The evolution of a rookie quarterback starts with the simplest of tasks. There are the scouting reports and the tips from veterans. There is the narrowing of options and the preparation. Most of all, there is the performance under pressure.
And that's how Mike Glennon wound up singing his version of Build Me Up, Buttercup to his teammates.
It's a funny little story, and it's one that tells you a great many things about Glennon, the best rookie quarterback in the NFL.
It was August, during training camp, and Glennon had heard rookies were going to be asked to sing for the veterans. And so he started to mentally sort through the play list of songs that interested him.
What? Did you think the kid was going to wing it?
"Some people do some stupid ones," Glennon says, laughing as he told the story. "Some people do rap, and some do country. I figured I would do a song that everyone knew, almost a Karaoke-type song. That one came to mind, and I went with it. It was right before a team meeting. The one thing I was told was to be confident with it. I just went out like I could actually sing. I'm not good, but they sang along with it."
Somewhere in that story, there is the essence of who Mike Glennon is. He got a scouting report. He sorted through the possible plays. And, under pressure, he delivered.
These days, Glennon is one of the NFL's favorite buttercups. He has protected the ball better than the Jets' Geno Smith. He has a higher rating than the Bills' EJ Manuel.
His career is seven games old, but already, he has helped to steady a franchise that was in chaos. Each week, he has been a bit better than the week before. These days, he is a calm, efficient quarterback, and his team has won twice in a row.
Do we know this kid? No, not yet. But on Friday afternoon, Glennon sat in a team film room and offered up a few glimpses into himself. He is serious about his craft. In the right situations, he says, he can be funny. And, yes, he says, he belongs in the NFL.
"I'm a driven person who wants to excel at what I do," Glennon said. "I want to be a good person, a good friend and good family member. I want to be someone who does things the right way.
"I think I'm very focused when I have a task at hand. I want to compete against the best and show I belong. I want to win championships. I want to make a career out of the sport I love and dreamed of playing."
Focused? Yeah, that's a good word. Consider that Glennon has two degrees from North Carolina State, and his GPA as a graduate was 3.8. That doesn't happen if a guy isn't focused.
Maybe that has something to do with why Glennon's improvement is obvious. As Glennon says, he's a better quarterback than he was last week, and he's much better than he was six weeks ago. Look at the numbers. Glennon has thrown only one interception in his last 184 attempts. His 62.1 completion rate is one of the Bucs' best in years.
"I think I belong," Glennon said. "When you win a football game, that tells you. Until you do, you don't know that you belong. In preseason, I didn't know because I hadn't done it. Once I played in real games, I didn't know. But now I've played in seven of them, I feel like I belong in this league."
These days, who doubts it? There is a calm to Glennon, an air that makes him seem like a grownup at age 23.
Don't fool yourself, he laughs.
"I'm no different than the 23-year-old guy who you see tailgating before the game," Glennon said. "I'm just a normal dude who happens to throw a football pretty well."
Ah, but that's a big difference, don't you think? Most normal dudes weren't pointed toward the huddle four games into their careers. Most normal dudes weren't asked to make the bad headlines go away.
"I think he's improved every week," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "You know, I had high expectations from the beginning. He works incredibly hard at it. He's very coachable. The thing he has to do is continue to let bad plays die.
"He's done a really good job at that. Most young quarterbacks don't. Most young quarterbacks have a hard time fighting their competitive instinct and trying to make every play the play. That may be one of the best things he does."
There are times when Glennon speaks and you swear the words are coming straight from Schiano. Still, Schiano will tell you that Glennon isn't quite as serious as he lets on. He has a dry sense of humor, and he knows his way around a one-liner.
At N.C. State, they will tell you about the time he dressed up as coach Tom O'Brien for Halloween. Or, even earlier, the time he dressed up as — you guessed it — Napoleon Dynamite.
"It doesn't bother me," Glennon said of his resemblance to actor John Heder. "Everyone acts like it's something new. But I dressed as Napoleon Dynamite six years ago. I had fun with it."
These days? Yes, you can find a T-shirt online that reads, "Vote for Glennon."
And who wouldn't? As Glennon's dad, John, tells him, "I wish my name was Mike Glennon."
Yep, it's a good time to be Glennon. He's a starting quarterback, and he's having success, and people are starting to pay attention. Last week, for instance, NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell suggested that Glennon was ahead of Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III.
How good can Glennon be? As Schiano said, those chapters have yet to be written.
"I have a ton of belief in Mike Glennon," Schiano said. "He's doing great. There is no reason to believe he's not going to continue to do that."
Still, there are questions. At this point, no one knows whether Glennon will be the Bucs' quarterback of the future or if they will take one in the upcoming draft. No one knows the answers to tomorrow's questions. Glennon understands that.
"I think I'm extremely driven," he said. "I realize the opportunity I have. It's something I've worked for.
"If you don't make the most of your opportunity, then it may not come again."
For now, however, the job is his.
If anyone wants it, they know where to find him. But they had better be prepared to sling it. And, if necessary, to sing it.