“Make the roster and get on the field,” he said.
Considering that the rookies had virtually no off-season work last year, Paul’s plan was hardly simple.
It was a challenge for the rookie wide receiver.
The 2011 fifth-round draft pick had to quickly adjust to NFL practices and learn the playbook all while trying to stand out on a crowded wide receiver corps.
Paul was able to make a positive impression on coaches in training camp and he warranted a roster spot.
He did not see significant playing time as a rookie. He caught just two passes for 25 yards and had one rush for seven yards.
He was able to establish himself on punt and kick coerage, registering eight tackles, tied for fourth-best on the team.
“I got to start one game – I’m pretty excited about that,” Paul said shortly after last season ended.
He is optimistic about next season.
“I feel there’s a lot of room for me to grow, and there’s some potential I have yet to show,” he said. “So I just have to work hard this offseason and hopefully come into next season with an opportunity to do some more things.”
Paul cited working on pass routes and getting off the snap quicker as areas he can improve upon in 2012.
He will face increased competition, though.
The Redskins signed free agent wide receivers
At the very least, Paul appears to have carved a niche for himself on special teams. The 6-1, 224-pounder said he wants to continue playing on kick coverage units next season.
“I’ve always been a guy who, wherever they put me, I’m going to play as hard as I can to the best of my ability,” he said.
Said head coach Mike Shanahan during last season: “Just his ability to get downfield and beat those jammers on the outside, it showed me that he has a chance to be an excellent football player. That’s why he continues to play more.
“You like young players like Niles to go out there and make a name for himself, or at least step forward on special teams. And you’re hoping that they just get better and better at their position.”
They are close friends and are proud to represent their alma mater in Washington.
“All three of us had an opportunity to start last season,” Paul said. “We definitely take a lot of pride in that. Hopefully we draft another Nebraska guy this year.”
Does he have anyone in mind?
He just laughed.
“We have a couple NFL prospects this year,” he said. “I’ll be curious how they do this draft.”
At least he knows for sure that Nebraska has the Redskins’ attention.