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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mini camp... Max importance...

     Day 1 of practice: This was the first full work day for us rookies.  We woke up at 6 am and didn't get a break until we were done at 9 pm.  Physicals, various meetings, and weight room introductions were all part of the day and were worked around practice and eating.  After two days of preparation and paperwork, it was such a relief to get on the field and practice.  That is when stats, drafted/undrafted, hype, and talking all goes out the window and the players are going show what they know and what skills they have.  We had a good first practice and now have a feel for the flow and expectations of the coaches.  Coach Fisher's approach is one that doesn't try and kill us in rookie mini camp.  He is much more interested in if we have the skills, knowledge, execution, and production that it takes to make the team.  Once that is established, they will work us into the program and get us where we need to be from a strength and conditioning standpoint.  The mental part of days like these are more exhausting than the physical.  Being focused that long in high tense situations and trying to learn a new defense at a high rate of speed begins to fatigue you.  But nothing that we can't handle and we are used to... now it's our full time job and we must dedicate ourselves, body and mind, to perfect our craft.  Speaking of which, I'm going to get off this and get back in the playbook...

     Day 2 of practice: This day made us push harder and fight through fatigue and soreness.  We started early again and went straight to more defensive installs.  The defensive concepts are nothing new to me, this is only my fifth defense to learn in five years so there is only so much you can do.  But the terminology and all of the adjustments can get difficult and start to run together.  Luckily after the installs we get to walk through these defenses and get all the mistakes and kinks out before practice.  No matter how much you train and are in shape nothing can duplicate the intensity and movements of a practice, much less a high pressure NFL practice.  You go as hard as you can every rep and every drill but you also have to get back used to your helmets, ankle tape, and helmets.  So from the combination of all that from day one we were sore and hurting but had to push through and continue to prove ourselves.  Along with the defensive back drills, 1 on 1, and 7 on 7... we got the chance to do some special teams.  This is where a lot of rookies and free agents make the team so I was excited to go through the drills.  To finish up the day we lifted weights and worked on flexibility.  Overall this weekend as been a great confirmation that I am in the right place.  I like the coaches, staff, team, and city.  The culture is a positive family attitude with high expectations. I have a good start and am going to keep working to make this team and help get where we want to be.

-Student of the Game

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The long road to St. Louis

     The long process of becoming a rookie has only just begun.  It all started yesterday with a long road trip from Lubbock, Texas to St. Louis, Missouri.  I am leaving Texas Tech with great memories, successful college football career, a degree, and an amazing beautiful wife.  It was a fast five years and now that college is over, there is no more certainty or path set out for us to follow.  Now we are headed on to the hectic business of the NFL and trying to make our own way.  A contract only means that you have an opportunity with the team, but you have to prove yourself in rookie mini camp, OTAs, and training camp if you want to make the final cut.  To start my journey I drove 838 miles and 12 hours yesterday and I am now in what might be my new home of St. Louis.  We got straight to business today as we started rookie mini camp. After paperwork and equipment fitting, we had preliminary meetings and prepared for tomorrow where we will have a full day and get back to why we are all here... football!  We will have to take the playbook information overload, and show we have the ability to learn fast and be able to turn that into production on the field.  I am ready to get out there and start to prove myself, one play at a time.  Day 2 on deck...

-Student of the Game

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Becoming a Ram

     The 2013 NFL Draft has come and gone leaving some player's dreams fulfilled and others wondering where it all went wrong. Day 3 of the draft was my projected draft day, and it seemed like the longest day of my life.  I watched it unfold at my uncle's house in Dallas where I decided to have a small gathering of just family.  I wanted them there for me whether it went good or bad.  I had tried not to get my hopes up as I know plenty of players that have done everything right and still fallen through the cracks.  But after putting up good numbers and film I was getting mid round grades, private workouts, team visits, and contacted by many NFL teams showing their interest in drafting me... I had a good feeling.  As it started at 11 am, the picks began to roll in.  Nervously watching and waiting for my phone to go off as the picks and rounds went by.  With every call everyone in the room froze and expected it to be "the call."  But it was always a "we might pick you here scenario."  I started to get a bad feeling as calls were beginning to come in about free agent offers even as early as the fifth round.  Teams that had said they planned on drafting me, selected other safeties and the draft was coming to an end.  I had not expected to go undrafted, and was a little disappointed and frustrated.  But it didn't surprise me either because I had prepared myself mentally and knew it was a possibility.  As my phone went crazy from 11 free agent offers, I had a short time frame to make a decision that would affect the rest of my life.

     Head coach Jeff Fisher, special teams coordinator John Fassel, and secondary coach Chuck Cecil all had called me and expressed how interested they were and wanted me to be a St Louis Ram.  After evaluating my options and figuring out the best situation and opportunity for me, I was more than happy to sign a free agent deal with St Louis!  I was so excited to finally have a home and ready to get everything finalized.  I had a contract and was ready to make it official.  I had trouble getting my contract sent back in and actually had to end up going to a neighbors house to fax it in!  It was a long day that started with a radio interview at 9 am and ended when I finally sent in my contract at 11 pm.  After all was said and done, I am truly blessed and thankful to have this opportunity.  It didn't happen like I had imagined, but I have faith in God's plan for me and can't wait to move to St Louis and start working to become a Ram!  This is only the beginning of a long and hard road of becoming a NFL rookie.

-Student of the Game