(The first installment of new left guard Travelle Wharton's spring diary as he chronicles his transition from eight seasons as a starter with the Panthers.)
Signing with the Bengals back in March turned out to be pretty ironic because when I was growing up in South Carolina my family came to Cincinnati every other summer for a family reunion.
My grandmother's sister moved up here in the '40s or '50s and so did some other uncles and aunts. I think they came for jobs at General Motors. There are three families up here that are related to me: The Joneses, the Foggies and the Colemans. One of my cousins, Marlena Coleman, met me when I got into town and drove me around on a tour.
She knows Cincinnati like the back of her hand, so she took me to all the ins and outs. It's funny, but as you're driving around you begin to recollect things as a kid. "Oh yeah, I remember that."
Driving in I remembered where the old stadium was and then driving through the tunnel on 71. I knew where we were getting off on Reading Road in the Mount Auburn section and when we went over a hill I started looking for the house and there it was.
It's going to be an adjustment. I'm from Fountain Inn, S.C., I went to the University of South Carolina and then the Panthers drafted me in the third round in 2004 so I've been in Charlotte the last eight years. The longest I've ever been out of the Carolinas is only for a couple of months at the pre-combine in Arizona. My wife Kashema also is from South Carolina.
So it's not just about coming up here and playing football. We have three daughters, 6, 3 and 1, and the most important thing right now is getting the first-grader into a good school. We've been looking in Hyde Park and Northern Kentucky and the schools are the main priority.
They've come up a few times and we've driven around and we like it. It seems pretty similar to where we're from. I'm in one of those Extended Stays and it's not just one room. I've got a den and usually after the workout in the morning I go back and get into the playbook.
But I like to get out once in a while, and it looks like my place is going to be Newport on the Levee. I'm a homebody, but I love movies and bowling and that's the perfect spot. When the family gets back here we'll go to the Newport Aquarium and I want to get to a Reds game. I've been to everything except a professional baseball game. Never been to one.
About three weeks ago, not too long after the offseason workouts started, I wanted to get some of the guys together, the guys on the offensive line, just to spend some time together. I think all of them ended up going. It's really a good group of guys. We went over to the Levee to go bowling and Whit (left tackle Andrew Whitworth) hooked us up with some Louisiana food at a restaurant and we had a good time just hanging out.
The guys at your position are the guys you spend the most time with during the first part of the offseason program. You work out at the same time and you're in the meetings. Then when the OTAs start and the whole team is together you start to meet more of the guys.
It's my first time on a new team, so I'm kind of sitting back and watching the meetings, the practices, the workouts, and then fuse it together with my personality.
Everybody here from the top on down has been very easy to talk to. Everybody is kind of laid back and friendly. You hear horror stories about other places, but they've welcomed me with open arms. Kyle Cook, our center, asked me last week if I wanted to stay with him. He told me "You'd have your own bedroom and bathroom," and I told him I appreciated it but I think we're ready to make a move here soon. It's a real good group.
The big thing is I'm just going to be myself. These guys are hard workers. I'm happy to be here because you want to be around guys that want to win. It's a great feeling when you come to work every day and you share a goal.
That's the only way I know. Let your work speak louder than your words and surround myself around good guys. It's the perfect recipe.