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Rookie arrival


SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Around this time last year, many of the Panthers' rookies that checked into the players dorm Thursday for the start of training camp at Wofford College were checking into dorms at their respective schools for the start of football practice.

Their arrival may have had a familiar feel, but they're in for an entirely new experience over the next 20 days.

The heat will be on, literally and figuratively.

"In a sense, you're a freshman again," Panthers first-round pick Luke Kuechly said. "I know it's going to be hot – that's the one thing I've heard.

"The thing I always try to tell myself is that it's football. I've been playing for a while; it's just a little different now. It's a new playbook, and it's that next step. It's real now, and it's going to be exciting."

Many of the rookies who checked in a day early will be closely watched by many of the fans who will crowd Gibbs Stadium on Saturday night for the opening practice of camp. Their coaches will be watching, too, evaluating their every step as the Panthers begin the process of weeding their 90-man roster down to 53 for the start of the regular season in about six weeks.

Some rookies will need less time than others to get comfortable with their surroundings.

"It's good to know where to go," rookie wide receiver Brenton Bersin said. "All the other guys are asking me."

Bersin played for the Wofford Terriers the past four seasons, practicing countless times on the same fields that the Panthers will call home until mid-August.

"I never lived in this dorm," Bersin said, pointing to the players dorm, "but I camped in that dorm every year, lived in that one my freshman year, the one behind me my junior year, had classes right over there.

"It's a weird feeling. Going in to get my equipment, I saw all my coaches from Wofford and talked to them a little bit."

Bersin knows his way around Charlotte, too. The Queen City native's family lives in the same neighborhood as Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson. For Bersin's first two years at Wofford, he played with Richardson's grandson, Johnson, a tight end for the Terriers.

"I went to Mr. Richardson's house once a year for a barbecue with my family, and I got to talk to him a couple of times, got to sit in his box (at Bank of America Stadium) once," Bersin said. "This is a dream come true. It's just awesome to be here."

While Bersin has weathered the sizzling side of Spartanburg summers for four years, cornerback Josh Norman has dealt with it most of his life. The Panthers' fifth-round draft pick enjoyed the summer breezes at Coastal Carolina the last four years, but he grew up in Greenwood, S.C., about 60 miles south of Spartanburg.

"I know how humid it's going to be because I'm from here. Gosh," Norman said. "But it's great to come back home."

The new experience for Norman will be dorm living – he's never called one home.

"I always lived off-campus," Norman said. "It's pretty new but not really because I had friends who live in dorms, so I saw how they lived."


Stopping  by for a visit, however, isn't the same as staying the night, just like preseason practice for the college football season isn't the same as an NFL training camp.

Welcome to the NFL, Spartanburg style.

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