SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- If Jimmy Clausen indeed becomes Carolina's franchise quarterback, it will be after overcoming a humble beginning to his professional career.
Three months after his draft weekend snub, a nervous Clausen fumbled a couple of snaps early in his first workout of training camp with the Panthers on Thursday before laboring in the intense heat in his new role: third-stringer.
It was a long way from all the high school hype, the brashness at Notre Dame and the declaration after the Panthers finally ended his two-day draft wait with the 48th selection that his goal was to be the starter from Day 1.
"That's how you have to think. When you go out to practice you want to do as much as you can to be the starting quarterback," Clausen said. "At the end of the day, I can control only what I can control and the coaches are going to make the decisions, who's going to play and who's not going to play."
It was the typical measured response Clausen has made routine since his first NFL minicamp in April. He has impressed coaches with his lengthy film sessions and won over many of his teammates with his work ethic.
"He's quiet. He's kept his mouth shut and has just been working hard," said left tackle Jordan Gross, who added Clausen sent him a couple of text messages over the summer. "I think that's the right way to do it as a quarterback or any player.
"I think he's got great potential. I know Matt (Moore) is our starter right now and that's who I support. But anybody that's got a Panthers helmet on, I want them to do their best. I'd love for him to succeed beyond anybody's expectations. That would just make us better."
A day after signing a four-year contract that could be worth up to $6.3 million, Clausen blamed "a little pre-practice jitters" for bobbling a couple of snaps in a walkthrough before Thursday's first practice.
He then settled in mostly as the third-string quarterback behind Moore and Hunter Cantwell, although Clausen took some snaps with the second unit and appeared to be sharp with his throws.
The Californian acknowledged that despite being warned about the South Carolina humidity, it "caught me off guard a little bit."
"I feel like I'm in a good position right now playing in an offense that I did at Notre Dame for three years," Clausen said. "At the same time you've got to get used of the speed. You've got to get used to different guys running routes. There's a lot of timing that goes into everything, so that's a big thing that I'm going to be working on in camp."
Clausen threw 60 touchdown passes and 27 interceptions with the Fighting Irish, but was just 16-18 as a starter, hardly what fans expected after the high school phenom arrived in a limousine to announce his college choice. Questions about his attitude caused him to tumble in the draft after he left school a year early.
"I really don't think about it too often, but I'm sure it'll be in the back of my head," Clausen said. "That's one of the things that makes me strive to be the best quarterback I can be. Go out each and every day and work as hard as I can and try to be perfect."
While the Panthers believe Clausen could eventually becoming their entrenched starter, Moore is clearly No. 1 at the start of camp after Jake Delhomme's release. Clausen's immediate goal is to pass Cantwell, who spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad as Moore's backup.
"Him and I had a great conversation today talking about some little things with the offense," said Moore, who has started only eight NFL games. "I guess I'm kind of a mentor. I don't see myself as one but I guess I play that role."
Coach John Fox provided little insight when asked what Clausen needs to work on, saying only that he needs practice time to get more comfortable. Clausen is expected to see considerable playing time in the preseason. The exhibition opener is Aug. 12 at Baltimore.
Until then, Clausen plans to stay quiet, learn and say nothing inflammatory.
"Whenever you get your reps, you have to go out there and make plays," Clausen said. "I think that's the biggest thing. When your name gets called, whether it's one play or five plays, it doesn't really matter. You have to produce."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press