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It's a prove it year for Tommy Tremble, who could benefit from a new offense

Tommy Tremble

CHARLOTTE— Thursday was redzone day for the Panthers, concluding their first week of OTAs. Bryce Young and his entire corps of receivers worked through multiple scenarios inside the 20-yard line, and as they did, Tommy Tremble kept making himself available.

He caught one touchdown, then two, then three.

"He was on fire today," one offensive coach said as leaving practice of the tight end.

Added Tremble, "I want to be a guy that can do everything but you know, the red zone, that's where you got to make the magic happen."

If the Panther's offense unfolds like Dave Canales and staff hope for in 2024, Tremble will catch fire even more.

Tremble was the offense's leading tight end receiver last season, albeit in a system that had little in place to maximize the position. Still, his 23 receptions for 194 yards and three touchdowns led the unit. The Panthers didn't return Hayden Hurst (now with the Los Angeles Chargers) presumably giving Tremble even more responsibility and touches this year. However, they did draft Ja'Tavion Sanders (Texas) in the fourth round of this year's draft.

As general manager Dan Morgan tempered before the draft even began, that selection was not necessarily a deterrent to the rest of the group but rather an expansion of how the unit could factor into the entire offense.

"Tommy Tremble, he's one of those guys that we hold in high regard," Morgan said at the time. "The way that he developed last year and the way that we feel like he's coming along, we're really excited about that, along with Ian Thomas. Ian's a reliable veteran that can block. He's one of the better blocking wise at the point of attack. And then Stephen Sullivan, another guy that we're excited about.

"So, it's not like we don't have tight ends because we are excited about our guys. But again, we're always going to be looking to fill our roster out and draft or sign good football players."

Canales' offense is still in the beginning stages of implementation, but Tremble has seen enough to trust that the entire unit can be a factor in the game plan.

"The way we've kind of talked about in meetings and how this offense is built, I think using our different personnel, our 11, 12, 13, shoot, maybe 14 (personnel), we're guys that can do anything that's needed," Tremble said. "This offense is very tight end friendly, and so we're excited to use everyone to the best of their ability and just try to get the most out of what we can this year for the tight ends."

The possibilities of what they can get with the unit seem almost endless as the players learn each iteration of the playbook. Some are in the slot, as Tremble explained; some are out wide, some are in the backfield, and none are relegated just to a three-technique along the line.

"There's a possibility to play anywhere and do it out of multiple personnel," Tremble said. "The way we've been taught this offense this off-season, it all makes sense. It's not trying to overload us, but it's getting a lot of information that can help us see, and it makes sense. It's not just running next to the nose. It's making sense. It's explaining why this happens and having an option for any scenario.

"And I think that's really helpful, especially how smart Bryce is. He can understand that stuff, man. It's a lot of fun."

It's easy when talking about all this unit and Tremble could be, to compare to what they have been. But the Notre Dame alum is careful to twirl around the contrast. It's not just about being a different type of pass-catching option than he was in 2023, but instead constantly proving himself to Young and the coaches.

"Every year, you got to earn that ability to be an option for the quarterback," Tremble asserted. "You got to have his trust. You got to have the coach's trust. And so I think us as a whole position group, we want to earn that and we don't want anything given to us. We don't just want, just because this offense is built this way, we can get the ball every time; we want to prove it in OTAs, in camp, in the games and show that we are a viable option every single play."

**TE - 82 - Tommy Tremble**

Proving it has long been Tremble's modus operandi. He started school early, the beneficiary or victim (depending on one's point of view) of a summer birthday. The youngest in his class, he was forced to scrap for respect from his older peers, waiting for his frame to catch up.

"I was always a little shrimp, skinny, ran funky because I was still growing and all that," Tremble admitted.

Heading into his senior year of high school, the son of a former Georgia Bulldog and Dallas Cowboy still had no college offers. For that matter, he didn't even have camp invites. When Nike held their regional SPARQ Combine the summer before Tremble's senior year, his friend Gerard Hearst was invited. Hearst is also the son of a former Bulldog (his father Garrison was a Heisman finalist running back and spent 10 years in the league), and his friendship with Tremble meant that he used his guest invite to bring along the skinny two-way player.

At 6'1", 190 pounds, Tremble knew he wouldn't post ideal measurables. But he also knew the size would come—"I'm going to bulk up eventually," he recalled thinking, "I just need to get there—and more importantly, he knew he could play. He just needed to prove it to those with a voice at the table.

A month before the Nike Combine, Tremble started planning. He'd heard that particular event allowed players to weigh in and measure with their sweatpants still on, as opposed to most events, which required shorts.

He took weighted bean balls, the kind used in weighted vests, and sewed them into his underwear, put as many as he could in his pockets without being noticeable, and stood on his tip-toes. He measured 6'4" and 225 pounds, which is how every major high school recruiting site listed Tremble on his profile.

"After that, I ran a good 40 (yard dash) because I'm actually a buck-90," laughed Tremble, "And they're thinking, wow, look at this guy at 225. I got 30 offers after that."

Tremble took that chance and spent his senior year proving he was worth it. By the time signing day rolled around, he had 16 offers from Power-5 schools. He signed with Notre Dame, choosing the Irish over his family's alma mater and dad's friend, Kirby Smart, and Georgia, once again electing to prove he could forge his own path.

As a redshirt sophomore, he declared for the NFL draft and proved to anyone who questioned it that it was the right decision when the Panthers took him in the third round.

"It ended up working out, got me to college, had a chance to bulk up in college, and it got me here," Tremble said of the weighted risk (pun intended). And leaving school early has put the tight end in position to still chase his best years.

"It ended up being a blessing. I mean, even now, I'm going into my fourth year, and I'm 23 years old…going in and seeing the difference between what I looked like my rookie year and, even last year like you can see, I kind of grown up and filled out as like a man and not just like a kid trying to play a position, especially as a dominant position as tight end."

This is the final year of Tremble's rookie contract, colloquially known as a 'prove it' year. That's nothing new for Tommy Tremble. And if the first week of OTAs is any indication, he's well on his way to proving his place once again.

View photos of the Panthers' second day of OTAs on Tuesday.

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