After being selected with the 131st overall pick in the 2009 draft, Greg Toler - a 24-year old out of St. Paul College - was a member of the defending NFC champion Arizona Cardinals. Toler had made it to a dream that was his since childhood and hearing the news that the Cardinals would select him was both uplifting and fulfilling.
His rookie year came and went with minimal action. As Cardinal fans know, Ken Whisenhunt implements a no-rookie-play policy. Toler was destined to learn from the sidelines his first year. Sporadically, Toler saw action on special teams and as the end of the season approached, he was shuffled into the line up. During the 16th week of the Cardinals season, he played a significant amount of time against the St. Louis Rams and recorded his first career interception. However, that wouldn't be the only big moment of his rookie season.
In the divisional round of the playoffs, starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie injured his knee and was helped off of the field. Toler was inserted in DRC's place for the remainder of the game. The atmosphere on the road was ecstatic, and for a rookie 4th-round pick to take part had to be staggering. Nonetheless, Toler kept at it and didn't back down to the challenge. He played a helluva game and won over many Cardinal fans in the process.
But even when Toler was drafted he was confident in his abilities. In an article that was written after Toler was drafted, thoughts on his new-found teammates were expressed:
Reminded that he will be competing against Pro Bowl wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldinin practice, Toler smiled.
"It's still football, pigskin ball, played on green grass, same as it's been since I was six," he said. "I'm sure they'll get me a few times, but I'll learn as much as I can from them. Playing against them every day won't do anything but help me on Sunday."
Now as the horizon of the 2010 season shines far ahead, Toler will have the opportunity to fight for the starting job in training camp.
Obviously Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be the Cardinals primary cornerback headed into next season, but with the struggling play of Bryant McFadden in the playoffs, Toler is anything but a long shot.
After he was drafted, most compared him to fellow cornerback DRC, declaring that he had raw talent and upside, but was also a work-in-progress. Ken Whisenhunt's rookie system was the ideal fit for Toler, giving him a chance to sponge whatever he could take in on the sidelines.
Toler brings a combination of size, speed, and agility to a secondary that desperately needs someone to step up and play along side Cromartie. He doesn't shy away from contact either, a fearlessness that is welcome on Billy Davis' defense.
Considering the Cardinals will have more holes then Swiss cheese heading into free agency and the draft, filling one with Toler is a leap in the right direction. The offseason brings another opportunity for him - become more then a rookie. He's seen enough at this point and now he's familiar with playing in the big leagues. If Toler can buckle down and apply what he learned his rookie season, he destined for success.
Greg Toler has already approached his dream of playing in the NFL, now the time has come for him to live it.
Do you believe that Greg Toler can win over the starting job next season? What will he have to do to impress the coaches?