Bengals quarterback Jake Dolegala couldn't have imagined his rookie season being such a whirlwind.
Dolegala remembers when he got the call from the Bengals' previous quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. After a little bit of joking, Van Pelt told Dolegala he made the 53-man roster out of training camp as an undrafted rookie. The excitement of making his lifelong dream a reality not only made Dolegala ecstatic, but provided one of the crazier moments of last season for him.
"I immediately called my parents and they were going nuts," Dolegala said. "They were on the way to my younger brother's game all in the car. I don't know how the car stayed on the road honestly. It was crazy."
The underdog story of Dolegala making it to the Bengals roster was one of the feel good stories from last season.
Dolegala admitted getting used to an NFL playbook and the speed of the game took some time to digest. Once he settled in, Dolegala began to better showcase his ability in a limited amount of time.
"It was a bit of a culture shock," Dolegala said. "The playbook was different than what I was used to, but I was ready and accepting of the challenge. It took me a minute to get going, but once I did I settled in pretty decently."
After having a strong start to training camp, an injury to Jeff Driskel opened the door for Dolegala to play in the final two preseason games. In those two contests Dolegala completed 37 of 53 passes for 347 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 100.1.
"With how successful I was in those last preseason games, I knew I could play at this level," said Dolegala. "I know they are preseason games, but some of those guys end up being Hall of Famers. Once I got that call, I was like alright I made it."
Dolegala did not play in the regular season as a rookie despite serving as the Bengals' No. 3 quarterback for all of 2019. However, his positive demeanor and progress since he first arrived in Cincinnati have the coaches excited about what is next for Dolegala in year two.
Listed at 6'7 and 242 pounds, Dolegala has the prototypical size and strength of an NFL quarterback. It's one of the reasons the Bengals liked having him on the roster and haven't signed a veteran signal caller in free agency to backup Joe Burrow and Ryan Finley.
As players adapt to the virtual offseason, it's not much of a change for the second-year quarterback from Hamburg, N.Y. Dolegala understands what it is like to not receive as many reps in practice after experiencing that his rookie season.
"The whole season has been progressing, learning, staying engaged and helping," said Dolegala. "That's the biggest thing for me, it was trying to stay engaged. Practice can be hard if you are not really involved that much. It's been good. A big learning experience."
For now, Dolegala and the rest of the Bengals are continuing to work virtually and counting down the days to training camp in late July.