CHARLOTTE – Brandon Williams seemingly came out of nowhere at training camp last season to secure a spot on the Panthers' 53-man roster.
He remained there the entire season, yet often seemed nowhere to be found.
Not that you'll catch the potential pass-catching tight end complaining.
"Coming from where I came from, it's been a huge blessing to even be here," Williams said. "I got to learn a lot, see a lot and experience a lot of things that I never had before. It was a dream come true.
"Even though I didn't get to play a whole lot, I got to sit back and watch these older guys do what they do and grow from that."
Williams had a lot to learn. His last team before the Panthers was Portland Bible College – the basketball team. A diagnosis of spinal stenosis ended his college football career at Oregon barely before it started, but while playing basketball last season, he underwent further medical testing and received clearance to participate in last year's NFL Regional Combine in Seattle.
The Panthers took notice, and then Williams served notice with a strong training camp. He played in nine games as a rookie but saw very few snaps on offense. This offseason, armed with a season of seasoning, Williams will work to change that come the 2014 season.
"The competitive side of me obviously wanted to play a little bit more, but I never got down," Williams said. "I'm going to work as hard as I can to do what it takes to hopefully get on the field a little bit more. I'll do whatever the coaches want me to do and hopefully I'll get more of a role next year.
"I'm going to prepare myself for the season by getting better at everything."
Williams, a 6-4, 250-pound physical specimen, said he plans to spend the offseason working on "everything, from playing more confident to knowing football a little better and being technically sound."
He plans to improve with a helping hand from Greg Olsen, who broke his own franchise record for catches by a tight end in 2013 with 73.
"I pretty much plan on staying around here, working with Greg when I can, working on getting more mobile and becoming more athletic and getting stronger while also working on my blocking and route running," Williams said. "I've learned a lot from Greg, and I know I can learn more."
Given Williams' raw potential combined with his imposing physical stature, he's drawn comparisons to Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas. Thomas, a standout basketball player at Portland State who played one season of college football, caught just one pass his first two NFL seasons before exploding for 12 touchdowns catches this past year.
It isn't time to proclaim Williams a future Pro Bowler, but he does intend to do what it takes to take the next step in his development.
"After being here awhile, some things have slowed down for me," Williams said. "And God willing, when I get an opportunity, I'll able to capitalize on it."