CHARLOTTE – When young athletes dream of someday playing in the NFL, their visions don't follow the winding path that Mike Remmers has in real life.
But however Remmers got here, he is now living out his dream, currently standing as the Panthers' starting right tackle.
"It is tough switching from team to team and getting the offense down, and it's really tough on my wife having to move around, but it's been an amazing opportunity," Remmers said. "I know a lot of people that would absolutely love to be in my shoes.
"It took six teams to get me here, but I feel the best I have about things here. I'm playing better than I ever have before, and I want to just keep growing and keep getting better."
Undrafted in 2012 after starting every game each of his final three seasons at Oregon State, Remmers signed with the Denver Broncos that May. He was waived during training camp and spent all but Week 1 on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad.
Remmers lived in two more NFL cities in 2013, starting out the year again on Tampa Bay's practice squad before being signed by the San Diego Chargers and making his NFL debut. He played in just one game and was inactive for four games before being waived. Claimed off waivers by the Minnesota Vikings, he was inactive for another four games.
Two more cities welcomed Remmers in 2014 before he finally found a home. He spent nearly two months earlier in the season on the St. Louis Rams' practice squad before the Panthers, reeling from injuries along the offensive line, signed him in late October.
He was active in his Carolina debut but then went back to the familiar role of being inactive the next two games. But on the Panthers' trip to Minnesota in Week 13, with starting right tackle Nate Chandler having landed on injured reserve, Remmers was inserted in the starting lineup.
You wouldn't have known it on the surface of Carolina's 31-13 loss that day, but it marked the start of something special for Remmers and the Panthers.
"It was unreal," Remmers said. "I'm just so thankful for that opportunity, so thankful for the coaches having the faith in me to put me in there and show what I could do."
In the lopsided defeat, Remmers helped the Panthers rush for a season-high 178 yards, a number they shattered the next week in a lopsided victory. Carolina gained 271 yards at New Orleans – the third-highest total in team history – in a 41-10 romp that jumpstarted a four-game winning streak that landed the Panthers in the playoffs.
This offseason, Chandler is back healthy, and the Panthers traded up to draft offensive tackle Daryl Williams in the fourth round. Head coach Ron Rivera has said Remmers remains the starter at this point, but Remmers certainly knows the drill.
"Specifically for me, knowing this is my sixth team, there's no such thing as being comfortable," Remmers said. "You're competing every single day. Anything and everything you do, the coaches are watching, so you've got to always be at your best.
"You've got rookies and undrafted guys coming in every year, so the biggest thing is just giving that 100 percent effort, because you know what? When your time comes and you're not playing anymore, at least you can look in the mirror and tell yourself that you gave everything you've got."
Remmers is focused on controlling what he can control while keeping in mind that it's all about what's best for the team. The competition among teammates can be fierce this time of year, but Remmers said the competitors can't afford to be fierce toward one another.
"It's a tough business, something that most people don't experience in their jobs," Remmers said. "You want to be friends with your teammates. That's a huge thing, having chemistry, especially for the offensive line.
"At the same time, it's cutthroat when it comes down to it. Everyone wants a spot on the roster - that's everybody's goal. So you've got to be able to develop chemistry while also keeping that edge."
As far as chemistry, things hadn't clicked for Remmers at his previous stops quite like they have in Carolina. And as the competition rages on, Remmers couldn't be more excited about the Panthers' ability to compete for NFL glory this upcoming season.
"Oh my gosh, this has been my best year by far, and I'm so excited for this season to start," Remmers said. "I think we're going to be something real special.
"I've been with a number of teams, but this place is something special. I've never experienced anything like this. I've enjoyed each and every day here. This is definitely my home away from home."