On the first day of orientation I was introduced to Tony Dungy while he was coming out of the weight room. He told me I should be familiar with the schemes and terminology and to bring the same excitement and energy I showed at SC. That was encouraging. He reminds me of Coach Carroll in that he has a firm relationship with his players and both are defensive gurus.
The camp was all I expected and more. The facilities, observing the way they prepare, both for meetings and on the field, it was really special. The veterans like David Gibson or Marvin Harrison, they had reviewed the materials prior to the meeting so that they could ask questions from a coaches perspective instead of as a player who is just there listening. In college you consider yourself a student of the game but to really understand what to look for on film is what separates the good from the great.
I watched the way Marvin Harrison perfects his craft, such precise routes. He and Peyton Manning were so in synch after so much time off. You appreciate that. In college you can be a half step behind and make up for it with closing speed but here there is so much less margin for error. I covered Harrison and on one play I was all over him but he still went up with one hand and made the grab. It was a great catch and part of me was impressed but the other part was like "dang, I was right there". I liked watching Edgerrin James. Play after play, he just goes, his last play was as hard as his first. You can see why these guys are the leaders.
I had a great time out there competing. I had a chance to make a couple plays and I took advantage. The adjustment isn't going to be as hard because I recognize a lot. I would see some of my fellow rookies with deer eyes because they haven't been exposed to what I've been exposed to at SC. It feels like you have a slight edge and when you're searching for an edge you'll take it any way you can get it. I've got an opportunity to compete at corner as well as on special teams at kickoff return and as a gunner. I'm going to have to battle and compete but I can make up a lot of room on the depth chart. I can make an immediate impact on special teams and then work my way in at corner once I learn how to communicate at the same level as the veterans. The more comfortable I become the better off I'll be and that comes from putting in the work when nobody's watching. I found myself studying more in those 3 days of camp, man, it felt like I was getting ready for finals because I was up all night taking notes with a highlighter in my hand preparing questions for the next meeting. Once you think the game can't get any faster it magnifies and you need to be ready. You take a deep breath, roll with the punches and sooner or later it slows down. It's exciting right now because you can only prepare so much for a turning point. I've addressed as many issues as I could and now it's time to go. I can't tell you how much this means to me. To play at this level, I'd have done it for free because I have that much respect for the game.
It was interesting to be with Mike Doss after having the opportunity to play with Troy at USC. It's refreshing to play next to the two best safeties in college football and to watch their games. Both are great guys but they are different players. Troy relied a lot on instinct and Doss is more focused on angles and tendencies. You learn to appreciate great players like that. After playing against Dallas Clark in the Orange Bowl and then seeing him in camp I have that much more respect for him as well. At one point he took every snap in practice and just worked himself so hard.
I'm getting ready to graduate from USC on May 16th with a degree in sociology and right after that I hop on a plane for Indianapolis for a "summer school" camp from May 19th through June 12th. It's basically a time when the coaches will re-introduce everything. You could compare it to spring ball because you're re-learning all the schemes and techniques so that it becomes second nature in the fall. During the camp I'll be keeping a journal to share with the readers on WeAreSC.com and I hope to be as candid as I can be about my experiences. Look forward to talking with you then and Fight On."
Darrell Rideaux will be the guest speaker at the WeAreSC dinner to be held at the end of June in Pasadena. To receive information on the final date and location of the dinner please check this site later in the month or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a reservation form when available.