picture above shows us celebrating in the end zone after we scored on kickoff.  A great team win to get us back on track and 2-0 in the second quarter of the season so far.  We have to continue to improve and build off of this win next week.

     Today I had the opportunity to present the trophy for the Rams High School Blood Drive Challenge to Belleville East.  I want to say congrats to them for donating over 150 pints of blood which will save up to 500 lives!  The Red Cross blood donations are a great way to give back and these kids did a great job!  I had fun at the assembly and wish them luck on their homecoming game this weekend.

-Student of the Game

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Back in Action

     It felt great to be back on the field Sunday!  Going from scout team one week to be thrown into a game plan and suiting up the next week for my first NFL game is quite a turn around.  As soon as I learned I was active I began to talk with "Bones", the special teams coordinator, in order to try and make my way onto the field and contribute however I could.  A spot really hadn't opened up, but my preseason work showed enough that I would have an opportunity to rotate in and get to play on punt return, kickoff, and kickoff return.  I also really honed in on being ready to go in at either safety position.  Both these opportunities can come at any moment and my performance will either help the team win or hurt the team... my first impression to prove I deserve to be here.

     A restless night of nerves and excitement didn't stop me from having a great first game.  As Brandon McGee would call it the "special teams track meet" was exactly how he described it.  There is nothing but speed on special teams and a big part of your success is on effort and execution.  I felt like I was running my 40 yard dash on pro day all game long.  I loved flying down the field and using my speed and ability to give the best field position possible to both offense and defense.  Our team battled through some adversity early to turn the game around and come up with a big team victory.  It is not easy to win football games in the NFL and we are going to take them on one week at a time.  With a renewed mindset after the first quarter of our schedule we look to continue getting back on track and improving off of this victory.  I'm heading back to my home state of Texas this Sunday and look forward to playing in front of some of my friends and family. 

-Student of the Game

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Process

(My Helmet History)

     I'm back!  After a couple of weeks of clearing my mind, finally settling into my St Louis apartment, and building some washer boards (still not done) in my spare time... I am returning to my blog.  It has been a crazy couple of weeks and we have finished the first quarter of the season.  As a member of the practice squad I did everything the team did as normal including lifting, meetings, and practice.  The only difference is that you run scout team and don't suit up or travel for games.  It was a role that took me back to my red-shirt days at Texas Tech where I ran scout team against Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree.  Except this time my job is not guaranteed.  I took this as an opportunity to get in the weight room more and give the best look I could for the upcoming opponent.  Well the first four games haven't gone as planned or expected for both the team and myself individually.  I can't speak for the team as I was on the practice squad, but for myself this struggle had brought me to focus on something we had learned in Rookie School.

     "The process of getting what you want" is what John Hartwig called it.  John and his company Pro/Spur is all about character building and he taught us this lesson at one of our Rookie School sessions that the Rams put on every Monday afternoon.  The lesson was simple, but exactly what I needed to focus on.  He got us to write out what our goals were, long and short term, in both football and life.  Then the steps that you can take and control in order to get you there.  One of my short term goals was to make the 53 man roster and the steps I could take to get me there.  For the first time after this lesson I was truly not thinking about roster moves and focused on working as hard as I could to improve myself and be intentional about taking steps to reach my goals.  I refused to get my hopes up anymore trying to guess what was going to happen, as I had been disappointed a lot so far.  Well it might have been a coincidence, but I finally got the opportunity I was looking for and was pulled out of meetings to get bumped up to active roster!  I was sent upstairs to sign my new contract and then told to go back to watching film...haha back to work.  We have a big game coming up this week because it is the next one.  The scrutiny and pressure to perform will always be there from the coaches on down.  But we must continue to stay together, focus on the process, and focus on things we can control in our plan to get back on track.  I look forward to my first NFL game and doing everything I can to help the team win!

-Student of the Game

Friday, September 06, 2013

Getting Cut and Joining the Practice Squad

     Walking down the hall I felt as if I was in a daze... a dream even, and I couldn't believe I was walking down the halls maybe for the last time as I was about to be cut.  It was the day after the final preseason game and the cutting process had begun in order to get down to the 53 man roster.  We were nervously sitting around and Rock, the strength coach, was again roaming the locker room and grabbing players one by one to take the long walk to get cut.  I was confident in the work I had put in since May on both defense and special teams.  Along with depth and injuries I thought I might be safe, but just like that I was grabbed and walking down the long hall to the offices.  Coach Fisher pulled me into his office and told me I was not going to be a part of the 53 and the reasons for doing so.  Next coach Cecil did the same and offered me some advice.  I was escorted to turn in my playbook, sign some paperwork, and collect my belongings before heading out the door for what could have been my last time.  Before I knew it I was headed home and uncertain of what would happen next or if I would have a job at all.

     All I could do now is sit back and wait to hear my fate.  I had to wait two days and on Sunday would find out if I had landed on another team through waivers or would join a practice squad.  I had received some interest from other teams and was nervously waiting to see if I would be claimed.  It would be good to get on a roster, but starting with new coaches and a new system on week 1 would be difficult.  The practice squad would be good if you have an opportunity to move up and mature, but there is a chance you get lost in the shuffle and bumped off to be unemployed.  I was going through all the possibilities in my head, but ultimately the decision was out of my hands.  There were so many emotions lingering about what I just went through and things that could happen that I was just ready to know my future.  After what seemed like the longest hours of Sunday at noon, I got the call to come join the St Louis Ram's practice squad.  It was a weird feeling walking into the facility of the team that just let me go and hearing congratulations on the practice squad.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed that I ended up on practice squad.  This is because I have such high expectations of myself and worked hard to make the team which was my goal.  I am simply not satisfied with the result and I will continue to work my hardest in order to prove myself and stick on an active roster.  But don't get me wrong, I am happy to still be a part of the Rams organization and look forward to working my way up and staying ready for whenever my number is called.  I am extremely blessed and thankful to have this opportunity to still play football!

-Student of the Game

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Never as Good, Never as Bad

     Coming off of game three I was frustrated with my performance.  It was just one of those frustrating games where it seems that nothing is going your way and you are fighting yourself trying to get back on track.  But there is only one version of the truth in football and that is the eye in the sky... the game film is your resume and you are signing your name to it every time you play.  Coach Cecil says that there is no audio on the film for a reason.  You can't talk a big game anymore, you have to walk it!  Well after going back and looking at the video it was not as bad as I had originally thought.  I was in the right spot on most all of the plays and made some good tackles, but needed to finish better and clean up some technique.  I know I can play better and will look to get back to playing my game.  Playing organized football since the 7th grade and all the way through now, it is always the lesson and result after watching film... "It's never as good as it seems, and it's never as bad as it seems."

     I was a little nervous entering the facility that Sunday afternoon after the game.  The cuts were looming and even as I entered the locker room they were already under way.  These players come to work like any other day and suddenly you are asked to go talk to coach and bring your playbook.  They say their goodbyes and just as quickly as it came, it is gone.  I had never been in a situation like this before as you are pretty much guaranteed to be around in high school and college if you stay out of trouble.  I am confident in my game and proud of what I have shown so far, but you never know where you stand in the coach's eyes and they don't give you any indication of where you stand.  A lot of good players were cut in the last three days that I have become friends with and have worked with since arriving here in May.  My thoughts and prayers are with them as they try to get on with another team or walk away from their dreams and move on from football.  I have made it through the first round of cuts, but that was not my goal.  I am heading into this final preseason game looking to earn a spot on the 53 man roster.  It might be my last football game or it could be one that starts a long career.  I will play hard, have fun, and have faith in God's plan.  See you on the other side!

-Student of the Game

Friday, August 23, 2013

#RamsCamp Comes to an End

(Rams Jeopardy Trophy)

     My first NFL training camp has come and gone.  There has been so much that has happened in one month and it has been an awesome, stressful, fun, and tiresome experience as a rookie.  Coming off our second preseason loss, we came back focused and determined to get better this week.  The preseason is coming to a close and the intensity is picking up.  Mistakes are no longer tolerable and the cuts are just around the corner.  We started the week with some hard practices, and we had to face the heat and humidity for the first time this year.  As lucky as we have been with the weather so far, the heat hit us hard and we had to push through fatigue and fight through to stay mentally sharp.  A great compliment to a hard day is competition and even a little fighting to let out the steam!  Things got a little chippy, which always makes the practice a little more fun and exciting.  As camp broke, we had a few end of training camp rituals that we got the chance to participate in.

     At the end of practice Wednesday, we set up for a shuttle race and the rookies were put in teams.  Then we were told it was a dizzy bat relay... lol well once I heard the rules I knew the fans were in for quite a treat.  We were to run a football 20 yards, drop it as we ran 20 more yards where there was a bat.  Then grab the bat and do 25 turns with it on your head and the end touching the ground.  Finally, run back to grab the ball and finish the race!  At least that was the goal...  I made it about half way through my 20 turns and fell to the ground already dizzy.  We were also getting ice water dumped on us at the same time which didn't help our footing.  I only fell once on my relay but us rookies were looked like bumbling fools falling all over the place and running sideways trying to get back to the football.  The fans and the veterans had fun watching this one.  Another ritual is Rams Jeopardy which was run by Coach Fassel.  The veterans have held the trophy (shown above) since the existence of the game.  We were broken into three teams by experience: veterans, mid range, and rookies.  It was put together well with many of the features of the actual show which made the game competitive.  Some of the categories were: historical football plays, movies, music, animals, monuments, and name that teammate (baby pictures).  The rookies started out strong and continued to dominate the game all the way through.  At the end of the board, we were in the lead heading into final jeopardy.  Deciding to bet all of our money to guarantee a win, we received the final question:  How many pro teams (big 4 sports) play their home games in the state of New York?  Comment below if you know the answer!  In the end we got the question wrong and the mid range experience players won the trophy.  A fun end a great training camp.  

     I will miss seeing the fans at the practice, and even more the case my wife will miss coming to watch.  She really enjoyed getting to watch each day and get to know the Rams family.  As camp breaks we get to stay at home now, but that comfort is countered with the stress of knowing cuts are next week.  This is a big game for all the players on the bubble and we must make our limited reps count.  Headed to Denver!

-Student of the Game

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Home Opener

     I took it all in as I stepped into the "Jones" to play another football game... but this time instead of Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas which has been my home field for four years, it was in the Edward Jones Dome for the preseason home opener.  The first time to play in front my family at this level and in front of the home town fans of St Louis.  It started with a bold entrance as I ran out through the smoke and flame.  Welcome to the big show!  

     This game started a little slower for me.  I was a little less nervous since I had one game under the belt and I knew not to get too revved up until it was closer to when I would go in.  The 1's were to get more reps and with the increased safety depth I knew it could push me into the second half, which ended up to be the case.  But either way I was prepared, focused, and ready to make my reps count.  Special teams is a big emphasis for rookies to make the team and I knew I had to improve from last week.  Well that improvement started with a bang as I had a partial block of a field goal that pounded off my left wrist and some how still managed to helicopter through the uprights.  I was not happy to say the least that it went through, but it is motivating and encouraging for me to go get the next one.  We had been working extra on field goal block all week through film study and techniques.  It's a great feeling for both the coach and player when you take a drill from practice and translate it into a game.  I also came up with several knock downs, where you put an opposing special teams player on the ground, in both punt return and kickoff return.  On defense I managed to stay away from negatives on the grade sheet again and came up with some good tackles, one for a loss.  Overall the objective of preseason games is to slowly prove yourself and move up the depth charts to earn a spot on the final roster.  Only time will tell if I took a step forward, but for now I will continue the same process as always... study, perform, corrections, repeat.  It is now getting down to crunch time as the training camp is breaking this week and cuts start to take place.  Until next time!

-Student of the Game

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rookie Roller Coaster

     Coming off of the high of my first NFL game, we headed back to Rams Park for another long week of training camp.  I was confident from my play but was hit with a depth chart change the first practice back. Another safety was back now from injury and I was bumped down to the 3's on defense and special teams for the second time this training camp.  This was like a gut check and as much as I tried not to be, I was frustrated and it showed negatively in my practice.  I knew I had not gotten bumped down because of my play, so I just had to keep working and focus on myself because in football there will inevitably be some highs and lows... good days and bad days.  Rookies especially don't know where they stand in the coaches eyes so we are especially hard on ourselves.  I have to stay off this rookie roller coaster and produce consistently to earn a roster spot.  I came in the next few days with a renewed mind set and really focused on making the most of my reps, practicing at a high level, and finishing.  As FAITH would have it, I began to rotate in with the 2's and improved greatly as the week went on.  This is yet another reminder to not worry about stuff you can't control and things will work out like they are supposed to.  Overall the week of practice was good and the weather couldn't have been better.  We actually had a rainy practice and while it was pouring we practiced on low tackling where we dove at a dummy and landed/slid on a mat... which turned into a football slip n slide!  Training camp always comes with some pleasant surprises.

     Along with the football meetings, we also have informative meetings covering various aspects of being in the NFL and guides to help you be successful.  Wednesday we had the unique opportunity to get tips about handling the media by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.  He gave us an entertaining yet informative presentation about handling the media and answering the tough questions.  Ari was faced with some of the toughest questions by the nastiest reporters on a daily basis in the White House.  After his presentation he was open to questions and was asked by one of the coaches about his 9/11 experience when he was serving as press secretary.  Everyone in the room including myself was captivated by hearing first hand what happened behind the scenes that day.  Ari was by President Bush's side when it happened and from the moment his beeper went off notifying him of the attack to being in the underground bunker in the White House he described in detail of his experiences that day.  Nobody forgets where they were that day and I can still remember watching it in Stephenville Elementary on the news.  I was happy to hear his story and gain some helpful tips on handling the media, even though I will never have to face something as difficult as Ari had to.

     Another week of work is in the books and preseason game 2 is tomorrow.  Green Bay is coming to town for the home opener and my first time to play in front of our fans.  I will be facing former teammate and Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, so hopefully I can go back to my red shirt days on scout team and get another interception from him!  Lol... Whoever I am facing and however many reps I get, I will play my hardest and look to improve off my first game.  From Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, TX to Edward Jones Dome in St Louis, MO.  It's my first game in the new Jones!

-Student of the Game

Friday, August 09, 2013

My First NFL Experience

     Heading to Cleveland, I couldn't believe my first NFL game was upon me.  It snuck up on me as I have been in a whirlwind lately and focused on training camp.  As it is with preseason games, the game plan was simple and the opponent scouting was not too in depth because of that same reason.  The reps are so limited in these preseason games yet they are the most important evaluation of your talent.  I was excited to see that I was with the 2's and the 3's on the depth chart on both defense and special teams.  The travel and hotel were both top notch and I enjoyed the step up from college.  We definitely have everything we need both nutritionally and mentally to relieve us from any distractions.  After getting to catch up on some sleep and pre game meal, the nerves started to kick in as we had meetings and then took off for the stadium.  It was finally here, the opportunity I have been working for all year!

     My first NFL experience lived up to the hype.  Putting on the uniform and running onto the field for the first time was an amazing feeling.  The energy and unity on this team made it the most fun I have had playing football in a long time.  After the nerves and excitement of the start of the game, I had to focus on staying warm on the sideline as I awaited my turn.  It is quite difficult as you get cold and tight watching the game along with the bench fans blowing on you.  I was especially worried about this because coach Fassel showed us a highlight video earlier this week on what happens if you don't stay warm... a bunch of players pulling hamstrings on kickoff!  Thanks for showing us that coach haha.  But I managed to stay warm enough before I started to get reps in late 2nd quarter.  I think I played good for my first game, but have a lot to improve on.  It killed me not to come up with a diving interception, but hopefully I got that drop out of the way.  Other than that I had some good tackles and played well on special teams.  I am going to have to get used to not making every tackle and the smaller amount of opportunities in a game!  It took me a couple of series to even hit someone because the swarm of the defense was so good.  In college I usually played around 90 plays a game and averaged around 6-10 tackles a game.  Well the decrease from that won't necessarily be a bad thing, but I will have to make every opportunity count!

     We didn't win the game, but as long as we learn from the film and get better each game... that is what preseason is for!  Part 1 of the interview is in the books and I can't wait for the next one.  I'm blessed and thankful for all the support from family, friends, and fans!  Looking back it is hard to believe that I played my first NFL game, and what I usually watch on TV is being played out in my life.  I can't waste this opportunity.  Back to training camp and another week of work!

-Student of the Game

Monday, August 05, 2013

When Opportunity Knocks

     This past week has really challenged me to be patient and just focus on making the most out of my reps on the 3rd team.  Using my day off on Tuesday to relax and clear my mind, I came into Wednesday's practice with a good patient attitude and renewed focus.  Well as the saying goes, you have to stay ready because you never know when your opportunity will come.  Suddenly after warm up I was thrown into the mix running with both the 2's and the 3's.  Talk about a swing of reps, phew that was a little harder!  I was prepared and knew what to do and tried the make the most out of the opportunity.  I had a good practice with some good tackles and an interception, but far from perfect.  This little opportunity gives me more chances to work on my technique and show streaks of what I have.  I was able to do this the rest of the week and really get into a flow of practicing, film feedback, and correction.

     The week of practice ended with #RamsFanFest in the Edward Jones Dome.  This was a great way to get prepared for the coming game week and also get to get in front of the fans.  It was my first time to be in the stadium and walking out into the lights suited up in Rams gear was definitely a little eye opening.  It makes you take a step back and realize how blessed and amazing it is to be here with this opportunity.  These moments are few and far between, because when it comes down to it you can't sit back and enjoy the view... you have to stay focused on the task at hand and keep working.  It's back to business and the interview never ends.  We had a great practice which ended with a rookie scrimmage.  We started with special teams and whether I was going as a backup role or as a scout team, I try and use every opportunity to prove myself.  There is still a lot of techniques and moves, to block and defeat blocks, that I must learn to become an elite special teamer.  This is important because the one obvious difference between college and the NFL has to be the level of preciseness.  I continue to keep that focus as I practice.  Overall I had a pretty good day with efficient communication, tackling, and technique.  I enjoyed playing in front of the fans and signing autographs afterward.  All of this is building up anticipation for one thing... game week.  The preseason games are ultimately what we will be judged on as rookies and for us it is where we win or lose our job.  My NFL resume is a clean slate for only three more days... here we go!
-Student of the Game

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Week into the Grind

     We are now one week into training camp!  This week has been a swarm of nerves, emotions, meetings, practices, and an overall long week of work.  Coming out of the rookie portion of training camp I was anxious to make an impact, showing I could be successful and competitive with the veterans.  I didn't know where they were going to put me and what the coaches had in mind for me.  Well it didn't take long for a depth chart to show up for the first practice and I realized, along with all the other undrafted rookies, just how much of an uphill battle it was going to be.  Having Matt Giordano as a late addition to camp, I was bumped down to the 3's in both defense and special teams.  I thought this might happen and I wasn't surprised, but it takes the wind out of your sails a little bit when you see it on paper for the first time.  This along with the flow of an NFL training camp has brought a lot of learning and adjustments for me.

     I have really had to focus and work hard on how I practice and my mental mind set in training camp.  Coming from college practices as a starter to NFL practices as an undrafted rookie with the 3rd team is quite a transition.  As the week has gone along, I have continued to work on the details of my technique and execution.  From full speed drills every rep, to communicating loud and crisp, finishing at the ball, competing against my teammates and giving a good look there are certain new practice habits that I am having to form.  It is almost like the way you play in a game is expected now in practice one short interval at a time.  Also, mental reps and staying ready at this high level is important because the scarcity of reps.  The 3rd defense may only get 2-4 plays at the end of a period and you have to stay warm and mentally sharp after being out 14-16 plays.  Not being in the consistent rotation, it is hard to get into a flow.  I have continued to improve on staying locked in and focused from the sideline, and have to fight off frustration and worrying about factors I can't control.  Every athlete is competitive and wants to be out there but I have to focus on what I can control, do the best I can with my opportunities, and let the depth chart fall into place.

     The pads finally came on and now we are slowly getting closer to finding out who is Tarzan and who is Jane.  I loved getting back in pads as it is a little bit closer to a game situation and even more evaluating of players can be done.  Hitting and competing against each other always gets the practice hype going and makes it even more fun with a few scuffles mixed in.  I had a great first day in pads showing well in special teams with a take-down in punt return of a starting gunner and finished practice with an interception.  The weather has been great and this is definitely the most cool I have practiced in this time of the year.  Even with the cool temperatures, I guess I sweat more in this environment because I have been dripping.  I don't know if it is the humidity or what, but that helmet visor has to get cleaned every day!  Overall the first week has been a lot of things for me, but I am excited to keep working as hard as I can to earn a spot and let everything I can't control fall into place.

-Student of the Game

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Look Back at Rookie Training Camp

     Training Camp, after four weeks of build up the big stage is finally here and the show waits for no one.  Everything we do is being examined and the result will either help us or hurt us with one goal in mind, make the team! Us rookies arrived Sunday afternoon to check into the hotel, our new home for the next six weeks. The suitcase life continues! As we caught back up with all our rookie teammates one thing was obvious, everyone was worried about weigh in and the conditioning test... with good reason!  Each player was given a 6 pound weight range that we had to meet when we reported.  If you don't, you could be fined up to $400 per pound... per day! The conditioning test is two 300 yard shuttles, going to the 25 yard line and back six times in under 56 seconds for the skill players.  These both had consequences, but even more it was something that could be held against you and look bad in the coach's eyes. I was finally able to put on some muscle and gain a little weight, but that put me at the top of my weight range that I had to be at when I reported. I was a small bit worried, so I focused on not eating quite as much and at night. The plan almost went too good as I weighed in one pound away from the low weight range, but I was happy to get that out of the way.  The conditioning test lived up to the hype and the heat and humidity didn't help the situation.  The first rep is hard, but the trouble comes between the reps when your legs lock up from all the cutting you have to do.  I was able to survive and make my times on both, but not many were as fortunate.  I went from my hips cramping to bending over to taking a knee until i slowly but surely ended up on the ground from exhaustion.  Someone commented that it looked like a battlefield out there after we were done.  It was definitely one of the hardest and high tense conditioning i have been a part of. What a way to start off training camp!

     That afternoon and the following day, we were able to get two practices in to get back into the flow before the vets reported to camp.  The heat and humidity welcomed us again as we pushed through a practice with our legs dead from the conditioning test.  I had a great start and came up with an interception on the first team period.  I still have plenty to work on and a long way from where I want to be.  Getting back into the playbook and practice flow payed off as the practices went off a lot smoother than the OTAs.  We now have a better understanding of the playbook and you can tell on the field that it is starting to click with all the rookies.  We also got a little break on the nights, getting off after dinner, but the intensity and difficulty is about to turn up when the vets report.  Now as the vets have arrived, the 7-9 grind is about to start and the pressure is on to make every rep count.  Already another safety behind me has gotten cut and another one is brought in.  Every time it is eye opening and all the rookies kind of tense up when it happens.  Like I have said before, you never quite know where you are in the coaches eyes, but one thing I do know is that nobody is safe and there is always someone snapping at your heels.  I am excited to get out there in training camp and prove I have what it takes to be an NFL special teams player and safety.

-Student of the Game

*Check back soon for future updates, I will try and post every couple of practices looking back at the previous day's highlights*

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Taking a Leap of Faith

     I am back from my break!  I enjoyed my time off from football and blogging while touring Texas to see my family for one last time before the craziness begins.  In the span of two weeks I visited the in-laws at their home, visited my brother, vacationed with my wife's family in San Antonio, visited my parents at their home, and finally celebrated the 4th of July at my uncles with extended family.  If that wasn't enough, there are a lot of kids and babies in the family right now so I was extra worn out from uncle and cousin duties.  I managed to work out at various local high schools to stay in shape.  I loved getting to spend time with my family, but all this traveling and not having a set home is stressful.  Since late December 2012 from the bowl game on to my training, all star game, pro day, regional combines, wedding, honeymoon, draft, rookie camp, and OTAs I have been on the move and living out of a suitcase.  I am chasing my dream and wouldn't have it any other way, but with my wife living back in Lubbock a decision had to be made.  Either we stay apart while I try the NFL or we go for it and see what happens.

     The leap of faith it is!  After a long and hard decision making process we decided to go ahead and move to St Louis.  Having the most unpredictable job possible, I knew this would be a very risky decision and at the end of the day we could be here one day, the rest of our life, or something in between.  We wanted to be together, I felt good about my chances of making the team, and when Ashley's company posted a job opening in St Louis for July we jumped on it.  Ashley was transferred and after the two week break we headed to Lubbock to pack up.  As you can see above we loaded a big moving truck and towed our car all of the grueling 15 hours to St Louis, Missouri.  My foot was about cramped solid from driving that long without a cruise control, but I'm now happy to have a home base and my wife with a solid job.  Hopefully she won't have to be the provider this year, but whatever happens we have a backup plan.  After a long couple of days moving in and painting (I told y'all she would use my painting skills now!) we were able to spend a week together before I move into the hotel for training camp on Sunday.  I have a long and hard road ahead and I will focus on what I can control, try my hardest to do my best, and have faith in God's plan.

-Student of the Game

My painting skills need some fine tuning.  Note to self: don't buy the off brand painter's tape.

Friday, June 21, 2013


     As the veterans take off for break, us rookies get to take part in an orientation called Rookie Week.  This week consists of meetings, charity events, and exploring new areas of St Louis with lunches and socials.  Now it wasn't all fun and games, we had hard off-season workouts and conditioning every morning to start out the day.  These were harder than normal, because we didn't have to save our legs for practice.  Also with the break just around the corner, there is always a tension between the players and the strength coach.  As players we get a little restless and it is harder to focus which doesn't mix well with coaches that know this tendency and are on edge, ready to jump on top of the problem.  This has always been the case since I was in high school, and continues to be the case today.  Rock warned us that last year on the last day before the break he had to punish the rookies because of this and pretty much ran them into the ground.  Well it came close to happening again, but we pushed through and remained focused enough to have a great week of work.

     After a good hard workout, the next thing you want to do as a player is go sit in information meetings! Well maybe not too exciting but we did get some good presentations on financial/credit help, NFLPA, highway patrol, drug, and legal information.  While all the players might not pay attention, I try and gain all the knowledge I can to help me out in the future.  I always learn something new!  We are blessed to have the team offer free services to us to help us out in these areas that our new to us.  The funnest part of the week was in the afternoon with the charity events, seeing the city, and social events.  They wanted to take us to new parts of the city and also get some team building time in, so we went to eat as a team at Blueberry Hill and Scape.  Blueberry Hill was awesome to see the history put into that place with all the pictures of famous people on the wall.  It also was a good time playing games, and teaching Barrett Jones how to play darts... by beating him.  Scape was a more modern place and the best food I have had in St Louis so far!  These were great lunches in two areas that I have not been to so far, but will definitely be back.  

     The two charity events we got to participate in were the Rams Training Academy and TASK (Team Activities for Special Kids) Bowling event.  The training academy was fun interacting with the community and playing football with the kids.  I ended up helping with a tackling drill where they went through cones and tackled a dummy.  Man kids get intense and their faces and tactics are priceless!  The funniest was when I was trying to get creative with the drill.  I had them back peddle to a cone where the dummy was, then break downhill to swat the receiver out of the way and make the interception. While I was explaining it one of the kids says, "isn't that pass interference?!" Lol, don't you hate smart kids... well he was technically right and I had to just tell them to go around the dummy without touching him.  We ended the day with signing autographs.  For the bowling event, each player was assigned a lane along with some TASK athletes.  The picture shown above was my lane with Katie (who won), Megan, Colin, and Andrew.  They were all fun to bowl with and I enjoyed the time with them and their families.  I really connected with Colin as he was the outgoing one and very funny also.  He showed off his muscles after he made a good bowl, and later he showed them to the cheerleaders coming around!  It was a fun time and hopefully I will get a chance to be with the TASK athletes again.  We ended the week with a young professionals social at the Missouri History Museum where we got to network with people our age outside of football.  I actually met a woman who works with a company here in town that makes reality TV shows, one of which I watch (Fast N Loud)! I thought that was pretty cool and we also got to see the Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibit.

     Overall this week was a fun experience and we were provided with some great opportunities and information that will help us out in this transition into the NFL.  We now have a four week break before training camp, which I will use to go back to Texas to continue working out and visit family.  It is hard to believe that I won't be a short drive away from family after this break and will hopefully be starting my new life in St Louis.  But for now I will enjoy this time off and can't wait to see my family, until next time!

-Student of the Game

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wrapping Up My First OTAs

     The final week of OTAs are in the books, and they were some of the hardest practices so far.  The intensity, expectations, and even the heat continued to rise this week.  It started out Monday with the practice moved to the afternoon.  This was the hottest time of the day and definitely the hottest practice so far.  We installed punt return and kickoff return this week.  Still running with the 2's I will get a chance at "shark" for punt return and a front line blocker for kickoff return.  Basically a "shark" is the 2nd guy from the outside and is a great position that does it all from rushing the punt to doubling the gunners.  We had a chance to compete a little this week in special teams instead of just drills and walk through, as the punt team went against the punt return.  I got to rush a punt of the edge for the first rep, and I had timed it just right to come unblocked.  I didn't go for the block because it is practice and I don't want to punch my plane ticket out of here lol, but it would have been close!  I am excited about these and all of my special teams positions as I think I have the skills and technique to produce and make an impact on this side of the ball.  We ended the week of practice with a little fun change up drills, which I hear is a Coach Fisher tradition.  We started out the practice with switching individual drills with a completely different position group.  For example, the defensive backs went to do offensive lineman drills and the O line went to do DB drills.  This was funny and interesting at the same time to see what the other players do on a daily basis.  Then after a normal practice we ended the day with a little competition of punt catching, D line versus the O line to see what side of the ball had conditioning.  Instead of a normal punt they used the "jugs", a machine that shoots the ball, to launch the ball into the air as high as I have ever seen.  I'm happy to say the defensive line won, with some actually impressive catches including a one handed catch.  It was a great first experience of OTAs and I look forward to improving with my experience and production as we head into training camp. 

     The pressure to perform continues to rise as two people have already gotten cut in the last week in order to bring in more players. As a rookie you always hear of the stories of players getting cut, but watching it first hand makes it more real.  He went through meetings, got ready for practice, and right before he went out someone came and told him the news.  Just like that he was out of the building and looking for a new job and home.  This makes you feel the pressure and you wonder where you are in the coach's eyes.  The only indicator they give you is the tentative depth chart, but other than that the coaches don't give you much feedback on where you fit in or their expectations for you. Maybe they don't want to make false promises or get our hopes up. Whatever the case, as a player I try not to focus on that and just focus on what I can control, which is working and playing to the best of my ability. That being said, when your job and livelihood are on the line... you can't help but notice.  I will just continue to work hard, play to the best of my ability, and keep the faith.  I love the opportunity I have here in St Louis and look forward to earning my role on the team.

     On a lighter note, Emory Blake and I teamed up to take on the specialist's doubles Ping Pong Tournament.  I have always been pretty good at ping pong since I had a table growing up and also there was one in our player's lounge at Texas Tech.  Well there is one here also, so naturally us athletes like to kill any down time with... that's right, even more competition!  The specialists seem to always have the most free time and therefore end up the best ping pong players.  They had a tournament drawn up for this past week in a double elimination doubles tournament.  Emory and I took on Austin Davis and Chris Williams in the first round and came out with a resounding victory. But trying to get the players there at the same time proved too difficult as the rookie and veteran schedules were slightly different.  The verdict is still out on who are the best ping pong players.  Next up, rookie week!

-Student of the Game

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ask An Athlete #6

     Chris Fitz comes to me with this question... "Players grow up a fan of a certain team, and I'm sure they all dream on draft day or after to be picked up by that team. Is there any disappointment by players if they go to a team they never liked or was a fan of, or in certain cases hated because of a rivalry? I am sure players are mostly just happy for the opportunity, just wondering if any lingering feelings from the past. Also, do you still root for the team you grew up watching even if you play for another team or for a rival?"

     Thanks for the question Chris!  I actually grew up a Dallas Cowboy's fan and also a University of Texas Longhorn's fan.  My mom graduated from UT and being the big state team the connection was strong.  I was a pretty big fan and always watched and rooted for them, especially since my uncle was a big fan of their rival Texas A&M.  When my college football offers started to roll in, I never got my hopes up too high and sure enough I never received an offer from UT which was a little disappointing.  It was more disappointing not because I wanted to go there or would if I got the chance, but because the bigger "power rated" schools in the state and nation did not feel I was good enough to give a scholarship.  I was excited and blessed to get an offer to Texas Tech and the combination of local location, football, academics, and opportunity to play made it the perfect place for me.  Looking back I believe I made the right choice and now I am a Red Raider for life.  As for UT I will never root for them again and will always be my in state rival lol.  Now as I have made the transition to the NFL, it ended up being a similar scenario.  I was in no way a die hard fan of the Cowboys, but always thought it would be cool to play in my home state and just an hour away from my hometown.  However, on draft day it was a little deja vu when the teams did not think I was good enough and none of the teams drafted me.  I was a little disappointed again, but everything happens for a reason and yet another great opportunity of football, coaches, location, and opportunity to play has landed me in St Louis.  I think this is the perfect place for me and I hope to make it as a Ram.  As for the Cowboys I won't be a fan at all unless I end up playing for them someday, as crazy as NFL careers go.  Overall in these team selection processes there is always a little disappointment if things don't go as planned, but I am just extremely blessed and excited for these opportunities that have come my way.  I just focus on what I can control, stay humble, work hard, and keep the faith in God's plan.  It has worked out for me so far and hopefully it will continue to.  Go Rams!

-Student of the Game

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Week 2 of OTAs

     After a week off for the veterans and a week of workout/conditioning for the rookies, we were back to work for the second week of OTAs.  The first day's practice was delayed as the effects of the tornado knocked out the power for the facility and it remained that way on Monday.  There was also some damage to the fence surrounding the practice field and a lot of the trees around the grounds, but luckily that was the extent of the damage.  The power was finally restored in the afternoon just in time to get a lift and condition in for the rookies.  Coach Fisher continues to impress me with how he always keeps us, the players, in mind first and foremost in all situations including this one.  If we had moved the OTA to Wednesday, that would have been four OTAs in a row.  We might not have gotten as much out of them because of fatigue and no days in between for study and corrections.  Instead he moved it to next week, where we will have no more than two practice days in a row each week.  His reputation of being a player's coach seems to be correct so far!

     Tuesday was OTA #4 followed by OTA #5&6 Thursday and Friday.  The normal schedule for these days are all relatively the same with rookies starting around 7 am and getting done with everything around 5 pm.  Starting with breakfast it continues on through meetings, practice, lunch, meetings, and finally lifting for the rookies.  The day always starts out with a special teams meeting and this is a critical part of making the team for us rookies.  This week we installed punt and a tentative depth chart was made for practice purposes.  I am getting the opportunity to play the personal protector (PP) but am not the starter just yet (I'll try not and comment too much on depth chart and will leave that for the coaches to reveal).  This position is critical as the protection and communication for the punt team is made by the PP on the field.  I like this position of responsibility and have played it some in college although I didn't play much special teams then.  This was because I started and the coaches did not want to use me in that way.  I always learned the positions and was in every special teams meetings at Texas Tech as I was a backup just in case somebody went down.  Now I look forward to wrecking havoc on special teams and will work my hardest to earn those starting spots.

     Practice starts at about 10:30 and the weather was perfect... except for the occasional whiff of the landfill fire nearby, phew!  The week off gives us fresh legs, but also makes it to where they get sore again for practice.  But for the first day it was great as we got into the flow again without missing a beat.  The playbook is now starting to sink in for the common coverage/calls and the communication continues to improve.  But we are still constantly installing and adjusting our defense, so for us rookies it takes time and experience to make them become second nature.  I was having a pretty good practice Friday when I was hit with a new play that I had gone over but never played before... let's just say I was confused about the adjustment rules and we messed up the play call twice in two different situations.  But now I have it down and that experience has it in my head better than any playbook studying would.  When you don't have to think and worry about the plays and adjustments is when you can play your best football.  Overall, the rest of the practices went great and I even got a interception for my birthday on Thursday.  The coaches are now coaching us harder as the expectations for the rookies continue to rise.  Since we had the extra day of lifting/conditioning, we ended the week Friday with some Yoga for the rookies to help stretch and recover from the week of work.  The last week of OTAs are on deck! See you then...

-Student of the Game

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

5th Annual Rams Playground Build

     The 5th Annual Rams Playground Build was our first chance for us rookies to get involved in the community and give back.  This year we were at Washington Elementary to build a playground, set up a basketball court, and paint the classrooms.  We were split into groups to accomplish these tasks in an organized fashion.  As you can see above, I got to practice my painting skills in a classroom and gave it a red and grey color scheme (as planned by the community service team).  I had never painted before and for completing the room with no painter's tape, I think I did pretty good!  Unfortunately, now my wife knows this and probably wants to paint our apartment now... haha but I will gladly do it.  While we were painting, the other groups were working on the playground and parking lot games.  After we had worked for a while, we had a chance to play with some of the kids that attended on a few of the "Play 60" inflatable games.  Kids go crazy over this stuff!  It is so fun to watch kids compete and try their hardest to impress us with their skills.  I got to throw some footballs and kick some field goals, but found out I was not good at the latter.  We were able to do a lot of work in a small amount of time before we departed back for the football facility.  The rest of the community service team put in a lot of work before and after we came to make this playground build a success.

     I love doing community service and working with kids, but hope I can become more of an influence in my communities in the coming years and participate in more events like this.  I have participated in these opportunities that have come to me, but now I need to put myself out there and get involved.  My introverted nature makes it hard for me to push myself to reach out and make the connections necessary to find and follow through on opportunities to serve.  Hopefully this is only the beginning and I will take the next step towards becoming more of an influence in my community.

-Student of the Game

Monday, June 03, 2013

From Lubbock to St Louis

Lubbock, Texas compared to St Louis, Missouri

     Y'all are fixin' to see how us Texans fit in way up here in the Midwest! Alright I don't exactly talk like that, but I have now been in St Louis for three weeks now and there have been some differences (as expected) compared to life in west Texas.  As you can see above, size and geography are quite a bit different.  That makes for more things to do and more events in this highly populated area.  The first thing I had a few comments on when I arrived is how I talk.  I don't think I have a southern accent, but i guess I do use "y'all" and "fixin' to" quite a bit.  The players have vast diversity so differences aren't noticed as much, but the locals have caught on to where I was from just by how I talked.  The first thing I noticed pretty fast is the food.  The food has been good so far... but where is the spice?! I have always heard that the food gets more bland and less spicy the more north you go, and that seems to be accurate.  I am used to an overall spiciness of foods and sauces being from Texas and having the Mexican influence from our neighbors to the south.  From the salsa to BBQ sauce, it seems like the "HOT" here in St Louis would be the "regular" down in Lubbock.  Speaking of barbecue, we had the chance to try out a variety at the Bluesweek Festival.  It was good overall and I love some pulled pork but I can't help but miss the brisket.  I have found some around so I will have to stick to those places.  Another food item I got to try is the St Louis style pizza and the toasted ravioli.  It was a pleasant surprise as I loved the cheesy thin pizza and the tasty ravioli.  Any other STL food staples I need to try?

     The last and most obvious is the weather.  The eye test of looking out the window doesn't work here as there is a lot more humidity compared to Lubbock.  I caught myself a couple of times in a jacket because it looked overcast outside just to find out it was still warm.  Rain?!  I think it has rained as much in my first three weeks here as it would all year in Lubbock!  The storms hit quick and hard but blow by fast making the weather hard to predict.  Lubbock's weather is also fast changing and sometimes involves dust storms, snow, and hot days all in one week.  But I have never been as close to a tornado as I was this past week.  Friday night I was eating at a restaurant with some of the guys when we started to hear about the tornado warnings and sirens.  I looked at my phone weather radar and saw a big line of pink of which I have never seen before headed straight for us.  As soon as the music stopped and management told us to go into the underground parking garage, I knew it was serious.  After a few nervous moments it blew over, but not all areas were as lucky.  There was tornado damage not but a few miles away near our football facility in Earth City and even worse damage around the St Charles area.  We were supposed to have an OTA today, but the power was out around the area.  Prayers go out to those affected and hopefully all the damage can be restored quickly.  Overall, I have enjoyed everything so far and can't wait to move my wife up here and see what else St Louis has to offer.  But for now the power is back on in Earth City and we are back to work tomorrow with OTA #4!

-Student of the Game

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Week 1 of OTAs

(Pic of me crossing the Missouri river)

     Hope everyone had a great memorial day!  I am grateful for all of our veterans and everyone still currently serving to protect our freedoms.  I couldn't imagine that kind of sacrifice and dedication to our country and I greatly admire our servicemen.  It makes me realize how blessed I am and how fun my job is!  My wife came up for the long weekend and we had fun running around St Louis.  We visited the arch, Blues-week festival, gypsy caravan, boathouse of Forest Park, and did a little apartment searching while exploring the city.  I am loving my job so far and can't wait to see where it takes me.

     The first week of OTAs is in the books as we practiced Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week.  This is our first true look at practice compared to the off-season phase 2 field work.  In off-season phase 2, we can do drills and walk through the defense but we cannot be going against the offense. OTAs on the other hand is a full practice in helmets with full competition against the offense and  on special teams.  It was great to get out there and go against and with the veterans.  They set a high standard fast as far as communication on the field and running to the football every rep.  You figure out real fast whether you know the defense and what you need to work on.  TJ McDonald and I started out with the 2s and we were told several times give our coverage, personnel, and down & distance calls faster and louder.  This has gotten better with every practice as we get more comfortable with the defense and the expectations.  OTAs also help rookies know where they stand in their position and also how they measure up to the vets.  I can tell how much more precise and crisp the veterans are with their footwork in drills and also in competition situations.  I will continue to work on this and pick their brains when I get a chance.  I also had the chance to go against some great competition in 1 on 1's with the likes of Jared Cook. I got the opportunity to go against him one day and I am glad to say I had a pass break up and he didn't catch the next one (might have been a bad pass lol).  Going against this type of competition is great and helps adjust to the NFL skill level and speed.  This adjustment is evident as rookie mistakes were all over the field, but we just have to learn from it and not let it happen again.  It was a good start to OTAs and there is a lot of work and improvement still to be had.

     The veterans will be off next week and the rookies will put in more work to catch up starting after Memorial day.  We will condition and lift weights as well as get in any extra film and playbook work we need on our own.  3 OTAs down and only 7 more to go.  Just a small window of opportunity to show what we have before crunch time!

-Student of the Game

Monday, May 20, 2013

Looking for a New Church Home

     A church home will be important for me as I continue to try and become a better Christian.  People always say "you don't have to go to church to go to heaven, I just live right."  Well you don't have to know the playbook to be good in football either.  Hebrews 10:25 says, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."  I will continue to make church a priority in life because the bible is my playbook and I want to be in a community of faith that sharpens each other and is the salt of the earth.  Abigail Van Buren once said, "A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints."  I am not perfect and don't pretend to be. I still have a long way to go in my faith and church will better help me learn, worship, and serve.

     Now that I am in St Louis it is time to find a new church home.  I have been blessed to be apart of First Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas for the last couple of years.  This is where I began my faith journey that was my own, which I explained in an earlier post.  I attended and became a member of this church for many reasons.  First and foremost it challenged me to become a better Christian.  From the engaged/married bible study to the service, the message was always to the point and backed up by scripture.  I really liked our pastor and also my friend Bobby Dagnel, who was always transparent on how he was, spoke his mind, and didn't sugarcoat anything.  It was a great community of faith that prided itself on serving the lord, always providing opportunities to get involved and stay connected.  I will look for these qualities in a new church home.

-Student of the Game

Friday, May 17, 2013

Off-season Flow

     It has only been a week on the job, but it has felt like a lot longer.  After a successful and long weekend of rookie mini camp, we were given a break and treated to a Cardinals baseball game on Sunday.  But Monday it was right back to work starting our phase 2 off-season program.  This program consists of meetings, field skill development/drills, working out, and conditioning activities.  Us rookies are having to play catch up with the veteran players who have had prior experience in the weight room program and also in the playbook.  Therefore, we have a few separate meetings and instructions in order to close the gap before OTAs begin.  The staff has done a great job working us into the flow of things, and this was especially important because we were still sore and tired from rookie mini camp.  We were definitely walking around funny because of soreness for most of the week as we were getting adjusted.  Flexibility is a big focus for us rookies as we have been continuously stretching and finished off the week with a yoga class.  That was funny seeing all of us big guys doing downward dog and getting in weird positions.  It must have worked though because now at the end of the week we are feeling better, walking normal, and caught up for the most part.  We still have a long way to go, but now that we have the flow down and are more comfortable it's just time to work and gain experience. Next week we have OTAs where we get to go with and against the entire team, rookies and veterans, as we come together for the first time in competition. Until then a little rest and relaxation in St Louie!

-Student of the Game

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ask An Athlete #5: From whom I model my game

     David West comes to me with this question, "I am hoping to be a NFL scout one day and I watched your film and I see a good future ahead of you.. In the NFL who do you mold your game around? Who do you look up to? I see good footwork and you play with great motor.. I love your size and you seems to have a nose for the ball! Best of luck in the NFL.. you have the tools to be a good starter in the league!"

     Thanks for the question David!  I get this question a lot and it is a favorite for the media to ask.  Honestly I don't mold my game around anyone.  I never have been a die hard fan of any player or tried to model my game off of anyone.  I always wanted to be my own player and have my own style.  This is also because I am not a football guru that keeps up with everything there is to know about players, history, stats, and personal information.  It just is not part of who I am, but that doesn't mean I don't love football and work very hard at it.  I don't model my game after anyone, but there are a few that I enjoy watching.  I have always been a fan of a players like Deion Sanders, Brian Dawkins, and Troy Polamalu.  Deion is just plain entertaining to watch although I would never be that flamboyant.  Brian and Troy I like because they are quiet men of faith, but once they hit the field they become a different animal and perform at a high level.  They are also humble and I respect that about them.  That is how I try and play.  My motto is "don't talk about it, be about it."  As I go through this process I will look up to the veteran safeties and coaches to learn as much as possible from them.  They will give me valuable knowledge and tips to give me the best chance to succeed in the NFL.  I will continue to be humble and concentrate on what I can control, and then have faith in God's plan to take care of the rest.

     If you would like to ask me a question or want to see a post about something specific, head on over to the Ask An Athlete page to submit your question. Thanks!

-Student of the Game