Dallin Leavitt made a deal with his wife; just give him two weeks.
After going undrafted in this year's NFL Draft, the former Utah State Aggie told his wife that if he couldn't sign with a team in 14 days, he'd press pause on his dream, return home to Utah and start working the pharmaceutical sales job he had lined up just in case his pro football career didn't materialize.
Leavitt knew his road wouldn't be an easy one – he didn't get any Undrafted Free Agent offers, just two tryout opportunities, one from the Oakland Raiders, and one from the Cincinnati Bengals – but he remained steadfast, and flew to Alameda, determined to put his best foot forward during the team's Rookie Minicamp.
He was pleased with what he put on tape during the three-day camp, but left without a contract, just some positive words of encouragement from a few coaches on the staff.
Leavitt returned home, knowing all too well that his two-week window was closing by the hour.
And then, on Day 11, just a day before he flew to Cincinnati to take part in their Rookie Minicamp, and only three days before his deadline arrived, he got a call.
"I was on the phone with my wife, and then my agent called me, and he was like, 'hey, you can't go to Cincinnati,'" recounted Leavitt. "I was like, what? I didn't do anything wrong. What do you mean? He said, 'the Raiders are going to sign you,' and this overwhelming feeling of – honestly, I just dropped."
Less than 72 hours before his deadline came up, he had done it. Dallin Leavitt had successfully earned his first NFL contract, and as excited as he was in that moment, he was also keenly aware that the real work had just begun.
"This is something to me, I've always been the underdog, and to me, this was such an extreme relief of [having] someone believe in me," he explained. "From then on, it was like a giant, giant feeling of gratitude, but then also it made me feel like the chip grew, the chip on my shoulder grew."
Leavitt signed with the Silver and Black on May 14, and over the next month he dove headfirst into the playbook, getting up to speed on everything that would be asked of him in Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther's system.
"Right after Rookie Minicamp, everybody else got to take their iPads home, learn the defense, and I didn't have that opportunity because I wasn't signed," Leavitt explained. "I still had my notebook from the notes I had taken from Rookie Minicamp, and I kept hoping I was going to get signed by the Raiders because I felt like I had a good grasp on the very base defense. I was looking at that, and then when I got in, I immediately had to jump into the playbook, and basically try to catch everybody, and I felt like that is something I do really well. I feel like I'm a smart person and player, so for me to get the grasp on the defense, and the special teams, and exactly what I needed to do, that helped me tremendously going forward. I feel like when I went in, this could be my last play, so I have to play like it."
His hours on his iPad certainly paid dividends for him; he enjoyed a strong finish to the Offseason Workout Program, remaining active around the football, even picking off Derek Carr, something that still sticks with the rookie, for good reason too.
Head out to The Oakland Raiders Napa Valley Training Complex and see exclusive photos from Tuesday's first practice of 2018 Pre-Training Camp.
"I remember the exact play," Leavitt said, a big smile creeping onto his face. "I jumped the outside post."
And as much as his first few months as a Raider have been about getting comfortable with the playbook and life in the NFL, he's also gone out of his way to seek counsel from some of the veterans on the defense to try to make his sure his stop in the Bay Area isn't a short one.
"Marcus Gilchrist and Erik Harris are the two dudes who I really pick their brains," Leavitt explained. "I learned about his [Harris'] story the first two weeks I met him, and immediately see why he is the way he is. Erik is super impressive, came from bottom of the bottom and made his chance. He played awesome in OTAs [Organized Team Activities]. Marcus Gilchrist is a little bit of a different guy, he was a second-round pick and always played, and so I wanted to pick his brain as well, and see what he did to stay on the field, and what he does to stay. I pick their brains like crazy."
Now headed into his first NFL training camp, Leavitt likes to segment things.
First it was Rookie Minicamp, then it was the remainder of the Offseason Workout Program, and now it's time for training camp, and as big as the chip is that he still carries with him, he looks at is as a positive, a motivating force that can help him reach his eventual goal.
"My chip is to prove Mr. [Reggie] McKenzie, Coach [Jim] O'Neil, Coach [Rich] Bisaccia, and Coach [Jon] Gruden, prove them correct for bringing me here," he said. "I want to prove you guys right. Thank you for the opportunity, and I want to make y'all look good."
He went on, "football is what I do. It's who I am. Some people say, I play football, [but] I'm not a football player. I'm a football player. That's who I am. That's something I've been forever. Of course, family's first, but then it's football. For me, this is what I do. This is what I love."
He'll get his chance to keep living out his dream over the next few weeks, and the next segment of his journey will start in earnest this Friday when the Raiders take the field for their first full-squad practice of Training Camp 2018.