Darius Philon's rookie season was a rollercoaster.
The defensive end flashed his potential over eight games, but was limited by a hip injury that forced him to the Reserved-Injured; Designated to Return list early in the year.
Philon seemed primed to make an impact after an impressive preseason campaign, finishing with seven tackles and one sack. However, a hip injury suffered at practice kept him sidelined until December. While others may be bitter over that type of misfortunate, Philon had the opposite reaction.
"I kept thinking I'm blessed," he said. "I'd lie in bed, stare at the ceiling and my mind wandered at times. But I kept thinking how I'm blessed."
Philon feels that way for a very good reason.
The 22-year old welcomed his first child into the world during training camp. Darius Jr. was born in early August and immediately became the driving force motivating his father in all he does. While there were plenty of highs from his performance on the field, they all paled in comparison to being a first-time father.
"When I'm on the field, all I think about is doing what I need to do to help provide for him. How can I keep a meal on my table for my family? When I'm out there playing, I don't care what it takes. I have to get the job done. That is my motivation. I represent my family. If I don't perform, I feel I let them down and myself down."
There is a look of determination in Philon's eyes when he speaks about his son that makes it apparent his world revolves around his family.
"I learned a lot about what is important to me last year. I learned a lot about myself, too. I learned I'm always going to be a go getter and I'm always going to get up when I'm knocked down. No matter what, I'm going to come to work and not hold myself back from anything. I have to be a role model for my son and make him proud. He has made me grow a lot. He's my young boy. I have to set an example for him like my dad (did) for me. My dad pushed me to a higher standard, and that's what I'm going to do for my son."
That includes building off the potential he flashed when on the field as a rookie. The 6-1, 300-pounder is pleased with how he performed, but wants to do so on a more consistent basis.
"I had a setback last year, but my rookie year overall was good when I was on the field. I expect a lot out of myself. I grew a lot mentally last year. My confidence level is very high heading into this season. I try to be whatever the coaches want me to be. I go out, handle my job and do my business."
In addition to his family, Philon has many supporters in his corner including Corey Liuget. During training camp, number 94 explained how he saw himself in the young defensive end.
"I see a lot of good potential in him," Liuget said. "Actually the kid reminds me of myself when I first got here. He's athletic, and has a (big) lower body like myself. He's built like me down low. He looks pretty good. I think the only thing he has to work on is his hands a little more. Overall, he looks great. He can strike (as) a defender. He can play the run and also rush the passer."