CHARLOTTE -- Tight end Kevin Brock isn't daunted by trying to break into the NFL as an undrafted rookie -- not after spending four years as a football walk-on at Rutgers before finally earning a scholarship for his redshirt senior season.
"It's familiar territory," he said. "You come in and you've got to work your way up. As a walk-on, you definitely have to earn your keep. You have to show the coaches that you can make plays and that you can be an asset to the offense. It's the same way here."
During summer school in June, that meant seeing plenty of snaps as one of the three tight ends available for the practices. At times, he even found himself surrounded by first-teamers, lining up with the top unit as the Panthers worked on goal-line situations.
"That's definitely a boost of confidence, that early on I can be trusted to go in and do a job," Brock said. "But from here it's just earning more trust from the coaches."
Even though the pace of the goal-line work was slow and contact non-existent, just lining up alongside offensive tackles named Gross and Otah was another reminder of just how far he'd come since arriving at Rutgers in 2004.
Back then, Brock a 195-pound walk-on wide receiver from Hackensack (N.J.) High School who didn't have any scholarship offers from Division I-A programs.
"I was a very skinny receiver. I didn't get many looks," Brock said.
"(There were) some smaller schools, like Wagner College, which I was strongly considering. Then I thought about going to prep school for a while, but in the end, Rutgers was the right choice. I had a couple of my teachers talking to me about the program; they had played there before."
Yet becoming a scholarship player would require a position change, two seasons as a reserve,and another in the starting lineup -- as well as arduous weight-room work that saw him add 60 pounds of muscle to his frame.
"Not having the body that I needed, the weight room definitely helped," he said.
Finally, after starting as a redshirt junior in 2007 and helping Rutgers to just its second bowl win in school history, the Scarlet Knights gave him that treasured free ride. Nothing else changed, however -- a testament to how the school values its walk-ons.
"It was nice for my mom to not have to dish out so much money. But I felt like the same player," Brock said. "(The coaches) didn't treat me any differently. They treat everyone the same way, (regardless of status)."
He found the same environment with the Panthers, receiving plenty of work during organized team activities. That justified his decision to sign with the team -- a choice based on the Panthers' decision to target other positions in the draft.
"A lot of teams drafted tight ends and wanted me to come in, but those didn't seem like favorable situations," Brock said. "My (repetitions) wouldn't have been as much as they are here. So I feel like this has been the best choice."
Now, it's a matter of turning that choice into a career. But after toiling so long for a scholarship, he knows what kind of work becoming a pro will take.