When the opportunity came for me to leave Green Bay, coming home to Carolina was a no-brainer.
I was playing for the Packers and didn't know how long I would stay there, but I always knew that if I continued playing, I didn't really want to go anywhere else but Carolina. There was nothing else but home.
It was an emotional decision. A gut decision. I didn't study the roster, or look at any stats from last year or anything. It just felt right. The energy was right. I wanted to come home.
I left here for my own personal reasons, but while I was gone in Chicago and Green Bay, I had some time to reflect. I felt like I really grew as a player and as a person. I understood more about who I was as a player and how I can help a team win. I'm a different person and player back here now.
When things started happening last spring, I was down in Miami where I live. Everything was getting finalized that morning, but no one really knew about it yet. I was at the facility where I work out, and by coincidence Thomas Davis was in town for a Jordan Brand commercial shoot. It just so happened to be at my facility.
So we linked up and we talked about everything over the past few years and about me coming back. It was really exciting. When we were in the car going to lunch, Thomas pulled out his phone and started making a FaceTime call. All of a sudden, I heard Luke Kuechly's voice on the other end.
"Hey Luke," Thomas said. "I've got someone with me that I'd like you to meet. He's going to be your new teammate."
Then he turned the phone to me and I said, "What's up, Luke? I'm coming home." I think he might have yelled right then. He was really excited. We were all excited.
Luke and I had never actually met outside of the field, but the dynamics in that moment between myself, Thomas and Luke were pretty special. I knew right then that we had the potential to have a special season.
When I finally made my way back into Charlotte, it was great just to see all the familiar faces. Obviously, there are still some guys on the team from when I was here, which was important. But also, the staff and people around the stadium made the transition a lot smoother, a lot easier. I was coming back to a place I knew.
I've embraced this team and this locker room. These guys are great players in their own right and will have their own legacies. But I definitely try to be helpful and be a leader in ways that I can.
Against Minnesota, for instance, I could see Luke getting frustrated with the officials after some plays. He's such a fiery player which obviously helps him be the great player that he is. But I was able to go up to him and just say, "Chill out, we're good. Next play." And he gets it, he knows.
For some of the guys like Mario Addison, I've been able to talk technique. We play the same position, and I see things and talk to him about it. We go through things and feed off each other. I've known Mario since he was a rookie in Chicago, and we're definitely comfortable to where I can add some input on top of what our coaches are saying.
Guys bring up the records and the numbers sometimes to tease me because they know I don't like talking about it. Mostly because right now, in these moments and these weeks, it's just not about that stuff at all. It's about trying to win – win a Super Bowl. That's what drives me. I want us to have success as a team. I've had individual success all my career, but to have the ultimate team success, that's eluded me.
As for what comes next, I'm taking this thing game by game. I'm hoping our last game isn't until the Super Bowl. But I'm not thinking about what happens the next morning when I wake up after our last game. When that time comes, we'll cross that bridge. But it's not like I know and I'm hiding it from everyone. I really don't know what comes next.
I'm playing every day for this locker room, and for these fans and our community. For my state. For the Carolinas. This is my home. I want us to celebrate a championship. Together.