WR Seyi Ajirotutu (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Training camp opened on Friday without first-round pick Ryan Mathews, but there was still an electrifying rookie from Fresno State making plays at Chargers Park. That would be rookie WR Seyi Ajirotutu, who talks about his transition to the Big Leagues in this exclusive interview.
Seyi Ajirotutu had plenty of reasons for choosing to sign with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. Firstly, he was reunited with college teammate Ryan Mathews. Secondary, he joined a team in search of a No. 5 receiver. And thirdly, he would get to work with Hall of Fame receivers coach Charlie Joiner.
But just as important as all those reasons was the chance to play with Philip Rivers.
"I was hoping to land with an established QB," Ajirotutu said. "Philip is a great guy. He outworks a whole bunch of people on our team. Every day he parks in the same parking spot. He is always the first one here. He motivates everyone on the practice field from the time he throws the first ball to the time he throws the last one. He is out there having fun and trying to get better with his teammates. I really admire him."
Ajirotutu sees Rivers lighting up defenses and cannot wait to get in on the action. He is used to shredding opposing defenses, having caught 96 passes for 1,472 yards and 12 scores in his final two seasons with the Bulldogs.
He feels the program at Fresno State prepared him to carry over his success to the next level.
"We practiced and played really hard," Ajirotutu said. "It was kind of a program where we weren't really on top of the football world, so we had to work for everything. I think the way Coach [Pat] Hill conducts his program and holds everybody responsible makes it a pro-style environment."
Nonetheless, there have been some struggles for Ajirotutu in his transition to the NFL. He is racing to get a complete understanding of San Diego's playbook. He feels like a freshman in college all over again, only this time the playbook is far more dense and complex.
When he has finished his off-the-field work, he knows it is what he does between the sidelines that matters.
"I can always get better at running routes," he said. "Also, special teams is something I need to focus on. I just need to go out and make plays."
Ajirotutu hopes to win the No. 5 receiver job behind Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee, Buster Davis and Josh Reed. That vacancy may evaporate when Vincent Jackson signs, but that day appears to be a ways off.
In the interim, Ajirotutu sees an opportunity to contribute to a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
"All the players are real professional in their attitudes towards practice," he said. "It is all about winning. You can tell the mindset of this team. The coaches and the players, everyone just wants to win. Coach [Norv] Turner and the rest of the staff just want us to play fast and keep getting better."
With camp now underway, that process has just begun.
Can Ajirotutu win a roster spot in San Diego? Discuss inside the message boards.