IV: He gets better as the lights get brighter
One of the most vulnerable aspects for any rookie in the NFL is the fact that the stage gets bigger, and the lights get brighter, than any college game. Until college football players compete in the NCAA Playoffs, the games are rather regional. But in the NFL, each week features games that receive national attention. Thursday Night, Sunday Night, and Monday Night Football place two NFL teams apiece on the national stage.
Those games turn up the lights just a bit brighter than Sunday morning or afternoon games.
It's those brighter lights, and the focus of all NFL fans' eyes on that sole game, that often causes rookie players to wilt under the attention. But occasionally, there is that rare rookie who does not wilt. In fact, they grow in stature and reputation as the importance of the game increases. Rather that implode in a pressure cooker, they become an obvious NFL star for all to see.
In Week 16, with the LA Rams playoff hopes on the line, rookie WR Puka Nacua grew bigger as the lights burned brighter:
You can't teach that. In fact, it's almost impossible to coach that. The young man either delivers or he doesn't. The most a positional coach can hope for is to work with a young player who failed to deliver in the hopes of improving the next performance. But Nacua did not wilt, or fail. He delivered one of his best performances of the 2023 NFL season, in front of the entire NFL audience.