Photo by Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Michael Palmer knows what it feels like to be overlooked.
He also knows how to make the most when given an opportunity.
The imposing tight end did it coming out of Parkview High School and he's doing it again after finishing college.
Palmer had exactly one Division I offer despite ranking among the top 20 receivers in Gwinnett County in 2005. He grabbed the chance to go play at Clemson and had a record senior season. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder started 13 games for the Tigers and caught 43 passes for 507 yards and four touchdowns.
Palmer went undrafted, but signed as a free agent with his hometown Atlanta Falcons in April.
On Friday, Palmer was sweating it out with the rest of Atlanta's contracted players as training camp opened at the team's Flowery Branch complex.
He's just looking for another chance to show what he can do.
"I'm right back in the same boat as I was going into college," Palmer said. "I didn't come in a big recruit in college and now I'm not coming in a big free agent.
"All I can ask for at the end of the day, is an opportunity. That's what I'm getting here. I'm going to make the most of it. God's got a plan and we're going to stick with that. We'll see what happens."
Palmer did well at May's mini-camp and then through a month of organized team activities before getting four weeks off to recuperate. He's been living at home again, enjoying the time with his parents, and studying.
"That playbook is huge," Palmer said. "It's vast and there's just a lot to learn. That really does take up a lot of my free time right now."
But the effort, as always, is paying off.
Palmer said the first day of practice at training camp went much better than his first day at mini-camp.
"Now everything's starting to come more naturally," he said. "It's starting to flow a lot better and I'm not having to think quite as much. I'm not acting like a robot on the field anymore. Once you get past having to know everything, you become a football player.
"You just keep learning and you keep improving every day so when you get out there in the Georgia Dome and can play without having to think."
Palmer is also getting to study with another valuable source -- the NFL's career leader in touchdowns, receptions and yards by a tight end, Tony Gonzalez.
"It's really cool getting to learn from Tony," Palmer said. "It really is an honor to be able to play with a first-ballot Hall of Famer."
At the same time the 22-year-old is trying to fight for a job, he also wants to appreciate the moment.
"You know, and regardless of what happens, I got to put on a Falcons uniform and come out here and play for the team I grew up watching," Palmer said. "I'm just going to come out here and treat it day by day, learn as much as I can and try to improve every day."
He feels a little like a freshman again, getting used to a new system, new coaches and new teammates.
"The biggest thing is just the tempo and the speed of the game increases even more," Palmer said. "Everybody here is great. You can't take a play off. Every play matters. When you get your reps, you've got to go in and make the most of it."
But then, Palmer is used to that.