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Camp Chronicles: Tajae Sharpe on Adjusting to NFL


With Tajae Sharpe

The first training camp of my NFL career just wrapped up this weekend.  It's definitely nice to get that aspect of football out the way, to be able to go home and sleep in my own bed – but there's another side of me that doesn't want to take anything for granted.

I've always thrived on being self-motivated, pushing myself to my limits, and working harder than everyone else.  I'm not 6'6", 240 pounds, or running a 4.2, so growing up I had to do certain things that other players didn't have to.  In some ways, I guess they were more naturally gifted than me, which is why I always wanted to work with a chip on my shoulder to make myself stand out from everyone else. 

There's a few guys out here that have shown me what it takes to achieve that.  Veteran guys like Harry Douglas, and now Andre Johnson, have been such a big help to me, and I just try to pick their brains every chance I can.  They have decades of NFL experience between the two of them, and just to see the way they approach the game every day, how they take care of their bodies, and how they focus on the smallest details on and off the field, has shown me what it takes to accomplish what they've been able to. 

I'm doing my best to follow in their footsteps, while building my own path in this league.  With that being said, after a few weeks of training camp and a couple preseason games under my belt, I've noticed some big differences between the college and NFL game.

It's a business.

First things first – the NFL is a business. 

In college, your job is to wake up, go to class, go to football practice, then come home and study for your next exam.  Here, this is your job, and your homework is to focus solely on football.

I feel like in college you have a different bond with your teammates.  You're going to be with each other for a guaranteed four years.  In the NFL – players can get cut, released, traded, and you may wake up one day and end up on another team.  You never know how it's going to go. 


It's way faster.**

The second thing I would say is the speed of the game. 

In college, your top guys were fast, no doubt.  In the NFL, you have defensive linemen that are running 4.5's. 

There's a whole bunch of freakish athletes on the field, so naturally the tempo of the game is going to pick up.  Going through OTA's, training camp, and a few preseason games, I feel like the game is starting to slow down a bit for me. 

Yet, some of the guys have said the tempo picks up even a little more during the regular season, so I'm just going to have to keep adjusting to whatever they bring.

It's a mental game.

The last thing I would say is the mental aspect of the game.  Like I said, this is your job now.  You don't have to worry about getting up and going to class, so now you have to put those hours in watching film, studying your plays, and learning your assignments.

But that's kind of the great thing about it.

The more time you get to focus on your craft, the better chance you have to become the best player you can be – and the better we become as individuals, the better we are collectively as a team.  It's actually such a relief now that I don't have to go home and do homework, because the more hours that I spend grinding and perfecting my craft, the better player I'm going to be in the long run.

Sure, there's a few things I miss about the college game.  They say there's nothing like playing college football on a Saturday night, but this is the biggest stage.  This is what you worked so hard for.  This is your lifelong dream.  It's a blessing and an honor to play in the NFL, and I'm sure I'll find out soon enough.

The Titans select Massachusetts WR Tajae Sharpe in the fifth round (140th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft. (AP Photos)

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