Typical of a job given to a teenager at a factory for one of the top-selling brands of ice cream in the country, Limas Sweed did not have much responsibility. Just watch and make sure everything goes, well, smoothly.
One day the monotony of his job at Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham, Texas, caused Sweed to lurch forward. He flipped over a railing and fell into a large vat of strawberry ice cream. It's not that he worried about drowning but, geez, talk about a sticky situation.
"I was young, and I guess they really didn't want to hurt my feelings," Sweed said of the incident with a laugh. "They just released me the next couple of days."
A couple of days off to recover? "I got fired, man."
Sweed's current employer will exercise considerably more patience with him. The Steelers took the sleek wide receiver in the second round of this year's NFL draft. They are hoping the 6-4, 219-pound Sweed can provide the tall target that the team has lacked among its wide receiving corps since Plaxico Burress left as a free agent following the 2004 season.
Sweed, rest assured, won't encounter any boredom on his full-time job. He has spent the past six weeks learning the Steelers' offense and trying to digest things he never saw during a decorated career at the University of Texas, such as linebackers lining up opposite him before dropping back into coverage.
It is too early to tell how much progress the player that teammates call "Real Country" because of his rural upbringing has made or how much he will contribute this season.
He has impressed the Steelers not just with his physical ability but also with a willingness that borders on eagerness to learn.
"He is very humble. He communicates. He is not afraid to ask questions," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "His passion for the game shows through the minute he walks into the building which allows you to indicate that he has a chance to be what we think he is capable of being."
Translation: the Steelers may have found a keeper.
Sweed has a unique blend of size and speed and is a tremendous leaper. Long and lean as a goal post, he is also deceptively strong -- he could bench press more than 300 pounds when he was in high school (nice!)
-- and he almost certainly wouldn't have been available when the Steelers picked in the second round of the draft had a wrist injury not derailed his senior season at Texas.
The one thing that might give Steelers' fans pause about the Texas native: he is a cowboy though not of the Dallas variety.
"If somebody had a horse in here right now, I could definitely jump on there and ride," Sweed said during a recent indoors practice at the Steelers' South Side facility. "I'm a country boy at heart. Fishing, hunting, four-wheeling."
He didn't just learn to do all of that while growing up outside of Brenham, a small town in east Texas. He also learned about discipline.
A couple of hours before a football scrimmage during Sweed's sophomore year of high school, his mother called Brenham coach Glen West and informed him that Sweed would not be playing that day.
The reason: he had gone to a volleyball game without telling his parents.
West tried to explain that Sweed's coaches and teammates were counting on him.
"She said, 'Well, this time he learns coach. We want to teach him now. We want to know where he is at all times and he went to that volleyball game and didn't tell us and so he's not going to play in this game,' " West recalled.
He apparently learned his lesson as coach Mack Brown said he never had any problems with Sweed at Texas. That's not to say the player that ranks among the school's all-time leaders in a handful of receiving categories didn't encounter any adversity while in Austin.
Prior to his senior season, Sweed hurt a ligament in his wrist while making a catch in practice. The nagging injury limited him to six games and 19 catches for 306 yards and three touchdowns.
It may also have caused him to slide into the second round of the draft (he had been projected as a first-round pick). Sweed has not dwelled on what might have been for several reasons, not the least of which is that his wrist has fully healed.
"I'm feeling like I did my junior year in college," said Sweed, who caught 12 touchdown passes as a junior at Texas, "fast and strong, man."
He'll need to be that and more when he and the rest of the Steelers report for training camp in late July.
The learning curve for rookies in the NFL is a steep one. That is particularly true for wide receivers, who must adjust to a faster, more physical game while trying to process copious amounts of information. It can be overwhelming and enough to make even the fastest wideout feel like he is running in, yes, ice cream.
"We've just got to keep him focused," third-year Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. "I think his mind wanders a little bit, just being a rookie going through all the motions, having to try to learn the plays at one time. But I think he's going to be all right once he takes a break from it."
How much of a break Sweed takes from football between now and the start of training camp in late July remains to be seen.