by Kerry Taylor
A few months ago I told you the story of my NFL Draft experience. I had a few people recently ask me, “What was it like to be in the NFL? You never finished telling us the story.” So, I guess we can consider this part two to my NFL journey. When I last left you back in April, I left you with my teammates picking me up to head back to school to celebrate the great news.
After all the celebrating was done and we recovered from our celebration the previous night, it was time to get back to work. The first hurdle to make an NFL team was mini-camp in Detroit. I had to report in about 3 weeks. So, I focused on staying in shape and doing all the football drills I could to get myself ready. I also had to make sure I was finishing up school strong, and getting ready for graduation. Balancing the two wasn’t really that difficult, but I made it very difficult on myself because I never thought I did enough each day to prepare myself. I mean, reality started to set in that I would be running routes against and blocking some of the best in the business.
The 3 weeks flew by and it was time to head out for a weekend mini camp in Detroit, Michigan. As I arrived at the airport to head there, instant nervousness overcame me. Every question I could ask myself ran through my mind. Did I do enough? Am I fast enough? Am I big enough? Is this really happening to me? It was a mentally draining flight. When I finally arrived at the Detroit airport, it was finally time to meet some of my potential future teammates. As we all climbed into the shuttle to go to the Pontiac Silverdome, I was able to let out a sign of relief. By looking at the eyes of some of the other players, you could see all the emotions flowing through them. Some feeling the same way I did, some having confidence, some feeling lost and others feeling cocky, like their stuff didn’t stink. So we made the hour trek to the stadium, exchanging our own college stories along the way.
When we arrived, all of us headed in to see the trainers and get checked out. Then came the playbook. It was 3x the size of my college playbook. And then I had to pick up our special teams playbook. Really? A special teams playbook? Things were about to be different.
NFL PlaybookI received these two playbooks that were about to become my two best friends. So I started at it, we had to be on the field in a few hours, so I had to study what was going to be going on at practice that day. Initially my head was spinning. I mean, you saw the size of the playbook and also because you have to decipher between old terminology and new terminology. What we called Rip in college pertained a formation, for the Lions, it was a motion. So the initial practice was tough but all of us got through it. I like to believe I had a pretty good first couple of days. That is until the last day. The field was recently being renovated to put a sprinkler system in. One of the last plays that we practiced before we headed back in to meetings, was a pass play where I had to run a flag route, also known as a corner route. Basically, I run down the field for 8-12 yards and then break on a 45 degree angle towards the pylon. Welllll, the great thing was the ball was thrown to me and I caught it. The bad thing was that I landed in a hole that was not fully refilled yet and ended up severely spraining my ankle. Thank God it happened at the end and not the beginning because then I would have missed out on my opportunities to show what I could do. Mini camp came to a close and it was time to head back to school for graduation and then report back a few weeks later for training camp.
Graduation went well and flew by. It was time to pack up and make my voyage back to Detroit to try to make the team. The hurdles I had to go through to get back were tough. I was still using an electric stim machine on my ankle. But, when it came to checking in at security, they weren’t having it. I was detained just long enough for me to miss my flight to Detroit. And, of course, there were no more flights out that day to make it there. So, I had to wait until the next morning to catch a flight. When I finally got there, it was time to get to work. We had 3 days of rookie practices and then all the veterans showed up to get ready for the season. I was about to practice with and against some good players in the NFL, being that they aren’t New England Patriots, you may not know who they are. I had to block Robert Porcher and Stephen Boyd, two All-Pros. The one thing I didn’t get to do was block for Barry Sanders, he ended up retiring that year before training camp. I did meet him, for those of you that are wondering. After the media circus died down from that event, we had 2 practices at the Silverdome and then headed out to Saginaw, Michigan for training camp, or should I say the corn fields.
You hear a ton of crazy things about training camp, but are never sure what’s the truth and what isn't. I was about to find out. If you would like to know what training camp is like, I will fill you in next time. See you in Part 3.