The chance to battle the Colts on Sunday night to start the season on national television. If you can't get your blood pumping for that, then you might be dead. I plan to play this season with all the energy in the world and all the support in the world from my coaches and teammates so I'm going to go out there and work on everything that I've learned. Knowing that Fred (Robbins), Osi (Umenyiora) and Michael (Strahan) all have confidence in me is a big help too.
It's not like I went from not taking snaps and being thrust in there when someone went down. I've been out there and taken a lot of snaps. I started the last two preseason games and played against quality opponents. That first-team O-line of the Patriots is a very quality line. I've seen a lot. I'm just going to keep studying tape like I have been and go out there and do my best.
I found out before the Jets game that I was being moved in as the starter. Of course they made no promises to me. It's definitely not just being handed to me – I'm a rookie. The second I slack off in practice I could lose that spot. But as long as I keep working hard and showing them what they want to see they won't feel any pressure to get anyone else in there.
As a rookie, unless they're paying you $10 million you don't expect to start right away. When you don't get drafted until the second day, there's really no guarantee that you're even going to make the team. I knew I was going into a good spot when I first got here. (DL) Coach (Mike) Waufle told me I had a chance to compete. I've been looking forward to it. I'm excited about it.
Honestly when camp started I was hoping that I could be the third or fourth DT in the rotation – just a guy that could come in and spell people. I figured I'd have to learn the 3-technique and the nose and play wherever they needed me. This is unexpected, a dream come true and I'm looking forward to it.
I could really tell I belonged here the first time I got a chance to roll with the ‘1s.' I started by rotating in and I didn't feel comfortable until I got a chance to go at it consistently. Going against quality interior linemen like Chris Snee, Shaun O'Hara and Dave Diehl showed me that I could compete against anybody. When I first had the opportunity and had one of those linemen tell me ‘good job,' I felt like I belonged.
I have to admit it is a little weird taking an older guy's job. I know that regardless of what I do this year, next year there's going to be someone else coming in and trying to take my job. You can't dwell on that. We all have opportunities to play and I'm just happy to get my shot. I'm just going to focus on doing my best and not letting any of these older guys down.
The veterans have tried to stress to me that every single week the intensity goes up. I thought the Jets game was intense. That's nowhere close to what it's going to be like during this season. I'll try to gather as much information as I can on the opponent every week, but when it comes down to it, it's going to be me and that center and occasionally a guard and it's going to be a battle of wills. I think I'm ready to fight it.
All our rookies on defense are going to make an impact. Gerris (Wilkinson) started a game when Carlos Emmons was down and Mathias (Kiwanuka), as hard as it is going to be for him to break that starting lineup, he's been making plays left and right when he gets in there too. Whenever you get a chance to come right in and compete on a division champion, that's a special opportunity.
This is so much tougher than the college game – both mentally and physically. In college, if you get a little tired you can maybe take a play off and just stay in your gap. If you're not foaming at the mouth every play up here you're going to end up on your back. It's much more intense and more of a grind with a much longer season. I have a good support staff here and from back in college so I should be fine.
Both of my D-line coaches have had a big impact on me. Jay Peterson, who took over as defensive coordinator at Eastern Michigan, and Eric Washington, who was my coach the last two years at Northwestern, both had a lot of faith in me. When I got older, Coach ‘Wash' refused to let me feel comfortable. I started for three years but he kept pushing me the whole way.
Coach (Randy) Walker, who unfortunately passed away recently, was always a driving force and always had his foot up my butt. It was good to see Northwestern put a whipping on Miami (Ohio) in their opener for Coach ‘Walk.' I feel like I have a little bit of that in me now. We might not have always seen eye to eye, but I always knew he wanted the best for me. Here, Coach (Tim) Lewis treats me like a rookie but he treats me like he expects me to help this team, which is all that you can ask for.
I've been blessed with a tight-knit family. I grew up without my father in my life for the most part. But all the other males in my family and my mom are very close. It was always school-first. When you go to a school like Northwestern, you know it's going to be school-first. But now this is my job, so I'm excited about being able to focus only on this.
Rookie Diary: Barry Cofield
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