CHARLOTTE — The last month of his life has been exciting, by anyone's definition.
But Jaycee Horn was bored.
The Panthers' first-round pick said that he was excited to get on the practice field for minicamp, since it meant getting back to the kind of routine he enjoys.
"It's back to normal for me," the rookie cornerback said. "For three years, I was in the process of being with a team, working out with a team, practicing. And it felt kind of weird when I was by myself training and getting ready for the combine.
"But now that I'm back on a team, it feels like everything's back to normal for me, it's just on a professional level right now. I'm happy to be in the spot I'm in."
For the last three years, Horn's schedule was built around a football calendar. He knew when games were, when practices were, when the spring season kicked in.
But when he was outside the University of South Carolina's process as he prepared for the draft, Horn found himself getting restless with all the free time he had.
While he was training for his pro day, and working out on his own, there were more hours to fill than activities. Zoom calls with NFL teams took up some of that time, but he grew restless, and he realized how strange it was not to have the familiar rhythms of a season to get ready for.
"I knew right away," Horn said. "As soon as I was done with college, I just noticed that I had a lot of time on my hands after I worked out with nothing to do.
"So I was ready to be back on a team, and being surrounded by players, meeting with coaches, learning ball; so I'm happy now to be in that position."
Horn spent a lot of time watching film, trying to pick up tips on technique as much as he could. Otherwise, he did what a lot of 21-year-olds do.
"Played video games," he said. "I don't go out much, so I was bored for the most part."
Of course when he was playing "Madden," he played with the Panthers (especially after they took him with the eighth overall pick in the draft). But he has no expectation of what his player rating would be on the game.
"I know it's going to be low, so I'm ready to get on the field and hopefully play good enough to improve it," he said with a laugh.
Rookie minicamp gave him a chance to put that work into play against actual players instead of virtual ones, as he was back to practice reps against his old friend Shi Smith, Terrace Marshall Jr., and others.
"It gives them the same thing it gives me — just healthy competition," Horn said. "They're great receivers; I feel like I'm a pretty good DB, so we're all just working trying to get the best out of each other."
And thankfully for Horn, he has things to keep him busy now.
View photos from Saturday's rookie minicamp practice at the Atrium Health practice fields.