As a rookie in 2014, Tre Boston of North Carolina became a rookie starter at free safety at exactly the same time the Carolina Panthers got hot. He added more speed to the Panthers' defensive backfield and took back his lone interception of the season 84 yards for a TD against Matt Ryan in Carolina's regular-season finale.
Boston also played well in Carolina's first playoff game, but then gave up a key touchdown pass in the Panthers' season-ending playoff loss at Seattle. I asked Boston five questions this past week:
Q. What have you been doing since the season ended?
A. I stayed in Charlotte pretty much all of the off-season, just grinding with guys like Luke Kuechly and Greg Olsen. I wanted to show my teammates I was ready to work in the off-season. I want to keep that starting job, too, and make sure no one is catching up to me.
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Q. Has any play or game haunted you from last season?
A. My bad plays against Seattle. It's something you grow from. It happens in your first year in the league and it happens in your tenth year in the league. It's one of those things you've just got to work on and put yourself in a better position the next time.
Q. There is an NFL saying that the biggest leap a player makes often comes between the first and second season. Do you think this will happen to you?
A. Absolutely. This year I want to be more confident, and I think I will be because I'm more familiar with everything. I want to be that playmaker I was at the end of last season so I can show my worth.
Q. Your alma mater in Chapel Hill received its notice of allegations from the NCAA last month. UNC has been accused of years worth of academic irregularities. What was your feeling when you saw the report?
A. It's unfortunate. And it hurts me. We're going to be punished for something that no one who was responsible for it is there anymore... It had nothing to do with me, but guys before me did it, and it hurts.
Everybody wants to bash UNC. We're not the only place in America that has stuff like this. But hopefully we can get back on our feet, one year at a time. We've just got to take our hit, grind it out, and get back to what we used to be known for.
Q. How good will the 2015 Panthers be?
A. The Super Bowl could be there for us, for real. We believe that. We are clicking, and we are clicking way faster than we did last year. We've got more pieces to the puzzle. Hopefully we won't have to change up our defense this year in Week 13. The communication is great. The Super Bowl is our only limit -- that's what we've got our eye on.