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When Gareon Conley struggled with injuries, Karl Joseph was there to provide words of encouragement

When you’re selected as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, you’re expected to come in and produce right away.

When that doesn’t work out exactly as planned, the pressure weighing on a player’s shoulders can be overwhelming at times.

In 2016 the Oakland Raiders selected Karl Joseph from West Virginia University, with the hope he’d become their safety of the future; however, the majority of Joseph’s rookie season was spent recovering from an ACL injury he suffered during his senior year of college, as well as some injuries he suffered during the regular season.

As the No. 14 overall pick, Joseph couldn’t help but feel frustrated that he wasn’t able to compete at the level he knows he’s capable of, which is why he sympathized with fellow first-round pick Gareon Conley when the former Ohio State Buckeye struggled to stay on the field during his own rookie campaign in 2017.

“I just know how hard it is coming in, as a high draft pick, first round, and he battled through some injuries,” Joseph said Tuesday. “I told him he’s got to keep his head up, and keep fighting through it. There’s a lot of pressure from outside sources, pressure you put on yourself being drafted so high, but just keep battling through it. When you ready, you ready.”

It took a while before Joseph was “ready”, but the former Mountaineer is growing into his role as a leader in the secondary. He noted that the biggest thing he took away from an injury riddled rookie season was the amount he learned from the sideline.

The knowledge Joseph gained watching the speed of an NFL game up close has benefitted him as he enters his third season in the league. It’s that same knowledge he felt compelled to share with Conley, who found himself in Joseph’s shoes last year.

“It wasn’t as much of who approached who, I just noticed that he was coming in as a young guy, I was in the same position the year before,” Joseph stated. “Just talking, we chopped it up a few times, and I knew he was a guy that I kind of need to take under my wing. Give him – I was still young myself – but the knowledge I gained from my first year battling the same things, and thought I’d pass it on.”

The few games Conley played in last year provided a small glimpse of the young man’s potential. After receiving words of encouragement from his teammate, and ready to embark on his second season at full strength, No. 21 is filled with confidence.

“It was really difficult because I had never been hurt, so it was the first time I had really been hurt where I missed time,” Conley explained. “Like I said, mentally that’s just the hardest thing really, but I feel like I got my confidence back, and I feel good.”

As Joseph gets ready for his third campaign, he’s excited to get to work in Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther’s system, noting its aggressive style, which will open up opportunities to force turnovers. Notorious for his hard-hitting ways, look for No. 42 to pack a punch in 2018, as well as Gareon Conley.

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