by Kerry Taylor
Here is some more insight to the journey one goes through as he tries to make an NFL roster. More specifically, my journey. So where did we leave off? Oh yeah, I was heading on the bus to travel to Saginaw State University for training camp. This was another 1+ hour drive, “is anything close around here?” LOL. We finally arrive, and it’s time to check in and get your room key and golf cart key. Or at least I thought I was getting a golf cart key. I guess I wasn't listening when they mentioned they were only for the veterans during training camp.
After getting our key and unpacking, we had to head to our first meeting of training camp. No big deal, right? But, it was on the other side of campus and when you have the potential to get fined if you’re late, being on time has a whole new meaning. Our first team meeting was filled with expectations of the team during the season and training camp. Then, we watched some game film and had our special teams meeting. Special teams are the 3rd phase of the game that usually involves the kicker. It consists of kick-off, kick-off return, punt, punt return, PAT and field goal. They can have a huge impact on the outcome of a football game. So the meeting, needless to say, lasted a while as we reviewed each team and responsibilities of each person. If you’re a rookie and have any hope of making an NFL roster, this is where you must make your impact first and foremost. If you can’t contribute on special teams, consider your chances gone. So time to focus up and learn.
When the meeting was over, it was time to head to bed and try to rest. As a rookie, your day started a little bit earlier than the veterans. The following would be a typical day for me at training camp:
4:45am: Wake up
5:30am: Get taped by trainer (we had to be done before the veterans came in)
8:00am: Special teams meeting followed by team meeting, offensive/defensive meeting and then position meetings
8:00pm: Meetings (same break down as the morning)
11:30pm: Bed time
I don’t want to bore you with the repetition and monotony that is training camp. But, what I will do is highlight some of the things that do stick out in my mind that had happened during training camp.
High School Coach Visits
During the second week of training camp, the head coach of my high school football team, Mike Redding, came out to visit me for 2 days. It was great to see the coach who helped get my football career going and get me to the point that I was at. It was great to see a familiar face from home at that point in time. Training camp started to wear on me a bit. And to have one of my biggest supporters there to see me definitely recharged my batteries.
Throughout training camp, every rookie or new guy to the team had to stand up on the table during one of the meals in the day and sing a song. It could be your school's fight song or anything you choose. The secret was to pick something that you knew most of the words to, but also make it a song that everyone would know. Why you may ask? Because the rest of the team will join in and you won’t have to sing as long and you’re not booed off the stage and told you have to go again before camp is over. Can you guess what my song choice was? “Aight, stop what you’re doing cause I’m about to ruin the image and the style that you’re used to.” It was the Humpty Dance! As soon as I started in, the rest of the team joined me. Great choice if I do say so myself.
I was in a group that reenacted the retirement of Barry Sanders when we started training camp. We all reenacted what we thought the coaches reactions would’ve been when they first heard the news. Some people's opinion, Barry was the greatest running back ever in the NFL. So, you can only imagine what the reactions were. It was pretty hilarious.
My best catch during training camp
This came actually when my high school coach was up visiting me. We were having an intra squad red zone scrimmage. I think I did pretty good in the scrimmage, but one of my highlights in the scrimmage was an end zone catch for a touchdown. I lined up on the right hand side, ran a fifteen yard choice hook route. Which means, I ran 15 yards down field and, depending on the coverage, I either turned in or out. In my case I turned in and shuffled away from the linebacker that was covering me. I saw the ball coming, but it was thrown pretty high, but I still gave it a shot. I just jumped as high as I could and hoped for the best. I was able to just barely reach it to clutch it and come down with it. I was able to drag both my feet and get them in at the back of the end zone before the linebacker pushed me out of bounds. I shocked myself with the catch, but when you don’t think about what you're doing on the field, your true athlete comes out. Funny thing was, when I got back to the huddle, the quarterback said, “great job man, but I was trying to throw it away!”
Massage day and worst day of practice ever
Every Wednesday we had a massage school that came to give out massages. Not a bad deal at all. The students get to practice and they get a ton of willing and able bodies. So on this particular day, I was able to be double teamed and really get the kinks worked out. They tenderized my body for about 2 hours. When I was done, it was time to get changed up and head out to practice. Practice started just like any other practice for me. But I would say about 20 minutes into practice I started to get an enormous amount of aches and pains in every joint of my body. I couldn’t run or move. Basically got my a$$ kicked all practice long. Come to find out, I forgot to drink my fluids like normal especially after having my massage. The toxins that were released into my system were wreaking havoc. Consider it a lesson learned on my part. Needless to say, I drank a small pond’s worth of water throughout the rest of the day.
Well guys, there is a quick non-dragged out summary of my training camp experience. Then, training camp officially broke and we headed back to Pontiac to continue to work together as a team and get ready for our pre-season games. First up was the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. How would I fare? Hmmm…til’ next time guys. Keep striving to be a little bit better today than you were yesterday.