This weekend last year, Alex Armah's college career had already ended. And for a guy who bounced around three positions at a Division II school, there was no guarantee he'd play football again.
Most Panthers fans know how his story has played out since.
A few months after area scout Jeff Beathard recommended Armah, the Panthers used a sixth-round pick on the 6-foot-2, 255-pounder who played linebacker, defensive end and tight end at little-known West Georgia. Then, a day after Armah was released during final cuts, he was placed on Carolina's practice squad. Two weeks after that, he was promoted to the active roster.
Not bad for a project.
"You talk about a young man that gets it already – he does," head coach Ron Rivera said earlier this month. "He's usually here, beats a lot of us into the office. And it's kind of refreshing when you walk in and the guy is already in the meeting room waiting for the coach to show up."
Armah could be living a much different life in Charlotte than his college days in Carrollton, GA – population 26,000. But the 23-year old is instead following the sleeping patterns of adults three times his age.
"I try to be in bed by at least 9, no later than 10," Armah said. "At least laying down in bed so my body relaxes and gets in that, 'OK, it's time to go to sleep' mood."
After his alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m., Armah makes his way to Bank of America Stadium "by 6 – at the latest."
"Come here, get straight in that meeting room," he said, "get in 'the lab,' I call it."
Armah has appeared in seven of a possible eight games since his call-up, with most of his time spent on multiple special teams units. But after totaling just six offensive snaps in his first five games, he lined up with the offense for a total of 35 plays against the Falcons and Dolphins. Most of those snaps were at fullback, a position the Panthers' drafted him to play even though he hadn't really played there since high school.
"I feel like I've come a long way," Armah said. "I'm learning the offense and progressing every week."
But with tight end Greg Olsen set to come off injured reserve next week, and with fellow tight end/fullback Chris Manhertz ahead of Armah on the depth chart, his playing time could soon dry up. Regardless, Armah has come a long way in a calendar year, even if he's still waiting for his first official NFL touch.
"It'll come when it comes," he said. "I'm just going to keep working and eventually it will."
And when it does, would he rather it be a run or catch?
"It doesn't matter," Armah said with a smile. "A tuck is a tuck."