Xavier Legette introduces himself to Panthers as first-round pick: “It hasn’t really hit me yet.”

immediately looked up, catching his name splayed across every possible surface of Bank of America Stadium. Fans and personnel lined the blue carpet, welcoming in Legette, ushering him towards the Keep Pounding drum. Four quick bangs of the drum later, Legette was officially a member of the Carolina Panthers.

“I appreciate y’all for believing in me and coming to get me in that first round,” Legette thanked the crowd during his impromptu welcome party.

Just over 12 hours earlier, the Panthers traded up one spot with the Buffalo Bills and into the first round, grabbing the receiver they’ve wanted for months at No. 32 overall. Hours later, Legette arrived to the fanfare and a parade of meet and greets with his new team. The first-round pick had a ride on Friday morning, coming from Mullins, S.C. to Charlotte. But it was an early morning after a long night, so his family stayed behind, but Legette knew where he wanted to be today.

“They told me they were going to pick me up at 9:30 in the morning. I said I’ll be ready,” he said with a bounce of excitement.

As Legette bopped from place to place, he kept his phone in his pocket, unheard of for a 23-year-old, and he did his best to take it all in, squirreling stories to take back to Mullins. With each person he passed, he made sure to stop, offering a two handed shake and appreciation for the welcome.

“When I got out of the car and saw all the fans, it really hasn’t hit me yet,” he admitted, “but I’m starting to feel it as the day goes on.”

From his informal party on the street, Legette made his way downstairs to find general manager Dan Morgan, executive vice president of football operations Brandt Tilis, head coach Dave Canales, and offensive coordinator Brad Idzik waiting for him in the lobby — Morgan sporting a smile that hasn’t left his face since approximately 11:45 pm last night.

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“We got work to do,” Canales told his new receiver (after picking on him for telling the world earlier in the week that the Panthers wanted to draft him).

“Let’s do it,” Legette agreed.

Legette’s work on the field won’t begin until rookie minicamp begins. In the meantime, he still has a team to meet, a building to navigate and an offense to learn. The first of those will come over the next few days. Quarterback Bryce Young texted Legette Thursday night as soon as the pick was made.

It’s a stark contrast to where Legette was a year ago, heading into his final year at South Carolina and not knowing if this dream would even be a possibility after injuries derailed two of his collegiate seasons.

“A year ago, I wasn’t on anybody’s board, but I never let that get to me. I knew I had another year,” he said Friday afternoon in his welcome press conference, proving his declaration true.

In his fifth-year senior season, Legette hauled in 71 receptions for 1,255 yards and seven touchdowns, becoming only the fifth Gamecock in program history to surpass 1,000 yards.

As coaches steered Legette into his new locker room next, offensive coordinator Brad Idzik made sure to point out the line of receivers’ lockers down the left wall.

“You’ve got a good room man,” Idzik told him. “You’re going to like those guys.”

The two spent a moment joking about Legette’s noticeable bling; a full diamond pendant with interlocking letters, X and L, Idzik joking, “I’ve got one too. Mine’s fake though.”

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The Mullins native is a country fan, so he took a slight detour out of the locker room to check out the set-up for Saturday night’s Kenny Chesney concert. Walking around the stage, he dreamed about going to a Luke Combs concert one day as well. Luckily for him, he’s now with a team that boasts Combs amongst its most passionate of fans.

Legette still had around 65 people waiting for him back in Mullins, ready to continue the celebration of their hometown pride making it to the NFL. “I plan to do something big for my community, show my appreciation,” he promised. It also meant he needed to get back home.

So, after clearing up some confusion on how to pronounce his last name—”Make sure you see it with two Es. L-ee-gette”—and taking a lap through the weight room where he had a quick moment with the legendary Dom Capers, on his afternoon elliptical routine, Legette headed back towards the door.

New process blue jersey clutched in his hand, his name still broadcast on every screen around the stadium and a look of awe that hadn’t left his face all day.

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