Henoc Muamba knew the attention would be as intense as the heat of a thousand suns.
And he certainly knew going in that chasing a spot with the Indianapolis Colts would give him a taste of the year-round, dawn-to-dusk life that is the National Football League.
But if there was an eye-opening moment for the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker -- who opened main camp with the Colts this week at Anderson University just outside of Indianapolis -- it came in the spring during one of the club's OTAs (organized team activities).
"So you get out there and there are a bunch of people standing around the field who are assigned to have eyes on specific players," began Muamba this week in a telephone interview with the Free Press. "I remember noticing which scout it was who had me for that day. That's when it hits you: it really is a business.
'How do I make this team? I learn the things that are being taught in the classroom and apply them on the field. If I continue to show improvement I should be fine'
"Your every move is seen. It's from the weight room, to the practice facility to the meeting rooms. And whether it's good or bad, it reflects on who you are.
"I can say it didn't affect me, even when I realized what all those people with the black shirts with the Colts' logo were doing," he added. "It's about the attitude you bring to practices and the regular days at the facility. And I think mine is pretty constant. I want to learn as much as I can so I can apply it on the field. So, when I do make a mistake I tell myself, 'Look, I'll make it better the next time.' Whether someone is watching me closely or not, I'd still be acting the same way.
"It's still football at the end of the day. And I love it."
Yes, if a pure joy for the game counts for anything, then Muamba certainly has the Colts' roster made. But it's never that simple and as much as the Colts and some of the media that cover the team seem fascinated by Muamba's life story -- born in Congo, trained in Canada, former CFL all-star heads south -- there are no Canadian-player ratios in the NFL to protect him.
So Muamba is on his own to crack the Indy roster, likely as a special-teams demon who can take some turns at weak-side linebacker. (Ourlads.com scouting service has him listed fourth, and last, at the spot).
'I definitely feel the love from Winnipeg. It's like a second home to me, even though I'm not there.
And if he's garnered anything so far from all the OTAs and mini camps leading up to the main tryout, it's this: coaches are constantly tracking progress, the understanding of systems and how it translates into the work being done on the field.
So whether a prospect is a high draft pick or a free-agent signing from Canada, there is a route to a roster spot down south -- just as there was for two other Bomber draft picks now in the NFL, Andy Mulumba in Green Bay and Cristo Bilukidi in Cincinnati.
"How do I make this team?," said Muamba. "I learn the things that are being taught in the classroom and apply them on the field. If I continue to show improvement I should be fine."
Understandably, there are a whole lot of eyes here in Winnipeg who will be tracking how Muamba does at Colts' camp. After all, he was the Bombers' Most Outstanding Player, Most Outstanding Canadian, Most Outstanding Defensive Player and member of the CFL All-Star Team last season.
Muamba still keeps in touch with some of his former teammates, such as Jason Vega, Bryant Turner Jr., Teague Sherman and Ian Wild and the letters, the shout-outs on Twitter and the Instagram messages from Winnipeg still flow in daily.
He was also put in touch with Bombers first-round draft pick Matthias Goossen by team chaplain Lorne Korol. Goossen, remember, is in the exact same position Muamba was as a rookie in Winnipeg three years ago.
"Lorne always told me: 'Find a mentor and be a mentor,'" said Muamba. "For me to have an opportunity for somebody who came into the league is really great. He's a great young man. He's really got his head on his shoulders."
But when Muamba is asked the obvious -- whether he is thinking about a return to Winnipeg if this shot with the Colts doesn't work out -- he won't even go there. Negative energy, negative thoughts.
"I have to look at it from the other angle," said Muamba who, if he was to return to the CFL, would be a free agent. "Everybody I've talked to, all the guys up there I keep in touch with have really been positive in encouraging me to continue on getting better and hopefully make things work here.
"That doesn't mean I'm not keeping up with what's going on there. Winnipeg has always been great to me since my first day there, since I was drafted. It's a place I'll never forget.
"I still have a beat on what's going on... it's almost like I'm still there. I'm proud of those guys and I'm happy for the whole organization and the city for the great start to the season. Hopefully they can keep it going because Winnipeg deserves a great season.
"I definitely feel the love from Winnipeg. It's like a second home to me, even though I'm not there. I'm chasing this dream now."
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