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Sullivan starts over again

Posted Jun 23, 2009


Cornerback Reggie Sullivan during OTAs. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)

CHARLOTTE -- It took joining the Panthers for Reggie Sullivan to learn what he didn't know about playing cornerback.

He'd played the position at Johnson C. Smith University, then moved on to the Tennessee Valley Vipers of arenafootball2 in the hopes of earning an opportunity like the one Carolina gave him last month. He knew that working with an NFL team would require an adjustment to the speed and physical nature of the sport at its highest level.

But he didn't know that from the first organized team activity in May, he would learn that areas of his game needed improvement.

"(There are) little things that I thought I was good at, that I'm not so good at," Sullivan said.

What Sullivan would like is a chance to stay with one team for a while and learn, something that hasn't been possible in a whistle-stop trip through football that included one season at Hopewell High School in Huntersville, N.C., one at Winston-Salem State and another at Johnson C. Smith.

Add in previous childhood stops in Miami, Fla. and Asheville, N.C. -- where he attended nearby Enka High School, playing one season there -- and it seems as though Sullivan has barely had a chance to get settled anywhere when it comes to football.

"It's definitely," he began, then paused, adding, "a road."

For two years in high school, Sullivan didn't as much as touch a football before latching on with Hopewell's team as a senior in 2002. Prior to signing with the af2 Vipers earlier this year, Sullivan had amassed just full seasons of football experience, giving him plenty to learn.

But there wasn't much he could pick up on traditional football from his time in af2, which is a minor league of an outfit that isn't even playing games this year. The Arena Football League cancelled its 2009 season because of economic difficulties.

"You're not required to do as much at the cornerback position; there's not really a lot of zone and it's mostly man-to-man," Sullivan explained. "The zone coverages here are definitely a tougher adjustment."

It didn't even help much to keep him in football shape, he added.

"The conditioning was what I did on my own -- getting up at five o'clock every morning and running on the field," he said. "That's what got me in condition. Definitely not Arena."

But it did help him earn some notice.

"I was there for about two and a half weeks in training camp, and then a coach from the Canadian Football League saw me and thought I'd be a good addition to their team," Sullivan said. "He brought me down to Orlando for their minicamp and worked out well there. After that we just decided to give it another shot to contact Carolina and see if they were interested. They gave me a workout and I did well, so they signed me the next week."

In barely a month, he'd gone from playing from the minor-league circuit to a league that isn't even playing games to lining up opposite Pro Bowler Steve Smith -- whose skills told him once and for all that he was at a loftier level than he'd ever experienced.

"The little techniques that you can get away with in college and Arenaball -- you definitely can't get away with them here."

And with that realization, his four weeks of learning at OTAs began.