SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Trai Turner is one of the youngest offensive linemen in the NFL, but he did recently reach a major milestone by turning 21.
How did he celebrate such a momentous occasion?
"We didn't have practice," Turner recalled, "so I probably laid on my bed, sore from OTAs."
Turner, the Panthers' third-round draft choice, has a one-track mind these days, and it has him on track to start at right guard as a rookie.
"I didn't know what to expect," Turner said of the first-team reps that he's received so far in training camp. "I just knew I'd come in and work my tail off, and then wherever the chips fell, that's where they landed.
"I can't say I'm not happy for the opportunity. I'm just going to try to make the best of it."
From all reports, his best has been pretty good considering he played just two seasons at Louisiana State University before entering the draft.
"Trai has done a really good job," Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil said. "Our playbook isn't an easy playbook. You would think you'd start off like you're teaching him the alphabet, but he's getting a lot of advanced looks early on and really putting the whole thing together.
"He still has a ways to go – it's still a learning process for him – but for the most part we really like what we're seeing out of Trai."
Turner counts Kalil, who is entering his eighth NFL season and is now the undisputed leader of the offensive line, among the top reasons he's excelling so quickly.
"I couldn't ask for a better person to be next to," Turner said. "Some things I don't know, and he's able to help me right on the spot. A lot of the questions I have, he's able to give me thorough answers and is able to explain why it does work this way and why it doesn't work that way. I'm very appreciative of him; he's a great guy to be next to."
Turner also leans heavily on his position coaches and credits the Panthers deep defensive front for toughening him up for what's to come.
"We have two good coaches in Ray Brown and John Matsko that take a lot of time to work with us, and with any of the veterans I can go to them with questions and get the feedback I need to move forward on the field," Turner said. "And it's tough against our defense. When it's a six- or seven-play drive and Star (Lotulelei) comes out and somebody like Dwan (Edwards) comes in or K.K. (Short) comes in, it's like, 'Man, I don't get a break.'
"They come in fresh and you're tired, but that does nothing but prepare you for the season."
It isn't easy being a rookie offensive lineman, especially one as young as Turner. But at the same time it's something he's done all his life, and he's landed in a great spot for a smooth transition to the next level.
"I think I fit in well. I don't even have to try," Turner said. "We all like to eat and all like to joke and kid around. At the end of the day, we're all just guys that play football. You can make it bigger than it really is. We just love to play football, and linemen love to be around linemen."