Athletes don't just wake up one day and decide they want to play in the NFL; it takes time and tools to develop the skills for success. It's the same way in any walk of life, and Lowe's through its Track to the Trades program aims to equip its employees with the ability to turn pro in the fields of construction and contracting through educational opportunities. Hopefully they, like the Panthers rookies, will thrive.
CHARLOTTE – For the vast majority of first-round picks, the expectation is clear: Make an immediate impact.
Linebacker/defensive end Brian Burns is more than capable of doing just that. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound edge rusher is a gifted athlete with the speed and maneuverability to make his way to the quarterback; that's what made him so coveted.
But getting drafted is only the beginning. Even for elite prospects like Burns, there is a lot to learn.
"My tools and my athletic ability have gotten me pretty far. But going through OTAs with the veterans, you realize you have to learn a lot more," Burns said. "You can't just rely on physical ability and the things you did in college. Some of those moves don't work here. Learning these new moves and learning from Mario (Addison), Bruce (Irvin), Marquis (Haynes) – ain't nothing but benefits coming to me."
The veterans in Carolina have always gone out of their way to help the rookies. That's part of the culture that's been established here under head coach Ron Rivera. Those vets know they need to help prepare Burns so the first-round pick can help the defense succeed.
"It's been great. This locker room is filled with good dudes. I heard at other places it's not like this, so I'm just blessed to be here. Everybody has been helping me out constantly. I'm thankful," Burns said.
The game is so fast at this level, every step, every second is precious. For pass rushers like Burns, there isn't much time to get to the quarterback before the ball is already out of his hands.
"The more you know and how well you know it, the faster you'll play," Burns said. "That split second in your head – maybe I should be here, maybe I should be there – that can make the difference and allow you to play much faster."
So far, Burns is happy with his progress.
The playbook has come naturally to him and he practiced with confidence during OTAs and minicamp. Training camp – and the introduction of pads – will be another challenge entirely.
"The playbook is not simple, but I'm adjusting well," Burns said. "I've got no problem learning the plays. It's been pretty smooth so far."