Another training camp, another preseason, another 16 games, another shot at winning the Super Bowl. But for the Chargers’ rookies, this isn’t just another year. It’s the beginning of what hopefully will become a long career.
Saturday marks the first preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, and for the newest members of the Bolts, it’s a time to step up and prove why they were picked for this team. Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley noted that he’s eager to see them in a pro game.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting game for us as a coaching staff, really, to watch our younger guys,” Bradley said. “It’s going to be really a fundamental game…(to) see how the younger guys have evolved from the first day of training camp.”
“They’ve done a good job in training camp, but this is why you come to training camp, to get ready to play in ballgames,” Head Coach Anthony Lynn added.
The biggest challenge for a rookie is to transition from college ball to pro, and for second-round draft pick Uchenna Nwosu, the challenge is made harder by the fact that he’s playing dual positions: outside linebacker and edge rusher at defensive end on third downs.
“I’m not perfect,” Nwosu said. “I haven’t really played behind the ball in a while so being able to play stacked a little bit, then coming down and doing multiple things, it’s a learning curve…I think I’m picking it up pretty fast, pretty smooth. The vets, they’re like extra coaches out there, so any questions I have, I can ask them. They’re pretty much helping me along the way and it’s getting better and better.”
And he is picking up both positions quickly. Nwosu has strung together his best practices of training camp this week, including multiple would-be sacks across consecutive days of practice. He also added an interception on Thursday.
Now, he’s ready for the big time: his first NFL game.
“(It’s a) dream come true,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been thinking about since I (began) playing football. To be able to go out there and live out my dream for the first time is going to be a surreal moment. I’ll embrace it, but I also came to play.”
Fourth-round draft pick Kyzir White echoed Nwosu’s feelings.
“I’m very excited (and) ready to get after it,” he remarked. “It’s been a while since I put the pads on and went against another team so I’m looking forward to it.”
The jump from college to pro has also been a big hurdle for White, who played safety at West Virginia and is now playing linebacker. However, he’s keeping pace.
"I have to focus more when it comes to fronts,” he said. “I have to be tuning in to reading keys, reading alignments and reading the running back’s steps coming out the backfield. Little things like that, but it is a big transition…In the Big-12, I feel like it’s pretty fast-paced so I feel like it’s not really that big of an adjustment speed-wise for me.”
While both rookies are learning to take their game to new heights, there’s one thing from college Nwosu won’t be leaving behind – college rivalry. Nwosu, who played at USC, will face his old rival quarterback, UCLA alum and now Arizona Cardinal Josh Rosen, when he lines up Saturday night.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him again,” Nwosu laughed. “I’ll give him a good nice hug like I did in college.”