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Back to school

Posted Jul 27, 2012

Nothing could be more exciting than living in a college dorm – for a college freshman.

But a few weeks in, once dorm life begins to feel like prison life with its cramped conditions and shared bathrooms, co-eds start dreaming of greener pastures, like maybe an off-campus apartment with ample parking for their hand-me-down car and a swimming pool.

For the fortunate few college students whose post-graduate job search begins with a trip to the NFL Scouting Combine, a serious upgrade to their living quarters soon is in order – ample parking for their luxury cars and a swimming pool in the back yard.

But no matter how much money they've made and how far they've distanced themselves from futons and Ramen noodles, the end of July drags them back.

And so it was once again for Panthers players Friday morning, when they checked into their spartan dorm rooms in Spartanburg, S.C., for the start of training camp at Wofford College.

"This is what we do. This is our job," tight end Greg Olsen said. "If this better allows us to prepare for the season, then so be it."

Olsen truly felt like a college freshman all over again a year ago. He checked into his dorm for what he thought would be his fifth training camp with the Chicago Bears, only to be traded to the Panthers later in the day.

So he checked out, and less than 24 hours later, he moved into his dorm at Wofford.

Olsen felt at home with the Panthers almost immediately. Friday, he left his still-new home in Charlotte for his summer home in Spartanburg.

"When you're home, there are a lot of distractions. Your family is around and other things are going on, but right now we're in the dorm with just each other," Olsen said. "It allows you to just focus on football. It gives us two-and-a-half weeks of just getting the offense and defense down and coming together as a unit for the start of a long season."

When quarterback Derek Anderson arrived at Wofford last year after signing as an unrestricted free agent a few days into camp, Olsen was the only Panther player he knew.

Anderson embraced dorm living.

"I knew Greg, but that was it, so I got to know guys up and down the hall," Anderson said. "You do get a little bit of downtime, and guys just get to hang out and get to know everybody."

Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, Panthers players will do everything together. They'll tackle torrid conditions on the practice field, and they'll enjoy sitting in air conditioning but might occasionally long for the heat of practice as position meetings drag on.

Then, over a rejuvenating meal or back at the dorm just before getting some much-needed shuteye, they'll commiserate over the grind that they're enduring.

And, when camp breaks on August 15, they'll be closer as a group than they've ever been.

In the end, that's what it's all about.