GLENDALE, Ariz. - Kevin Minter remembers it well, sort of.
Karlos Dansby or Daryl Washington, Minter couldn't recall, had "cramped up or got dinged up a little bit" and Minter entered the Week 11 game at Jacksonville to play what would be his one and only defensive snap his entire first season in the NFL.
"It was like the last play of the game. I'm not even sure if I did the play right," he said with a smile. "I was kind of excited just to be out there."
Almost nine months later, Minter will get that second defensive snap and many more, albeit in a preseason game when the Arizona Cardinals host the Houston Texans on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"I'm anxious to prove what I can do; show that I'm ready to step up at this position," he said.
Minter is now the guy at inside linebacker, teaming with 13-year veteran Larry Foote to replace Dansby, who left for Cleveland, and Washington, who is suspended for the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Minter appeared in 13 games last season, and aside from that one play on defense, spent all of his time on special teams. It's the time, though, he spent watching Dansby and Washington, the time he spent watching film and the time he spent burying himself in the playbook -- all the mental prep work -- that has led Minter to believe he is ready.
"I feel like I can do it," he said. "I feel like they drafted me here for a reason. I've obviously done it before and I feel like I can definitely do it at this level."
The Cardinals made Minter a second-round pick, drafted 45th overall, after three stellar seasons at LSU, where he was an All-SEC first-team selection, All-America second-team honoree and Butkus Award Finalist as the nation's stop linebacker following his junior year.
Those accolades, however, don't carry over to the NFL, according to Minter, who knows he's still in prove-it mode.
"You'll see a lot of stars from college come into this level and just all of sudden just become mediocre," he said. "I understand the doubts and might being labeled as a ‘bust'. I take that as a chip on my shoulder. I really just want to prove people wrong."
Though his opportunity may be coming a year later than expected, Minter said he never once doubted his ability, even as he watched from the sideline, coaches encouraging him throughout.
"I always felt like this was going to be my defense eventually," he said. "It was just a grooming year for me."
Solid throughout the offseason and training camp thus far, Minter turned some heads during Fan Fest on Saturday, making several big plays during the scrimmage portion of practice.
"I just tried to show that I am that physical guy that you all made me out to be. I will come downhill," he said. "We established last year we were a pretty stout run defense and I just want to make sure people still know that we're still a force to be reckoned with in that run game regardless of who is there or not."