It had become routine for Terrence Nunn. He’d wake up, work a shift at a local gym in Houston, head home, lay on the couch and watch SportsCenter.
The day-to-day grind grew fairly monotonous for the former University of Nebraska star wide receiver, who was plugging through the longest year of his life. After a prolific career at a college football hotbed –136 receptions for 1,762 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons — Nunn was certain he’d find himself on an NFL roster in 2008.
But as time went on, his cell phone stopped ringing. Nunn had conversations with teams, but they never amounted to anything of substance. Before he knew it, the game of football was moving forward, and Nunn was being left behind.
“I was very surprised, but things happen,” Nunn said. “Sometimes, you’ve got to go different routes. It just made me understand that I’ve got to keep working hard.”
And that he did. While working out back home in Houston, Texas, Nunn earned a paycheck by selling gym memberships at Sound Fitness. It was a humbling experience, to state the obvious, and times got so frustratingly difficult for Nunn that there were several occasions when he nearly gave up on chasing down his dream. If not for his parents’ unwavering support, Nunn would still be buried in Texas.
“My parents just told me to keep working hard if I really wanted to do it, and football is my life,” Nunn said. “If you believe you can do it, and you work hard at it — you work really hard for something — you’ll be able to get it.”
Which leads us to one of those afternoons on Nunn’s couch. For awhile, it was just like any other day in early May 2009. He woke up and punched the clock at Sound Fitness. Then he returned home and watched SportsCenter.
Just like any other day, that is, until the New England Patriots called.
“I was very interested when they called,” Nunn said with increasing excitement. “The Patriots were actually the first team to call me, so I was really excited. They called me up here for a workout, and I came up here and worked out for [Patriots director of player personnel] Nick Caserio. A few days later, they picked me up and signed me. I actually got signed on Mother’s Day.”
Nunn was a huge unknown when he entered camp, but he has been one of the Patriots’ most reliable wide receivers throughout the summer. He’s got surefire hands – seriously, the kid catches everything – with good speed and average size (6-feet, 195 pounds), and he rarely goes a full practice without making a highlight-reel catch. During Monday morning’s session, Nunn beat double coverage down the left sideline, reached up over his left shoulder and dove forward to haul in a long pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer. The tricky reception happened just a few yards away from the fans, who greeted Nunn with the ovation of the day.
Even while Nunn remains a long shot to earn a spot on the active roster, he’s got a good chance to land on the practice squad if he can clear waivers after roster cutdowns. In the meantime, the 23-year-old is making the most of an opportunity that was a lifetime in the making.
He’s taking advantage of his new teammates — wide receivers Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Joey Galloway — to learn as much as possible about the position. So far, Nunn said he has learned how to do a better job getting off the line against press coverage, and he is fine-tuning his route running to make quicker breaks in and out of his cuts.
Nunn is appreciating those little things so much more. When he discussed the journey that led him from Nebraska to Houston to — finally — New England, he can’t help but flash a smile.
It hasn’t stopped, though. Nunn isn’t happy to just be in town and renting a practice jersey for a couple of months. Because, right now, he wants to remain as far away from Houston as humanly possible. That is, of course, until the Patriots visit the Texans on Jan. 3, 2010.
“I feel very blessed,” Nunn said. “I’m learning from people that have been doing it for a much longer time than I have, people that I’ve looked up to when I was younger in high school and in college, people that I wanted to emulate my game after. So now actually being on the same team as them, I can really see them and talk to them and they can teach me different techniques and things.”