Rookie minicamp is meant to make a team’s newest members uncomfortable. A new playbook, a new setting, new teammates — even with all this change, it’s vital for each player to remember what got them to this point.
Carolina Panthers rookie Terry Godwin gets that reminder regularly, courtesy of a couple former teammates.
The seventh-round draft pick in 2019, along with the Kansas City Chiefs’ Mecole Hardman (second round) and the Chicago Bears’ Riley Ridley (fourth), represent the first Georgia draft class to feature three wide receivers. They remain in constant contact as they begin their NFL careers; they’re no longer able to see each other every day, but it’s 2019 — so their cellphones offer the next best thing.
“Me, Mecole and Riley, we’ve all got our own group message,” Godwin said following the final day of Carolina’s rookie minicamp Saturday. “We just keep ourselves uplifted and tell each other we’re watching and to keep doing what we’ve been doing that got us here.
“Just keep pushing, when things get tough, you’ve just got to dig deep and go back to our roots.”
So that’s what Godwin did, starting with a rainy Friday morning session. Several players dropped passes as quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Will Grier flung soaking-wet footballs through a steady curtain of water. Except No. 17, who fully-extended to snag the occasional balls thrown behind him, in front of him and over his head.
All without gloves.
He credits Georgia for that habit.
“At Georgia, rainy days, wet gloves — you go no gloves,” he said. “It actually helps with the hand-eye coordination. You’ve actually got to look the ball in. So when you put the gloves on, it’s easier.”
Weather aside, Godwin said the physical portion of Carolina’s camp once again reminded him of his college days; the Bulldogs did a lot of conditioning during his four years.
Playing in the SEC also prepared Godwin for the every-day need to bring his best to the field — a trait Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said was purposefully common among each of the team’s seven draft picks.
But bringing your “A-game” at this level involved both physical and mental preparation, the latter of which is the true test of rookie camp. For Godwin, that meant staying in wide receivers coach Jim Hostler’s ear, asking questions and applying advice and criticism.
Head coach Ron Rivera took notice.
“I think the biggest thing is you see the eagerness, the willingness to learn and get things correct,” Rivera said Saturday. “That’s one thing we also watch, is who’s taking coaching.
“Watching Jim with Terry and listening to them talk, you sit there and feel really good about it because you know the young man is absorbing what he’s being told.”
Even if Godwin struggles to crack what projects to be a deep rotation at receiver, Rivera said after the draft the rookie would get an opportunity to make an impact as a returner this season — something Godwin didn’t do much of at Georgia.
If his rookie camp was any indication, he’ll continue to seek coaching as learns the nuances to playing both receiver and returner. And he knows encouragement is a text message away.