If the butterflies in his stomach made him feel like a rookie, the weariness in his legs reminded him of the truth.
Wesley Walls made his Green Bay Packers training camp debut Wednesday, feeling not only the effects of 37 years of age, but also the consequence of an offseason of relative inactivity as he waited by the phone for an NFL team to request his services.
"You get rusty," said Walls, who officially signed with the Packers Tuesday. "I've been trying to stay in shape and run on my own, just to get ready for the opportunity ... but it's going to take a while to get back to the football shape that you need to play."
Not that his conditioning needs to return overnight. With four preseason games remaining, Walls has plenty of time to catch his breath.
The important thing for the Packers is that Walls arrived at camp feeling healthy, something that Tyrone Davis (knee) and David Martin (hamstring) currently are not.
Providing the team with much-needed depth at tight end, Walls also gives the position veteran leadership. Bubba Franks has played in two Pro Bowls, but that doesn't look like much compared to Walls' five trips to Hawaii.
"He's a professional," Packers tight ends coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "He brings instant credibility. He does it the way it's supposed to be and shows everybody around him that that's the way it's supposed to be."
Walls has no illusions of being the Packers' No. 1 option at tight end. He concedes that title willingly to Franks.
But even after 14 NFL seasons, in which he's racked up 430 receptions for 5,069 yards and 53 touchdowns, Walls still feels a desire to contribute.
Following a 2002 season in which he made a career-low 19 receptions while slowed by injury, Walls said the Carolina Panthers tried to persuade their all-time touchdowns leader to head into retirement. But Walls was having nothing of it.
"I thought long and hard about it, about five minutes, and I knew I didn't want to retire," Walls said. "I didn't even get through my glass of tea before I could make up my mind. I didn't want to go out the way it happened with the Panthers."
Especially not if he had a chance to move on to a contender.
An alumnus of the University of Mississippi, Walls admitted that over his career he's imagined what it might be like to play with Brett Favre, and was hoping he could have a shot at playing for Green Bay.
Although courted by other teams, Walls signed with the Packers not for what it would mean to his pocketbook, but what it would mean to his heart.
"If you get an opportunity to play with a storied franchise such as Green Bay, with a (future) Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Favre, I could not turn that down," Walls said. "I've got it in my heart that tells me I can do it, my body tells me I can do it, so let's go do it."
Considering Walls' vast experience, Jagodzinski said it will be no time before he has learned the intricacies of the offense. The only obstacle now is in the terminology.
But with plays being relayed from one southern drawl to another, that part might come quickly, too.
"Brett and him seemed like they were on the same page right away," Jagodzinski said. "It's going to be a lot of fun around here."