"Your time is now; let's just go take advantage of it."
That's what Keelan Doss told himself as he took the field for his first series as an Oakland Raider Saturday night.
For the Alameda, Calif., native, it was difficult to not get wrapped up in what was going on during the team's first preseason game. Doss grew up in the shadow of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and for as long as he can remember he watched the Raiders. He watched the likes of Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and so many others don the bold Silver and Black, and now it was his chance.
The reality of the situation was surreal for the 23-year-old wide receiver. With practically everyone he knows in the Bay Area packed in the seats of the Coliseum, he knew couldn't let his emotions get the best of him.
"Kind of surreal, you know? Got to be," Doss said. "I've been coming here damn near my whole life, and just seeing it in person on the field is kind of a really cool moment. As soon as you hit the field it's over with and you got a game to prepare for, so that's kind of what my mindset was."
Earning his way to the bright lights of the Coliseum wasn't easy though, and to be clear the job is still far from over, but Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams Doss proved to himself, the coaching staff, and his friends and family in attendance, that he is determined to make the team.
Doss may have registered just two receptions for nine yards, but one of those receptions was a three-yard touchdown that ended up being the final points of the game. In one-on-one coverage, he lined up opposite his defender alone on the outside, hoping his number would get called.
"As soon as he said — it's called 'X Now' — as soon as he said that I was like… he was going to throw it," Doss explained. "It was one-on-one coverage, Nate [Peterman] trusts me, we've had a good connection during camp, and as soon as I seen him I'm like, 'hopefully he throws it,' and I just had to make a play on the ball. It was a great ball and I just had to do the rest and catch it."
The score sent the stadium into an uproar, thousands of fans cheering as the hometown kid hauled in his first NFL touchdown.
Doss doesn't consider himself an emotional player, usually keeping himself in check on the field, but when he arose from his touchdown, he soaked in the moment.
"As soon as I scored the touchdown I was pretty excited, man," he said. "I don't usually, for me, emotions don't really get the best of me during the game, but during that moment it was kind of a surreal moment. I had to calm myself down again and just realize the next play is another opportunity."
Throughout training camp, Doss has shown flashes of what makes him such a dynamic playmaker, hauling in diving catches and consistently beating his defenders. While his efforts have caught the attention of the coaching staff as of late, they knew in February he was special.
Back at the Reese's Senior Bowl, Jon Gruden and the Raiders had an opportunity to work closely with Doss, as he played on the team's North roster. Despite making a positive impression, he went undrafted, but the Raiders coaching staff — Gruden specifically — have taken a shine to the wide out, and he has a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster.
"Keelan Doss, I said I liked that Doss," Gruden told the media postgame. "He's playing three positions and I don't know if people know that, but it's a credit to him, he's a smart guy, he's versatile, he can help us in the kicking game, and he's playing himself into a position here, and maybe make the team. He's doing well."
As the saying goes, the more you can do the better, and that's exactly what Doss is doing to help his stock rise. Gruden loves to move his receivers around, and knowing all three positions certainly benefits the rookie's chances of being a factor in the Head Coach's offense. For some, it might be a tall order, but Doss is confident he's got it down.
"It's not that hard, man," he said with a nonchalant smirk. "For whatever reason it just comes easy to me and I've just been able to kind of memorize concepts and plays, so I'm able to go out there and perform."
He added, "In college, I think that's what kind of prepared me for now. I played every single position just to give me the best opportunity to get open, so translating that to now I think that probably made an impact."
Saturday night will go down as a moment Doss will never forget, and while it will always serve as a memorable milestone, he has a lot left to achieve. The Raiders wide receivers room is a deep one and climbing the depth chart will be a tough task; however, Doss is making the most of his opportunities and it's possible he'll see more targets come his way.
Doss' family should be proud of his performance and his head coach couldn't help but feel like a proud dad following the team's 14-3 win over the Rams.
"I'm really proud of these young players," Gruden said. We've had a chance to work with these guys since basically April, trying to teach them plays and different positions, and teaching them situations, and getting acclimated to the NFL game. You're rooting for them like they're your kids. You're cheering for them, you're screaming at them, you're just really hoping that someone can burst on to the scene. That's why it's exciting to hear guys bring up [Anthony] Rush's name and Keelan Doss, and to see Quinton Bell out there rushing the passer. It's exciting."
As Doss said, his time is now.