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Panthers rookie TE Ja'Tavion Sanders: 'I'm just trying to be the next Greg Olsen'

To open Day 3 of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers selected tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders in the fourth round to pair with franchise quarterback Bryce Young for the years to come.

With rookie minicamps underway this week, Sanders hopes to follow in the footsteps of a prominent tight end figure in Carolina.

"I'm just trying to be the next Greg Olsen," Sanders said, via the team's website. "I'm trying to be the new face of the offense for sure."

Olsen was drafted in the first round by the Bears in the 2007 draft. After four seasons in Chicago, Olsen was traded to the Panthers after the 2010 season and became a reliable pass catcher for Cam Newton as the TE earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2014-16. Olsen played nine seasons in Carolina and finished with 524 receptions for 6,463 yards and 39 touchdowns as a Panther.

Sanders, who was selected No. 101 overall, is determined to be the same kind of reliable target for Young to lean on as the 2023 No. 1 overall pick heads into his second season.

Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 245 pounds, first-year Panthers head coach Dave Canales believes Sanders could be a versatile pass catcher for Carolina.

"He's a guy, you can move around a little bit more, maybe play him in the slot a little bit," Canales said of Sanders.

Coming out of Texas, Sanders didn't see much action his freshman season. However, in his sophomore campaign Sanders saw more action as he caught 54 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games. The following season, he became a big-threat target for the Longhorns as he started in all 14 games and recorded 45 receptions for 682 yards and two TDs. He ended his junior season with All-Big 12 first-team honors and ranks first all-time among Longhorn tight ends with 99 career receptions.

Carolina's tight end room is currently filled with Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas, Stephen Sullivan, Jordan Matthews and Sanders.

Sanders will have the opportunity to impress Canales and the rest of the team during organized team activities later this month and mandatory minicamp in June.

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