Meet R.J. Stanford, Part III

For R.J. Stanford, the game is always about speed. His ability to run stride for stride with receivers is what prompted the Panthers to select him in the seventh round. Now, as he shares in this interview, it is the speed at which he learns Ron Meeks' defense that will make or break his rookie season.

For an exclusive one-on-one with Utah assistant coach John Pease, click here.

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Training camp is about to begin, which means the speed and intensity will jump up a notch. That's a tough concept for rookies like R.J. Stanford to fathom, as their heads are still spinning from OTAs and minicamps.

"The expectation was so high, so I had to learn fast," Stanford said. "I had to make fewer mistakes and translate everything and pick up the defense fast. It was a learning experience, that's for sure, but it went well."

Everything has been moving fast for Stanford ever since draft weekend, when he and his friends and family gathered in Chino, Calif., to await the next step of his journey.

That step took Stanford to Carolina when the Panthers selected him with the No. 223 overall pick in the NFL Draft. He quickly took advantage of his new surroundings, seeking out veterans who could assist him in his transition.

"I just kind of latched on to Richard Marshall and Chris Gamble and some of the other veteran corners," Stanford said. "I like to see how they do things, because they've been successful over the years. I did some offseason training with Richard Marshall just to get in the groove."

Carolina's veterans aren't the only ones providing guidance. Stanford also keeps up with former Utes who have gone to the NFL, picking their brains about the transition.

That list includes cornerbacks Sean Smith and Brice McCain, who were drafted in 2009 by the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans, respectively.

"I keep in touch with most of them and ask how their rookie season went and what can I expect to try to help me be more successful in the league," he said. "I take their advice and try to learn from their downfalls."

His college support system is an undeniable asset, but Stanford knows there is a big difference between the NCAA and the NFL. The latter is all business, which takes some getting used to.

"Everything has to be on-point," said Stanford of life in the NFL. "You can only make a few mistakes and you have to go out there and compete every day. In college, you have your set starters and your set positions. But [in the NFL], you have to compete every day for your job and you either keep it or you lose it."

Stanford has much to work on in order to win a roster spot. He must refine his technique, gain a better understanding of the defense and improve his ball skills. Additionally, he needs to dominate on special teams, which will provide his best chance of making an impact as a rookie.

There's a lot of work to be done, but Stanford is ready for the challenge.

"I just need to be consistent," he said. "I have to go out there, play hard and keep learning the defense and get comfortable within the defense and just establish myself as a player. I want to be known as being aggressive and being one of the greatest players that ever played the position. I plan to earn my keep, be aggressive and make plays on the ball."

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