CHARLOTTE – Keyarris Garrett refuses to dwell on the fact that he wasn't drafted. But it will undoubtedly motivate him throughout his NFL career.
"I don't let it bring me down," the former Tulsa wide receiver said after his first rookie minicamp practice. "But I think about it all the time."
Garrett has been given no real explanation for why he wasn't selected in the 2016 NFL Draft. He thought he would hear his named called in Round Four at the very least.
"I have no idea," Garrett said with an incredulous look. "(My agent) really couldn't tell me why they didn't pick me."
At 6-3, 220 pounds he immediately passes the eye test. His production is just as impressive. Garrett finished his college career with 219 receptions for 3,209 yards and 22 touchdowns.
"If you look at the stats, and that's what everybody wants to go by, my numbers don't lie," Garrett said. "I'm trying to show these coaches why I should have been drafted and why I was the best receiver in this draft.
"I've got to let it go and come out here and prove to the Panthers that they got a steal."
He has a believer in wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl, who spent time with Garrett at Tulsa during the pre-draft evaluation period.
"I love him. That's the main reason I came, because of him," Garrett said of Proehl. "I just felt like we really had a good connection. When I wasn't drafted, Carolina was the first team I thought about in my head."
Proehl was the one who called Garrett after the seventh and final round ended. He was honest about how the Panthers thought Garrett would fit, and the relationship they'd built made it an easy decision.
"We got a draft pick in the free agent market," Proehl said. "He takes pride in what he does. He wants to be really good. I feel like with the tools he has, he's just going to get better. He mirrors Kelvin (Benjamin) and (Devin) Funchess – a big receiver who can make plays. We can develop him and he can be a guy that can step in and contribute."
View photos of the 2016 rookie class as they participate in drills on the first day of minicamp.