It was neither an "aha moment" nor was there a split-second that Michael Carter II's brain was zapped as the Jets' rookie cornerback walked onto the green turf of his team's home for the Green & White Practice last Saturday night.
"As far as the scrimmage, to see the stadium on the inside and on the field was a surreal moment for me," the former Duke standout said about his first visit to MetLife Stadium. "But I also feel that I belong in that place.
"At the end of the day, it didn't feel like it was too big for me. I will do what I need to do to be successful. I've dreamed about this for a long time and I had been looking forward to putting on that game uniform and running out there and giving it my all for the team."
Carter II (5-10, 184) was taken by the Jets in the fifth round (No. 154 overall) of this year's NFL Draft. He was an Academic All-ACC selection three straight years (2018-20) who played primarily in the slot for the Blue Devils.
"In college I primarily lined up in the slot, a scheme we called the strike," Carter told reporters after practice on Tuesday. "It was like the nickel and I did it for basically the entire time I was there. I moved around whenever they needed me outside at corner, moving to the safety position. But I was mostly in the slot."
Carter is among a largely inexperienced group (in total, the CBs have 35 career NFL starts among them) in the room. Though Bless Austin (third year) and Bryce Hall (second year) have received the most reps at the outside CB positions, Carter II is vying with Javelin Guidry and Elijah Campbell in the slot. The group also includes undrafted free agent Isaiah Dunn; and rookies Jason Pinnock and Brandin Echols. Many have been given a shot with the ones, a situation that head coach Robert Saleh said should not be misinterpreted since he and his staff have been comfortable giving the players opportunities to flash with the potential starters.
"I'll give them the opportunity to continue to battle," Saleh said about the competition among the cornerbacks, and specifically in the slot. "It's going to be a fun one to watch." He added: "All these young guys are just starving for an opportunity."
Asked about his experience in training camp so far, Carter II was candid: "It's been a grind, but it's been fun, just getting to learn day-in and day-out. I'm enjoying it. Guys have been willing to help when I have questions. Everyone's willing to help. It's been good."
While he said that he's been adjusting to the increased speed of the game compared to his time at Duke, one of the things that drew the Jets to Carter II is his speed. His 4.32 time in the 40-yard dash was unofficially the same recorded by second-round pick Elijah Moore at his pro day at Ole Miss ... a performance that Saleh called "the best pro day ever.")
At Duke last year, Carter II, a team captain, recorded 41 tackles (3 for loss), 10 pass defenses, 2 interceptions and was named third-team All-ACC. For his collegiate career he played in 46 games (36 starts) and notched 135 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, 28 PDs and 4 interceptions.
"We've got a lot of great guys, cornerbacks in that room, and guys who do have some experience," Carter II said. "Learning from them, picking their brains and seeing how they approach the game has helped me coming in and not knowing much. It's allowed me to feel my way through things and to improve on and off the field. In this position now I'm blessed and thankful for the opportunity."