Typically, I don't mind being known as a quiet guy. But I think after more than a year as a Carolina Panther, that deserves a little more explanation.
I like to think that I just choose when to speak a little more carefully. I like to be more comfortable first. I like to feel that I'm really knowledgeable about something when I speak. Because of that, I get the reputation as a quiet guy.
I was a little nervous coming here last year when I was drafted. The reputation of this defense coming off the Super Bowl was tremendous, and in the first few weeks of OTA's, they threw me right in there. I was real anxious leading up to the season. Coming from a smaller school at Samford, you don't play in front of as many fans. You don't go against the high-level competition every week.
I remember my first game at Denver last year. I couldn't hear anything. My head was hurting. Leading up to the game, I wasn't nervous at all. I knew I was going to be starting and matching up against Demaryius Thomas. I was looking forward to that matchup. I'm a competitive guy. I want to go up against the best.
But once I got on the field, and it was time for the defense to go out, I was a little nervous. The crowd was so loud, the seats were rattling on the bench. I couldn't hear anything. I was sitting next to Kurt Coleman and we were talking when our offense was out there and I couldn't even hear him. I remember going on the field for the first series, and I had butterflies. After the first couple of series I calmed down a little, but the altitude had my head hurting. It felt like the helmet was squishing my head, and I got really tired with nerves and being anxious for real.
Last season didn't go as we planned. We were losing and giving up a lot of yardage on defense and I had to work through an injury. But the final Tampa game really helped me in the long run. I was playing well against Mike Evans who is one of the top-tier receivers in the league. I had that interception and made a few plays early on. That game really helped me to just realize how good I can be. It showed me what I had to work towards more consistently.
That rolled over into the offseason and OTAs. Coming into this year, I was really confident. I've gone against so many great receivers in this league already, especially in our division. I feel confident going into this year.
For me, confidence means being more vocal.
Last year, even if I thought I knew something, I wouldn't really say it because I was unsure. I was nervous about if I was wrong or not. I didn't want to be wrong. I was always want to be right if I'm going to say something. I wanted the guys around me to know that I knew the defense and that I knew what was going on.
But Kurt Coleman has helped me with that. Last year, he was my teammate, but he was also like a coach. He was cheering us on. He corrected us when we were wrong. He was helping us get calls and helping us line up or what not. So he was kind of a coach on the field. This year I was able to coach myself up more because I know what's going on. So now, having guys like Mike Adams and Captain Munnerlyn come in, it helps me prepare for each week.
I've become more vocal with all of them. I ask them, "what kind of things do you do off the field? How do you prepare yourself throughout the week? What do you eat? Do you get massages? Where do you get extra treatment?"
I watch those guys when they watch film. I look at how they take notes.
When I walked onto the field against San Francisco in our season opener this year, things felt different. I was calmer. I didn't have the same anxieties. I'm more comfortable with everyone now, in the locker room and on the field. Even if I'm wrong, I'm still going to speak. I'm going to call out everything I see, even if it's wrong. Of course, I know the defense more now and I feel like I'm right more often than not now.
I'm comfortable. I'm more knowledgeable.
I'm talking now.