Andre Neblett's professional experience so far has been a family affair. He chose to sign with the Panthers because his mom lives in South Carolina, which makes for an easy visit. Also, he has drawn inspiration from his father, Stephan, and his uncle, both of whom played college football but fell short of ever making it to the NFL.
Neblett (6-foot-2, 300 pounds) is determined to write a happier ending to his story, which is why he's working diligently to shore up the holes in his game.
"I notice at this level they really emphasize technique and doing things right and not messing up a lot," he said. "I'm definitely getting in my playbook and working on all the things the coaches tell me I need to work on."
One of the reasons Neblett feels he has a leg-up on his fellow rookies is the defensive scheme in Carolina is similar to the one he played in at Temple.
"In college we ran the same defense that we are using right now in Carolina," he said. "You need to pick up some of those things from college and use them in the nose tackle position here. It was definitely a plus for me going to work for the Carolina Panthers."
That's not to imply Neblett has already found a comfort zone in the Big Leagues. He still associates mostly with fellow rookies rather than leaning on veterans such as Tyler Brayton and Tank Tyler. Also, he's yet to learn the defense to the point where he can stop thinking and start reacting.
Nonetheless, he is happy to chalk up his first few months in the pros as a valuable learning experience.
"It was really interesting," he said. "I learned a lot of things having to do with the drills, the paces at which the coaches run practice, etc. I know there isn't room for mistakes. I can tell that by the way [John Fox] coaches. I just have to grasp onto things quicker."
Neblett will use the time between now and training camp to bolster his knowledge of Ron Meeks' defensive system. He'll also work out and stay on top of his conditioning.
He is confident that, if he puts it all together, he has plenty to offer the Panthers.
"I offer toughness and quickness," he said. "I have leverage over most of the guys playing inside, so I have the ability to use my energy to get into the backfield and make plays. Hopefully, I can help this team win some games this year."
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