Its always a difficult climb in the NFL starting out as an undrafted player, but Anthony Lanier is out to prove that his talent can earn a spot on an NFL roster regardless of where he came from.
Following Tuesday's practice,Redskins rookie defensive end Anthony Lanier entered thelocker room with three containers of food. Instead of taking it to his own locker to have a post-practice meal, Lanier headed directly for veteran defensive end Chris Baker's locker. All of the food was for Baker.
Lanier taking Baker food is far from the usual rookie treatment stories that come out of NFL camps each summer. Instead, this illustrated a young player looking up to guy who knows what it takes to make it.
"(Baker's) taught me a whole lot. He's taught me to keep my head up because at times you kind of get down on yourself because you don't know where you're going to fall at," Lanier said. "All that you know is that you're going to go 110 percent, but you're wondering if anybody is noticing. He's kept me grounded, kept telling me to keep pushing, 'They're going to notice you, they're going to notice you.'"
Lanier, like Baker seven years ago, was signed as a college free agent after not being selected in the NFL Draft. The Hampton product was signed by the Broncos and played in one game in 2009. He then moved on to the Dolphins' practice squad in October 2010, and later was signed to the active roster in November, appearing in one game in 2011.
But it wasn't until Baker caught on with the Redskins that his career took off. The 6-foot-2 320 pounder was mainly on Washington's practice squad in 2011 before appearing in 14 games in 2012 and continually getting better since.
Baker is now one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game, registering a career-high six sacks last season.
"You've just got to go out there and work hard every day and take advantage of any opportunity you get, especially as an undrafted guy. Every opportunity is a great opportunity," Baker said of his grind to a starting role in Washington. "Any time you've got a chance to go out and show what you can do, make sure you show the coaches what kind of player you are. When you get your turn, just show up and show out."
Lanier hails from Alabama A&M of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, where he totaled 164.5 tackles, including 43.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks in his career with the Bulldogs.
The 6-foot-6, 282-pound defensive end recorded his first sack with the Redskins in last Friday's 22-18 preseason win over the New York Jets. The sack came on the final play of the game as Lanier chased down Jets quarterback Bryce Petty and forced him to fumble the ball out of bounds.
"It was unreal at first, but I maybe dwelled on it for about 10 seconds and then I was ready for the next play, but the game was over," Lanier said. "You can't just dwell on the past because there's more to come. You've got to keep pushing forward and keep getting better."
However, for Lanier, his time to shine usually comes on the practice field instead – a feeling Baker knows well.
"When you're taking those practice squad reps, you have to show what you can do," Baker said. "Just go out there and show that you can compete against the starters and hopefully they won't leave you as a practice squad guy and they'll be like, 'Hey, this is a guy that can play and make this team on the 53-man (roster). You've got to put the pressure on the coaches to make that tough decisions."
As for making life easier for the veterans by delivering food?
"Oh, without a question," Baker laughed. "That helps."