by Kerry Taylor
The time has finally come, game prep for our first preseason game against the Dirty Birds! The best thing about this trip was that I’d be able to see my father and his family. Knowing that gave me a sense of relaxation and not the usual tremors of butterflies I have been feeling each time I take the field. Which allowed me to have even more excitement about my FIRST NFL GAME!!
We arrived at the stadium around 4pm for a 7pm game. I started to go through my usual pre-game routine. Every athlete has a routine. Mine was pretty simple; I would spend about 10 minutes stretching myself out while listening to Calypso music. Then, off to the training room to get my ankles and wrist taped up. Once that was completed, I headed out to the field. With each step forward the lights got brighter and brighter as I journeyed down the tunnel to the field. It was my first time in a dome for game day. To see everything that goes on behind the scenes was an amazing sight. After the awesomeness of what was going on wore off, I continued with my routine. I went through a numerous amount of my own run blocking drills and catching drills. I always had to catch a total of 100 balls before I headed back into the locker room. The 100th ball was caught and back into the locker room I went, to get ready for team drills and pre game.
Finally the time has come for the game to start. The adrenaline was high and my excitement level was through the roof. But, I had to wait my turn to get some live action on the field. So I stood on the sidelines and looked around for my dad and family. I was able to spot him. He was up in the upper deck, and I waved and refocused on the game. As time went by the 1st quarter came to a close, and finally my time came. “Kerry, go in with the second group at tight end,” yelled my coach. My first play ever in a live NFL game ended up being a play action pass. We broke the huddle and hustled to the line of scrimmage. As I lined up, placed my hand on the ground, I looked up and lined up right across from me was the Falcons number one draft pick that year, Patrick Kerney. It was no big deal, at least not on this play anyways. The quarterback bellowed out the cadence and finished his cadence with an assertive shout of “hike”! I released off the line at a 45-degree angle down field and then made my way across the field to a depth of about 15 yards. This route was called a drag route. They were in a man-to-man coverage, so instead of sitting in hole between the linebackers, I kept running towards the sideline to get open. The Q.B. and I made eye contact, that’s when I realized the ball was about to be launched my way. The Q.B. cocked his arm back and then everything slowed down as the ball took flight from his hand. Seemed like it took forever to get to my hands. When it finally made contact with my hand, I snatched it out of the air and clutched onto it for dear life. Once it was secured, I turned up field; out of the corner of my right eye I saw two defenders coming to tackle me. Then, I came up with the genius idea that I was going to hurdle them. So airborne I went. Boy, was I wrong! One guy went high and the other went low, and I was driven out of bounds. Wahoo!!!!! You have no idea how good it felt at that moment. I wish I could’ve stopped time for that moment just a little longer. I had one more catch in this series and then the drive stalled. As I jogged to the sideline, I hear my name being yelled out loud. As I looked around, low and behold it was my dad. Somehow my dad made his way down to the second row. To see the excitement on his face was priceless. The next series I was able to show that my skills as a run blocker had gotten better. Being that I wasn’t as big or long as some of the other guys, my technique has to be flawless. I’m proud to say their 1st round draft pick did not make any tackles when he was my blocking assignment. When the game came to a close, I ended up with 4 catches for roughly 75 yards. I wish I could’ve done more in this game, but I felt I proved I could catch, get open and block. Unfortunately, we lost the game, but it was a win for me because I proved I could hang with the big boys.
The rest of the preseason did not work out the way we wanted, we lost all our preseason games. I like to believe I ended up with a pretty good preseason. But, as our last preseason game against the Dolphins came to a close, my attention was redirected. Up to this point, I made it through every cut, but there was still one more to go. Will I make Detroit my home for the season?
Look out for the next installment to see what happened when I sat down with Bobby Ross!