Keion Carpenter packed only one suitcase and a small trunk when he left home for training camp in July, figuring he would bring his entire wardrobe when the time was right.
Carpenter was among the longer of long shots to make the Buffalo Bills' roster this season -- a safety who signed as a free agent out of Virginia Tech. The best item on his resume was being named second-team All-Big East.
None of it mattered Sunday when the Bills made their final cuts and he realized he had a spot on the team. The time is now right for him to grab his clothes and find an apartment in Western New York. By the way, he also has a game to play this week against the Indianapolis Colts.
"I couldn't care less what I wear," Carpenter said Monday. "As long as I still have that No. 29 jersey every Sunday, really, I couldn't care less. I would wear the same clothes every single week or every night at this point."
The Bills were off Monday. Carpenter will be with his teammates as an official member of an NFL team this afternoon when the Bills hold a light workout and start getting geared up for the Colts on Sunday.
"It's just a blessing, a dream come true," Carpenter said. "I didn't want to go anywhere else. I love it here. I love the coaches. I love the organization and I love my teammates. I really didn't want to go somewhere else and start over. I wanted to be right here, and that's where I am."
Rookie free agents need to play well and do something early to get noticed by coaches. Carpenter started almost immediately when he intercepted a Doug Flutie pass in a scrimmage on the eighth day of training camp. He picked off another two days later. The man with few clothes was rarely undressed in pass coverage.
Once he caught Wade Phillips' attention, Carpenter made sure the Bills had no choice but to keep him. He had another interception during the preseason and his solid special-teams play included a recovered fumble on a kickoff. He blocked five punts in college.
"I wasn't drafted and nobody really knew too much about me," he said. "I just wanted to come here and put all that stuff aside and make things happen. I just wanted to make plays and do the little things. Every little thing helps as a rookie, and especially as a free agent. You really have to stick out like a sore thumb, and that's what I tried to do."
The Bills kept Carpenter over sixth-round draft choice Armon Hatcher and veteran safety Eric Smedley. He is one of nine defensive backs on the roster.
Carpenter made the team mostly because he quickly adjusted to the demands at safety and was outstanding on special teams. NFL safeties need to be solid against the run as well as pass coverage.
Hatcher had problems picking up the coverage. Smedley had been with the team for three seasons but had not progressed the way the Bills had hoped. They also weren't about to pay him a fourth-year salary with Carpenter being just as effective.
"Whenever (Carpenter) got out there, he seemed to make something good happen," Phillips said. "The kid just has a knack for the football. . . . He caught my eye a lot and I thought he deserved to be on the team."
Carpenter will likely start the season as a special-teams player while joining Manny Martin as backups to Henry Jones and Kurt Schulz at safety.
Carpenter was packing the few items he brought and getting prepared to move out of the team's hotel Monday. His parents are sending some clothes from his home in Baltimore to replace the T-shirts and shorts he brought for camp.
Then again, he wouldn't mind wearing his Bills jersey every day so long as it's on his back each Sunday.
"Everything is moving fast," he said. "I really don't have anything here with me. I came here on faith. I'm just excited to be here."