Ole Miss freshman Cornerback Charles Sawyer is easy to pick out at a Rebel practice.
Why? Because he's one of the first to hit the practice field daily and one of the last to leave it.
"You can tell Charles loves ball," said Rebel Coach Houston Nutt. "He's the football equivalent of a gym rat. He absorbs everything quickly and works hard at his craft."
That type of effort left the coaches with a tough decision in 2009 - to redshirt him in his rookie campaign or let him play to get him ready for the future with game experience.
"We had an injury during the year and came within an eyelash of elevating him, but I'm glad we didn't have to," Nutt continued. "We think he could have handled it because he's a mature young man, but a redshirt was what he needed."
Charles agrees 100%.
"You know, every freshman has thoughts of coming to this level and making an impact, but a redshirt is what we (freshmen) really need," Sawyer said. "I'm real glad I took a redshirt because it gave me an opportunity to learn and get better before being put out there."
As a result of his and the coaches' patience, Sawyer believes he's ready for the next step - competing for a job in 2010.
He's taking those first steps currently during early Cotton Bowl practices, where the emphasis in most of the workouts is to hone the skills of the younger players who will be counted on next season.
"Now that I know what I'm doing and have learned what the coaches want in our system, I don't have to think as much," Sawyer stated. "I can just go out there and play.
"When I first got here, I was playing kind of slow because I was having to think so much. Now, things are more natural to me and I can focus on my technique rather than learning my responsibilities and the defensive coverages and calls."
The worst thing for a corner, Sawyer says, is to get bogged down mentally.
"You have to be sure of yourself and what you are supposed to do. You can't hesitate when you are covering the receivers we face on this level," he explained. "If you are unsure of what you are supposed to do and hesitate, you can't be an effective corner in the SEC."
Sawyer has already gained a reputation as a hard worker in the weight room and on the field, but he's not ready to rest on his laurels.
"I'm going to be the hardest-working corner out there - every day, every snap," he said. "I have gotten my bench press over 300 pounds, but I want more, a lot more.
"I'm not going to settle for the standards at my position. I want to be above the average in everything I do."
Surprisingly, the speed of the game at the college level has not shocked Charles.
"When I was in high school watching college games, I wondered if I could handle the speed of the game at this level, but once I got here I realized I can run with these guys," he stated. "That gave me confidence early. From there, it was just a matter of accepting the challenges of the position and learning."
Two veterans will return to the fold in 2010 - Marcus Temple and Jeremy McGee, who both got extensive playing time behind Green and Vaughn in 2009.
Sawyer appears to be in line, at least, for the all-important third corner designation, but he'll be battling with fellow redshirt freshman Ryan Campbell and whoever the Rebel coaches recruit this year.
Charles will not shy away from the competition.
"If you don't have a competitive nature, you don't need to play corner. Being out on that island is very competitive and you have to know going in you are going to give up some plays - it's just the way it is," Sawyer closed. "But I think I have the mental outlook to put the last play behind me and go forward, no matter what.
"I'm looking forward to proving that from now until next fall."
He'll be easy to spot.
When some of the others are already in the shower, Charles will still be on the field fine-tuning his skills.
Charles Sawyer -
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