This isn’t peewee anymore.


1. J.J. Watt (defensive end, Houston Texans)

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“I remember squaring up at the line for the first time as a rookie, and the tight end across from me is just staring me right in the eye and chewing on a dead bird. I thought to myself, ‘Damn, people never chewed dead birds in college. The NFL ain’t no joke.’ Now, four years later, I see players chewing on all kinds of dead animals and it never fazes me for a second.”


2. Von Miller (linebacker, Denver Broncos)

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“First day of training camp my rookie year, I was getting ready to run out to the practice field when Coach [John Fox] stopped me and asked why I was wearing shoulder pads. I said, ‘Well, everyone else is—shouldn’t I?’ And he said, ‘Von, pro players don’t wear shoulder pads—their bones are just that big.’ That’s when I knew I was playing at a whole different level.”


3. Jamaal Charles (running back, Kansas City Chiefs)

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“I was Thomas Morrell in my old life. When I got drafted, I went to Roger Goodell’s grotto to bathe in the cleansing waters and receive my football name. As I emerged from the lagoon, naked and pure as a newborn, a name came to my lips, one that I didn’t invent but that was given to me. I uttered, ‘Jamaal Charles,’ and Thomas Morrell was no more.”


4. Luke Kuechly (linebacker, Carolina Panthers)

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“I found a crisp dollar bill on the field while stretching before my first game! Welcome to the NFL to me, indeed!”


5. Richard Sherman (cornerback, Seattle Seahawks)

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“So, I’m trying to leave the stadium after my first practice, and the other guys are laughing their asses off at me. I’m like, ‘What’s so funny?’ Finally, Kam [Chancellor] comes up to me and says, ‘Richard, this is the NFL. We don’t get to leave the stadium.’ I felt so stupid. But I was a rookie. I didn’t know.”


6. Andre Johnson (wide receiver, Indianapolis Colts)

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“As you walk out of that tunnel to 72,000 fans all screaming your Social Security number in perfect unison—that’s when it really sinks in. At least, that’s how it was for me.”