CHARLOTTE — As Derrick Brown finally walked into Bank of America Stadium for the first time in late July, he took a moment to appreciate his new surroundings.
"It was unbelievable," Brown said. "I'd always dreamed of the moment. Finally becoming part of this organization, being able to be in that moment was awesome."
In a pre-pandemic world, Brown would have first been in the building for a press conference the day after the Panthers drafted him with their seventh overall pick. He would have participated in an offseason program to get better acclimated to the pro level. Training camp would have been in Spartanburg.
But Brown did his best not to let the current world bring him down.
"I didn't really think about it like that," Brown said. "I want to be where my feet are and just go from there."
The Auburn product has mentioned that philosophy before when discussing COVID-19's consequences on preparing for his rookie year. As training camp continues, the same thought process has helped him maintain focus.
"A lot is going on. While I'm at work I'm present. I'm following my duties. But also when I'm at home, I'm a father, fiancé — I have a lot of roles," Brown said with a chuckle. "It's definitely important for me to be where my feet are because it's obviously important for me to get my work done and take it home with me, but also be there for my family, too."
When he's in the building, Brown is focused on putting himself in the best possible position to succeed. One element of that is how he'll fare next to veteran defensive tackle Kawann Short.
"It's definitely something special. KK's a monster inside," Brown said. "It's just good to be able to put my game right next to his."
Brown added the most significant thing he's picked up from Short so far is to enjoy the process.
"Try not to do everything in one day. Don't get frustrated because you can't do everything in one night," Brown said. "But taking those steps every day will get you to where you want to be."
One such checkpoint was putting on the pads nine days ago. Brown said that made things feel more like football, especially as a defensive lineman. The last time he'd worn them was for Auburn's loss to Minnesota in the Outback Bowl back in January.
Given that it's been so long and there are no preseason games this year, Brown feels the scrimmages are critical for getting ready to open the season.
"We love those days because it's what we do. We play football. All the other stuff is an added bonus," Brown said. "Lining up and being able to play, that's definitely the base of how we do our business."
There's still a couple of weeks left to wait, but Brown is looking forward to seeing another color at Bank of America Stadium when the Raiders come to town.
"It's been a long time," Brown said. "First one's here in North Carolina, and I'm excited to be able to just be able to do that."
As the Panthers start padded practices on Monday, view pictures of the current 80-man roster in numerical order.