WESTFIELD — Sterling Weatherford remembers the training camp practices he attended as a kid, wearing either his Reggie Wayne or Peyton Manning jersey, screaming for autographs from his favorite players.

Now a rookie signed to an undrafted free agent contract, Weatherford is the one signing the autographs for kids from all over Central Indiana, hoping to meet their sports heroes too.

“It was so special. Last week I had kids from my middle school come out,” said Weatherford. “It’s a blessing to be able to represent for these kids and show them it’s a dream and that hard work, luck, a little bit of faith, those all can get you here.”

Getting the opportunity to play for his hometown team was obviously a childhood dream come true, but logistically things made sense for the Cicero native with a new defensive scheme, some new coaches, and the state of the depth chart this offseason.

“I grew up 15 minutes from here, so I’ve had a ton of support from the whole community,” said Weatherford.

Weatherford attended Hamilton Heights High School, about 14 miles away from the Grand Park Sports Complex, where he played football and basketball. He went on to play Division I midmajor football for the Miami RedHawks.

In college, he was considered a big safety, but during his draft process, Weatherford was evaluated as a linebacker. Standing at 6’4″ and weighing in at 224 lbs, he hopes to use his size, speed, and athleticism to his advantage through the training camp process.

“For me, every rep is an opportunity to learn. I’m not taking reps for granted and I’m trying to be a sponge from all the other linebackers,” said Weatherford. “Right now, I got my sights set on special teams. I’m just trying to find a way in.”