Wide receiver Toney Clemons joked that when he left home to first report for rookie mini-camp on May 3 it was just like when he left for college at the University of Michigan. His mom sent him off without much fanfare or emotion.
"It was funny," said Clemons, one of the Steelers seventh round draft picks. "I told my mom I am heading there, getting ready to report. It was like that when she dropped me off at Michigan and said goodbye and got right back on the highway. It was the same thing here. She wasn't sentimental. She said enjoy and have fun, that is when you perform your best."
One thing his mom did do, though, was lend him her car. Clemons proudly arrived in the parking lot at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex, one that is normally filled with large SUVs and sports cars, in his mom's Hyundai Sonata.
"You are not there yet," said Clemons. "You have an opportunity and it's up to you what you do with the opportunity. Still driving her vehicle around lets me know I haven't made it yet. It keeps me humble and hungry and focused."
Clemons, who is from nearby New Kensington, Pa., grew up a Steelers fan so his hunger to make it on the hometown team is that much greater.
"I need to just be myself and learn," said Clemons. "I need to take all of the coaching, all of the criticism because it's all positive to make you better. That and learn the playbook. That is my biggest thing, and the most important thing is taking the time to study the playbook. You have to grasp it. The better I know it, the faster I will play. I have to learn it and it will help me be successful."
Clemons knows how important it is to focus on the playbook this week and be as prepared as possible when OTAs begin on May 22, with veterans joining the rookies on the field for the first time.
"You want to get out there and play against guys who have been there and proven themselves on that level and see where you stack up and match up," said Clemons. "I can't wait for that day. Right now it's one step at a time and I know that and have to conquer it."
Clemons is definitely taking the right approach thanks to guidance he received from his cousin, Steve Breaston, who played four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and is in his second season with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"He told me you have to stay humble and work hard and realize you haven't made it yet," said Clemons. "You made it to an opportunity that you wanted your whole life, but you didn't make the team yet. You have to stay humble and focused and learn as much as you can as fast as you can. Just come to work every day and find something to work on and get better at.
"It's been way more than beneficial to have him help me out. He has been in my shoes. He knows what it took to get to that point, and the dedication, focus and drive. He shared his experiences with me. He told me I will be fine, but understand the work is not done yet, it's just beginning."