CHARLOTTE – When he got the call from head coach Ron Rivera that the Panthers were drafting him in the first round, linebacker Shaq Thompson was so excited he thought a visit to the hospital might be required.
"My heart was beating so fast. I didn't know what to do. I had never been so excited in my life," Thompson said at his introductory press conference Friday.
Thompson admits it was a rare moment where he felt his heart racing out of control. He's typically calm, cool and collected.
"I feel excitement in football raises your anxiety level," Thompson said. "That's just me – I am a calm person. I don't really get too excited for things, unless it's a big win. Other than that, I am really calm and relaxed."
Throughout his entire press conference, Thompson exuded that relaxed demeanor. The heart rate had settled.
He started by thanking the Panthers for giving him a chance. When asked what he likes about the organization, he replied: "Everybody is family oriented."
His NFL family has high expectations for him. The three-year starter from Washington finished his career with 233 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, six interceptions, 16 passes defensed and two interception returns for touchdowns.
The versatile athlete also played defensive back and running back during his college career. He rushed for 456 yards and two touchdowns in 2014, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
But the former All-American has no desire to take hand offs from quarterback Cam Newton in Carolina.
"No. Not at all, actually. I was drafted for defense," Thompson said. "That's what they see in me and that's what I see in myself. I'm going to work and improve as a defensive player."
The first step in that process? Work on shedding blocks.
"Everybody needs something to improve on, and that's probably the biggest part of my game that needs improving," Thompson said.
But priority No. 1 for the newest Panther is all about earning the respect of his new family members. With his humble, workmanlike approach, that shouldn't take long.
"I told Thomas Davis I have to come in and earn (the veterans') respect," Thompson said. "That's what I am going to do. That's the person I am."