In a few weeks a new crop of rookies will be selected during the 2018 NFL Draft. Some will experience the euphoria of being a first-round pick, while others will have to deal with the stress of waiting for the third day of the draft to hear their name called.
Jesse James understands what the latter will go through.
James was selected by the Steelers in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the 24th pick in the round, the 160th overall. He knows team after team passed on him, with seven tight ends drafted ahead of him.
He hasn't forgotten about that, and keeps the small card that the Steelers turned in when they selected him taped in the top of his locker, there as a constant reminder of where he started, and where he is now.
"There were seven tight ends drafted before me," said James. "I keep a chip on my shoulder that there are teams that passed on me, teams in our division that drafted two tight ends before me. I have a big chip on my shoulder for those teams and lack of confidence I had throughout the league on draft day. The Steelers gave me a chance and I am trying to make the most of it. It's definitely a motivation thing."
James has more catches, 90, through his first three seasons than any of the other seven tight ends taken before him.
"It feels good," said James. "It feels good to do it for my hometown team in particular. They gave me a chance and I am trying make the most of it. They pushed me and guided me throughout the way."
Pushing him the hardest has been tight ends coach James Daniel, who has a no-nonsense approach and wants nothing more than to get the best out of all of his players.
"You need someone who is going to push you further than you thought you are capable of," said James. "He expects greatness on every snap and execution throughout the season. He is never going to change. If you don't like it, you better adjust. He has helped me a ton."
Experience has also helped James, allowing him to continue to grow from the time he came in as a rookie trying to find his role behind Heath Miller, to today where he is comfortable in what is asked of him.
"You learn more every season you go through," said James. "You learn more about yourself, strengths, weaknesses, how to improve on your strengths, and weaknesses. That is football. You are going to learn more about yourself every time you go out on the field. You make the improvements that are needed.
"I have learned about my toughness. What I am willing to do. What I am willing to fight through. Give what I can to my teammates, give my all. Play my role, whatever it is, and make the most of it. No matter how you feel, you have to go out and perform every day. That is what I am willing to do."
He is also willing to adapt to the challenges that are placed in front of him. His rookie season, it was Miller ahead of him. The next year the team signed free agent Ladarius Green. And this year, they traded for Vance McDonald.
"It brings competition," said James. "Nothing brings out the best in you like competition. It's going to make me better, make the them better, make everyone in the room better. Bringing in competition is good. It puts coaches in a bind because they want to use people. We all have the chance to prove ourselves. It's good. That is how the business works."