Underwood out to prove he's dependable


CHARLOTTE – This may be hard to believe, especially after seeing a picture of him, but wide receiver Tiquan Underwood does not have a big head.

We'll get to his humble approach to the game later, but let's the start with the hair – the first thing anyone notices about him.

Surprisingly, he does not have trouble fitting his extreme high top fade into his helmet.

"Actually, I don't because the hair is so soft," Underwood said. "I am actually about two to three inches taller with it, and I'll take going from 6-2 to 6-4."

The most common nickname Underwood has received is "Kid 'N' Play" for obvious reasons, but his NFL career hasn't been all fun and games.

After two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team that drafted him in the seventh round from Rutgers in 2009, Underwood joined the New England Patriots for the last six games of the 2011 regular season.


Underwood then appeared in both the AFC Divisional Playoff and AFC Championship as New England advanced to the Super Bowl. On Super Bowl XLVI media day, he was photographed with a big smile and the Patriots logo carved into the back of his hair.

The day before the game, Underwood was cut.

He responded to the stunning disappointment by working harder.

"The NFL is a business, and I respect coach (Bill) Belichick a lot because he is going to do what he needs to win that game," Underwood said. "Every week he makes roster changes to win. I just had to put my head down and keep working. Whether you get cut or are on the team, just continue to work hard and things will work in your favor."

Underwood then spent the next two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and his career took a turn in the right direction.

In those two seasons, Underwood started the first 10 games of his career and recorded 52 catches for 865 yards and six touchdowns. In his first three NFL seasons, Underwood posted 11 catches for 141 yards and no touchdowns.

"The best teacher is experience, and I've been getting a lot of experience, especially these past two years playing in Tampa," Underwood said. "From year one to year six I've learned from guys like Tory Holt, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, and Vincent Jackson.  Here, I have Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery and a wide receivers coach in Ricky Proehl, guys who've done it at a high level for so long that they can help me with my learning experience."

After signing as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Underwood has a great opportunity to help the Panthers offense. And with Ted Ginn, Jr. gone, the speedy Underwood has stepped into Carolina's wide receiver competition as a viable deep threat.

"I just want to be a guy that the quarterbacks and coaches depend on," Underwood said. "Whatever they ask me to do I'll do it. Whether its special teams or playing receiver, I just want to help the team win."

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