When you talk about surprises in training camp, start with John Brown. Nobody expected a third-round receiver from Pittsburg St. to come in and absorb the offense the way he did. He's the talk of camp, still; which speaks to how rare it is to come into the NFL from a small school and do what he's done.
But then there's Bruce Gaston. Gaston is an undrafted rookie free agent from Purdue. He's 6-2, 310-pounds, and he is explosive. Gaston is quick off the ball and has a speed to power ratio that belies his draft status. Gaston has flashed ever since the Cards put the pads on and popped in the mouth guard. He's done well in 1-on-1 drills working against the O-lineman. But he really showed up in the goal line scrum at Fan Fest.
This is how rookies make teams -- especially undrafted rookies. You have to "pop;" you have to get the coaches' attention and make them notice you. And many times rookies get the attention they need only to have it drift away when the preseason games start -- unless they have unearthed a key discovery about themselves.
Gaston is Exhibit "A" when it comes to rookies making the transition, mentally, from college to the NFL. In order to get the most out of your ability you need to be confident and you get confident by doing and having success while you're DOING. Having success while doing carries an epiphany for many players: I can play with these guys…I belong here…I can do this.
Every player, from first-round pick Deone Buccannon to undrafted free agent rookie Bruce Gaston, has got to have that football epiphany. You have to say at night, when you lie down and it's you and the pillow, I belong here.
I think Gaston has had that moment. Let's see if it translates this Saturday.