(The following is rookie punter David Leaverton's training camp diary for August 19-23, 2001.)
Sunday, August 19, 2001--It was good to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a day that everyone had been waiting for, for a long time. The emotion from all of the players were a little higher than usual and practice went pretty good because everybody knew that two-a-days were over. Training camp would officially end on Monday and it was good just to break the monotony of camp. We had two more games to look forward to and we couldn't hang our head on getting beat by the Giants. They were a Super Bowl team from a year ago and we found out what we were made of. We have to score more points, but it's tough when you don't have your starters in the game. Also, on Sunday my friend Aaron Langley was waived from the team. It was a very weird thing. In the morning practice, Aaron was there and I thought everything was okay. We ate lunch and went back to the hotel between practices and I came back to the stadium for the team meeting and sat down and this other guy was in Aaron's seat. I was like, where's Aaron? He told me that they just cut Aaron and they had brought him in today. It was tough. I really saw for the first time the nature of the business. This is a really tough business without much loyalty, without any kind of feelings. You have to be thick-skinned to be around here. I was very sad for Aaron. I felt sorry for him. We had gotten close, just by spending every day together. Competition had drawn us together. The entire training camp was like a heavyweight bout. Some days I got knocked down, some days he got knocked down, but we gained a great respect for each other. His opportunities are great. I was talking to Mike Hollis and he told me that's just how it is. That was my first taste of it. I believe they attributed his cut to his one short punt in the Giants game. He's going to have a chance to go somewhere else and play. Chris Hanson is the new guy and he has a great leg. He came from Miami and it's just more competition. I never expected to have the job handed to me and I still don't. The coaches have been pushing me from the beginning to see what I'm made of. As a rookie you're not going to get anything handed to you.
Monday, August 20, 2001--Monday was exciting because, number one, I got to move out of the hotel and, number two, my parents were coming to town for the week. This would be the first time I had seen them since training camp began. It was great to have some friendly faces around and I knew when they came that camp would finally be over. To be around people I love and people who love me is great. I just feel comfortable around them and I can relax. When you're around football all day, you loose some of the personal side of life. It's a business and everybody is just working so hard on what they need to get done. I had a good time with the family. Now it's time to get into more of the season schedule mode. The third game against Kansas City was to be the dress-rehearsal for the regular season. This was the game that most of the starters were going to play. The pressure was on the older guys and coaches to get us to bounce back from that loss. The leaders are going to set the example and the younger guys are going to follow their lead. I saw guys step up and take charge. It was more of a focused day. We were focused on the opponent more than in the past. In the other games we were looking to see what we could do, but now we were preparing for an opponent. The practices were scheduled like they would be in the regular season. My parents also go to see me practice and they said it was strange not seeing me in the bright orange.
Tuesday, August 21, 2001--Practice went well. I was still competing against Chris Hanson and he was kicking the ball well with hang time. Competition makes everybody better. It has continued to increase my level of play and provide the Jaguars with the best punter possible.
Wednesday, August 23, 2001--I felt the freedom and responsibility of not having to be at the hotel. I think most people took that time on Wednesday to relax because everybody was recovering from the long schedule of two-a-days. It was a big game for the special teams guys because coach Gansz Sr. was going against coach Gansz Jr. I was looking forward to punting against one of the greatest punters in the league in Dan Stryzinski. This is his 12th season. He's a great hang-time, directional kicker and that's someone I would like to be. It was good to be punting against coach Gansz Jr. because he scouted me in college and I got to know him.
Thursday, August 23, 2001--We had an exciting game. It was great to see at halftime; guys in the locker room look at each other and say we have to get the job done. Our young guys came out and stepped up, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Personally, I was pleased by my 59-yard punt. My parents where also at the game and they had a great time. They had club seats and they loved the inside area of the stadium. At Tennessee, the stadium holds 108,000 and seating is real tight, but my family said they had spacious seating with armrests on the chairs and everything. To get a good win and bounce back from a loss was great for our team. Kansas City has a good team and we'll have to play them during the regular season, so, they'll definitely be better when we play again. Looking ahead to the Dallas game,, I know it is going to be fun. I get to go back home and I know everyone will be looking for tickets. Tickets are expensive, man, and I haven't received my first game paycheck, so,, I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't have that type of money! I love Texas Stadium. The ring of honor is in the stadium with the names of the great players that have played for Dallas. As a child, that was my favorite team, and the great coaches that have been there, like Tom Landry, have made that team a great team in professional sports. I can't wait to go back home. I'm looking forward to it.