by Ed Dickson
I came into this league as a pass catcher, and I love playing with the ball in my hands. But I've always been a person where it's not about me, it's about the team. I played four seasons in Baltimore. I caught 54 passes and five touchdowns in my second season. We won a Super Bowl.
But there came a time when I wasn't getting those passes in Baltimore, so I turned myself into more of a run blocker and pass protector. I worked hard to do what the team needed from me. I wanted to help us win. I still love so many people in that organization and the chances they gave me to be a professional football player. I respect the city, the organization, the coaching staff, but when I became a free agent, I wanted to start fresh somewhere else.
That place was Carolina.
I felt comfortable here. Talking to Coach Rivera, Dave Gettleman and tight ends coach Pete Hoener that spring, they said you have an opportunity to battle and compete and that's all I asked for.
Pete is an old school coach. He's going to get on you and yell at you, but he's going to let you know when you're doing it right and wrong. His key word was ownership. That was the first time I thought about it. I couldn't have been in a better place – to start my career with Todd Heap and then move on to here with a guy like Greg Olsen I could learn from, study from and get back on track. I knew in my mind we could potentially go to a Super Bowl or win a Super Bowl.
A lot of people just say that, I knew that for a fact. It took us two years before we got to the Super Bowl in 2015. I thought the chemistry, defensive presence and offense was building enough to do that. I put my head down and worked to prove I was reliable, that I could be a part of something special and to prove the type of player I was.
I knew coming in here that I wasn't going to get a ton of catches every year. I knew that coming in. I knew they had a guy like Greg Olsen and I would be in more of a role like I was in Baltimore in the last two years.
The difference was that I wanted the offense, the coordinator and the team to value the position I play. Knock on wood, injuries happen. I didn't come here looking for a backup spot. I came here to compete for the No. 1 spot. I knew it was going to be hard because Greg Olsen is here, but I was going to push him to the limit. If anything happened I'm not going to miss a beat when it comes to this position. That's not what I'm here for. I've been a starter since I've been here. I may not have 40 catches, but if you talk to Shula and the offensive guys, one of the key components of this offense is me and the versatility I have. And to hear that from them, it makes you not want to play anywhere else.
I know that I surprised a lot of casual observers at that Detroit game. I know that everyone was talking about adding me on fantasy. But for me, I just know that I've always felt like I'm that type of player. I can go off on any day. It's not about how I did it, it's about the opportunity.
When I did have that game, the one thing that stuck out is that we won. That's the only thing that stuck out. If it ended in a win, I did my individual job and I helped the team achieve its goal that day. My personal goal as a player is to help these younger players, who have never been to the top of the mountain, get there. I've been there and know what it takes to get there and I'm going to continue to pour everything into this team that I have. As a veteran leader on special teams, as a fullback or tight end, whatever you want to call me, I'm going to do my job. I'm only one player, but I'm a key component.
This locker room. This organization. These fans. They care about you as a player and as a person. I know there always comes a time when you have to make tough decisions, but if I can stay here and play here the rest of my career, I would.