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.