When Deonte Thompson first arrived in Baltimore last season, he was an undrafted free agent hoping to hang around beyond rookie minicamp.
It didn't take long for him to catch the eye of the coaching staff with this breakaway speed and big-play ability, and he ended up being one of the stars of training camp. Thompson was one of three undrafted rookies to make the 53-man roster coming out of camp.
Thompson remained on the active roster the entire season, but as he prepares for Year 2, he still feels like he has just as much to prove.
"It's no different," Thompson said. "At the end of the day, it's still the same thing because I haven't made any noise yet on the field."
Last year, Thompson was fighting just to earn a place on the roster.
This season he's going to be in the midst of a critical position battle with a handful of other receivers vying to replace recently-departed veteran Anquan Boldin. Thompson will be in a tight competition with Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, David Reed and LaQuan Williams, plus any rookies or free agents that the Ravens bring in.
"It's going to be fun," Thompson said. "All those guys are like my brothers, and I know all of us want the same spot. At the end of the day, it's going to be fun. We're always competing. We competed last year. We're going to do the same thing again. I'm looking forward to the challenge and am excited about it."
Trying to take over Boldin's spot on the roster is a bittersweet opportunity for Thompson. The Belle Glades, Fla. native grew up just about 20 minutes from Boldin's hometown of Pahokee, and he looked up to the veteran receiver long before the two were teammates.
"I'm going to miss Anquan," Thompson said. "We're from the same area and I grew up watching and idolizing him, so it was just an honor to play with him. But business is business and that's just part of the game, so you always can expect that."
Thompson tried to learn as much as possible from Boldin in the meeting rooms and on the sidelines last season. Thompson was active for just six games during the year, so he spent most of the time on Sundays observing and trying to learn the intricacies of the game at the NFL level.
"It was awesome because I was able to see it from another angle," Thompson said. "And it also makes you hungrier when you're sitting over there because you want to play bad, you want to go out there and compete with your teammates. One thing that I learned is just how to observe the game, and how to operate within the game. You can take the positive out of every situation and try to learn something from it."
Thompson's role when he did get on the field was primarily as a special teamer. He began the season as the starting kick returner, but then Jones took over the job and ended up making the Pro Bowl.
Thompson played just 89 snaps on offense – with 80 of those coming in the season finale where the Ravens rested their starters – and he finished the year with five catches for 51 yards. His impact on the field was limited, but he still had a year of practice to show the coaches that he's ready for an elevated role, and over the next few months he'll have to prove himself once again.
"I'm coming in with the same expectation, with a chip on my shoulder that I need to try to get a spot and let people know who Deonte Thompson is," he said.