Duke’s training camp is now less than a week away, but most NFL camps are already in full swing. Both Dallas Cowboys rookie long snapper Jackson Anderson and Oakland Raiders rookie receiver Conner Vernon are in California right now, and they both mentioned the beautiful football weather on the left coast.
“It’s great,” Vernon said. “I love it out here. We get to practice every day in about 70-75 degree weather and sunny, no humidity. Perfect football weather that’s for sure…Beats the heat back east, especially this time of year.”
“The temperature makes camp a lot better than North Carolina at Duke in the summer,” Anderson said and laughed.
But don’t think the two didn’t appreciate their time at Duke. They both said training camp with Coach Cutcliffe prepared them for an NFL camp.
“I think it just goes to show the kind of program Coach Cut is running over there [here at Duke],” Vernon said matter-of-factly. “We literally do almost exactly the same exact thing…The only difference now is guys are getting paid.”
“Coach Cutcliffe did a great job at making sure he took care of the players but at the same time really working them hard,” Anderson said. “Nowadays training camp [in the NFL] is all about making sure everybody is learning how to execute properly while at the same time staying healthy.”
The 6’3” 247 lb. long snapper said covering a punt in full pads at camp was a bit of an eye-opener.
“The speed is just so much faster, which I expected,” he said. “But at the same time you don’t really understand just how much faster it is until you get put in that situation.”
Conner Vernon said he has had to digest more than 800 new plays in a new offense. Plus Duke’s all-time leading receiver had to switch positions. He moved from being an outside receiver who never shifted to a slot receiver who will shift and go in motion. A few days into camp, he said he has started to pick up the offense.
“You start playing football and not necessarily thinking so much,” he said. “You start basically going out in the backyard and running around like you usually do. That’s the fun part of it. But before, I remember when I first got here my head was spinning, making mistakes because I was thinking too much.”
Both guys may not make NFL rosters this season. Anderson will battle nine-year vet L.P. Ladoucer. Conner Vernon is in the middle of a crowded group of receivers in Oakland. Right now, though, both are living the dream: being paid to play football.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Anderson said. “I’m just so thankful to have this opportunity and to be able to come out and play with the best at what they do.”
“It’s the best job in the world to tell you the truth,” Vernon said as he laughed. “My favorite quote was actually from Sean Taylor… he hit it right on the head. We get a king’s ransom to play a kid’s game.”