When the Pittsburgh Steelers shocked many in their fan base by selecting Ryan Shazier with the 15th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, many saw a player with outstanding potential, but I doubt many saw a starter-in-waiting as Shazier stood smiling next to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in Radio City Music Hall.
That's exactly what is about to happen this Sunday when the Steelers play host to the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 of the regular season at Heinz Field.
For Shazier, the time since he was drafted to the present day has been nothing but a whirlwind.
"Not too long ago, it seems like I was in college," Shazier told Dale Lolley of the Washington Observer Reporter. "Now, I'm about to start my first regular season game for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Everything is just flying by."
"It's really exciting. The days don't even seem like they have enough hours in them, that's how fast they're going."
You can't blame Shazier for feeling that way. After all, the first time he stepped onto the field with the entire Steelers team in minicamp, he was placed alongside Lawrence Timmons in the starting role.
Some might wonder if the pressure of starting for the Steelers as a rookie, something only a handful of players have done in the team's legendary history, will be too much for the Ohio State product, but his teammates are helping him get acclimated to what will be expected when the games start to matter this weekend.
"I don't put a lot of pressure on myself. The guys aren't trying to put a lot of pressure on me. We just go out there and work. Nobody says, 'Oh, you're a rookie, you do this,' or 'You do that.' We're all just out there trying to depend on each other and make plays. I don't feel like there's pressure, just responsibility."
That responsibility is paramount in a defense that has struggled the past two seasons to stop the run and eliminate big plays. That was the one of the main reasons why Shazier was drafted in the first round.
Despite all the responsibilities, pressure and expectations, nothing can stop Shazier from realizing that his lifelong dream will come to fruition this Sunday at Heinz Field.
"I've been dreaming about this all of my life," "One of the stages, I've gotten past. Now, we'll take another step. I'm ready to just get it on."