The Pacific Northwest isn't foreign territory to Azeem Victor.
For four years, Victor called Seattle, Wash., home, more specifically the University of Washington. The former Husky played his first collegiate game in 2014, and during his career as a linebacker at "U Dub" the Raiders sixth-round pick totaled 198 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception, one touchdown, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and 10 passes defensed.
Four years later he's returning to the Emerald City, and this time he'll be playing as a Raider.
Six miles south of Husky Stadium, the Silver and Black will face the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in their preseason finale, and Victor is likely to see a substantial amount of playing time. While the Compton, Calif., native is focused on showcasing his talent in the team's final preseason bout, he admittedly revealed it'll be a little weird playing in Seattle again.
"It's [my] old stomping grounds you know, and being able to see the fan base that was surrounding you it's going to be a very exciting time to go out there and play again," Victor said with a smile. "With all the fans it'll bring back that old 'U Dub' [University of Washington] feel."
As is customary, the fourth and final preseason game is typically reserved for the players fighting for a roster spot, and Monday, Head Coach Jon Gruden shared what he's expecting to see from the 22-year-old.
"He's a physical player, no question, a physical player," he said. "He's got to clean up his play on special teams and has to improve in coverage, like most young linebackers. A lot of the time at Washington, he played as an edge rusher. He's inexperienced in terms of all the different types of coverages we play, recognizing formations. I think that's the big two areas we want to see him improve at in Seattle. He'll get a lot of chances to do that."
As Gruden explained, rookies naturally undergo a learning curve of sorts, but Victor has visibly grown on the field since being drafted a little less than four months ago. Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther is widely considered a developer of linebackers, and in his system, Victor feels as though he's started his transition to the NFL stage.
"I think I've learned a lot actually," Victor said. "Just about how to be… You've got to take this as a job now, and you have no school now, you have more time on your hands to where you can study more, and it's all about studying. Being around the team and just understanding what the team wants from me, how to be a role player, and just trying to be a part of this team."
At the same time, Victor was also open about his criticisms of his game, and takes studying the tape very seriously to correct his mistakes.
"No one has ever had a perfect game, but you just want to minimize the least mental errors you can, and I think that's what I'm trying to get to right now," Victor added.
For any rookie, finding a veteran to attach themselves to is important for many reasons, and fortunately for Victor, he has two established vets in Derrick Johnson and Tahir Whitehead ready to answer any question that pop in his head.
"Those guys, they've been excellent in helping me and some of the young LBs in terms of whatever we need, whatever we ask," he said. "If we ask questions they're right there, they'll answer it for us. Even if it's late night texts and I have a random question off the wall, they always respond in a timely manner, and I think that's a big deal having vets that look out for you."
Thursday night, Victor won't have the aid of the veterans, and a lot will fall on his shoulders in terms of communicating with his fellow defenders. When the lights come on, and the spotlight is on him in front of his former teammates, and Husky fans, Victor will be ready to go out and do what he loves.
"[I'm going to] just have fun, and make as many plays as I can."