Charles Tillman, 11th-year cornerback
My "Welcome To the NFL" moment was my first preseason game, when I saw my uniform. That was it.
Zack Bowman, sixth-year cornerback
My moment was my first game in the National Football League. We played the Minnesota Vikings. … I had a muffed punt [I recovered] in the end zone for a touchdown, and then we had a few guys on defense go down, and I was in the game. I had an interception. And then I was out for the season. I tore my bicep. For me, it was like, I hate to be out for the year, because I want to keep playing, but it made me realize that I could play in this league.
Sherrick McManis, fourth-year cornerback
I was hurt before the draft, and I wasn't able to do any combine. No 40-[yard dash], no vertical jump, no anything. And God blessed me to get drafted still. Houston drafted me. That year I worked hard to get healthy and I made the team. That was my 'Welcome To the NFL' moment, just making the team and contributing.
Isaiah Frey, second-year cornerback
It was probably last year when I came out to my rookie minicamp and I had messed up on a play. My coach jumped on me about it.
Major Wright, fourth-year safety
Training camp was definitely like a welcome. The first preseason game, you're doing more than what you normally do in college. You're doing special teams, defense – you're doing everything. And not just one quarter. You're doing it all four quarters.
Chris Conte, third-year safety
My first game starting [sixth game of 2011, vs. Minnesota]. My first year, I didn't really expect to come in and start. I thought I would play special teams and maybe get some reps on defense. But to come in and start pretty early my rookie year was like, "Oh wow, I'm in this thing. Here we go."
Anthony Walters, third-year safety
My fourth preseason game my rookie year. You hear about it from some of the veterans, but you never really understand what will take place that game, the amount of reps you'll get on defense and special teams. You virtually play on all the special teams, and you're playing on defense. That was probably the most tired I've ever been in my life playing football.
Robbie Gould, ninth-year kicker
My 'Welcome To the NFL' moment came in our playoff game against Seattle my second year. I was still trying to find my way. Still trying to understand how to kick in Soldier Field. Worrying about how to figure out the winds and how to prepare myself for the 20 week-plus season. I think hitting that field goal gave me the confidence to say, "Hey, you belong here. Just keep working hard and you're going to get a lot of these kicks."
Adam Podlesh, seventh-year punter
My 'Welcome To the NFL' moment was the opening kickoff of the first game I ever played. I don't kick off, but I kicked that one off. Our placekicker got hurt against Tennessee when I was playing in Jacksonville. Josh Scobee got hurt in pregame, so I had to kick off the whole game. The last time I had kicked off was probably my second year in college.
Devin Hester, eighth-year kick returner
Probably the first [regular season] game of my rookie year. The welcome moment was when the jets flew over my head. It was a new feeling. It's what the NFL is all about. A real football player will tell you that those jets mean something. I don't know what it is. It gives you chills from your pinky toenail to the last hair on your head. When those jets fly over your head, you know it's football time.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. @readjack
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