|COLUMN: DT Favorite can help Panthers, but keep expectations in check|
|Written by Steve Reed|
|Tuesday, 04 August 2009 21:42|
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – When the Carolina Panthers arrived at training camp on Sunday few knew much or even cared much about Marlon Favorite.
That changed less than 30 minutes into the team’s first practice Monday.
That’s when nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu tore his Achilles tendon and Favorite, an undrafted rookie from LSU, was thrown into the starting lineup.
“Who’s Marlon Favorite?,” people asked.
Don’t worry, Favorite is used to being ignored.
All 32 NFL teams disregarded Favorite for seven consecutive rounds in this past April’s NFL draft. He signed with the Panthers a day later and received a $20,000 signing bonus, which made him one of the highest-paid undrafted rookies on the team.
Of course, now everybody is talking glowingly about their new Favorite son.
“He's a neat, young man,” Panthers coach John Fox said of Favorite. “He gives you everything he's got. We saw that out of college, and I haven't seen anything different than that, which is a good thing.”
But be cautious.
My point is this: If Favorite was so good, so quick and so smart, then why didn’t he get drafted? That’s not to say the kid can’t play and won't make an impact. There have been innumerable players who’ve left their mark on the NFL after getting passed over in the draft, right Jake Delhomme and Brad Hoover? But expectations need to be kept in check at least until we see how he plays in preseason games.
Keep in mind that when it comes to undrafted rookies, anything you can get out of them is a plus.
And there’s a good chance Favorite will become yesterday’s news in the next few days if, or should we say when, the Panthers sign a veteran free agent. And, Nick Hayden ran with the "ones" today at practice ahead of Favorite.
Favorite still has a very good chance to make the team and contribute, but to expect him to step in and start right away seems a bit much to ask. Then again, this is a kid who certainly has the charisma, intelligence and desire to be great – so you never know.
“My motor is God-given,” Favorite said. “I know it's a blessing to have that feel for the game. I know when I'm out there it's ‘go hard or go home,’ and that's the mentality I have. Just keep the motor going. You're going to be tired, but that's when the mental aspects of the game take over and it takes over the physical. I just have to keep my motor going and keep rolling.”
Damione Lewis, the team’s only remaining veteran defensive tackle, said Favorite has been in his ear asking questions and looking for tips, which is a good sign.
“He wants to know, he wants to be a good player,” Lewis said. “I think it’s good for rookies to come in and ask because it’s a totally different game up front from college to the NFL.”
Said Favorite: “I love to ask questions. The only stupid question is to not ask a question.”
Favorite didn’t always play the role of extra.
He was one of the most sought-after linemen in the nation coming out of high school and earned a scholarship to LSU, where he won two national championships in five seasons.
But he wound up as a rotational starter, meaning he split time with a lot of great players including current NFL players Glenn Dorsey and Ricky Jean-Francois. And that lack of playing time might have hurt his draft stock.
Favorite seems to have the build to do what the Panthers want.
Although much lighter than Kemoeatu, Favorite has a low center of gravity, and that should make it tough for linemen to push him around. Like Kemoeatu, his primary goal when in the game will be to take up space and stop the run.
Favorite knows the opportunity he’s been presented with -- and he seems determined to make the most of it.
“It’s a shocking experience,” Favorite said of Kemoeatu’s injury. “Obviously this was devastating for the whole team. I just have to continue to work filling his shoes and do what I have to do to make the team better.”
And from an undrafted rookie, that's all you can ask.