TEMPE, Ariz. — Kevin Ozier has modest plans for celebrating the three-year, $1.53 million contract he signed with the Cardinals on May 27.
"When minicamp ends and we get that one month off, that’s when I’m going to take one day to celebrate," the former Arizona State receiver said. "Then it’s back to studying and getting ready for (training) camp."
Ozier had to battle every step of the way to reach this point. He was a walk-on at ASU who spent time living in a car and skipping meals because he didn’t have enough money for food or lodging. He was always playing behind bigger-name receivers — guys with three or four stars attached to their recruiting status.
"The determination he showed and the persistence to get where’s he’s at tells you what a remarkable young man he is," ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said. "He’s really got the whole package. He’s a hard worker who had a tremendous amount of respect from his teammates and always kept his academics in order. We always talk about wanting guys who compete in every area of their life and Kevin’s a really great example of that."
Ozier got text messages from just about every ASU coach and teammate when he signed. And his mom was in town when it happened, making for a special moment.
"She screamed and cried and she gave me a hug and squeezed the breath out of me," Ozier said, laughing. "All my family was so proud of me. They said, ‘Just like you did at ASU, you started at the bottom and you worked your way up.’"
That is precisely why Ozier can not rest now. There is no guaranteed money in his contract and he knows he is a longshot to make a team that already has at least four receivers — Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn and John Brown — who are all but assured roster spots, with sixth-round pick Walt Powell also possible.
"My job is to make the best of every opportunity and to me this was the opportunity of a lifetime, getting a tryout with the Cardinals," Ozier said. "I did get signed, but that’s not it. It’s not over yet. There are still 90 of us and they can only go into the season with 53 plus the practice squad. There are about 30 people still at risk of losing their job and I don’t want to lose my job."
The fact that he even has one is a wonder considering his unremarkable stats at ASU. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had never seen Ozier play before the Cardinals invited him for a tryout at their rookie camp where other rookies had already signed deals.
"It was a straight-up shock to me," Arians said. "I didn’t even know he was a local guy until after I asked him. That’s the fun part of rookie minicamp. You’ll find guys — I can count five of them — that have made it out of those type of camps."
How did Ozier make it?
"He came in and picked things up quickly for a tryout," Arians said. "He got it all thrown at him and he’s out there performing better than the guys who had been here for two weeks, so you replace them.
"That’s the side everybody needs to see (of the NFL). It’s the downside but it’s the high side because a guy comes in and he’s smart enough to play fast and learn that quick and he’s a tall kid who can catch the football — I like everything about him so far."
Ozier, who still lives in the same apartment in Tempe, said his approach is simple.
"I study all the plays at night, study before meetings by getting here early and when I get home I’ll study again," he said. "People say ‘Oh, the NFL must be sweet’ and it is sweet when you’re on the team and playing on Sundays and getting big bucks, but for me this is still a job.