Ka'Deem Carey walked into the Sands Club on the fifth floor of the UA's new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility on Sunday morning with his red No. 25 jersey tight to his skin and flashing the same smile that he's had since his days at Canyon del Oro High School.
The junior running back settled into a chair, and for the first time since the New Mexico Bowl, was allowed to talk to reporters.
"It's all good," Carey said.
Coach Rich Rodriguez lifted the no-talking policy on his Heisman Trophy hopeful for media day after nearly eight months of silence.
Carey will likely now get the quarterback treatment, where it's day-to-day if he's allowed to speak to reporters after games and practices.
"I got tired of you guys ragging me about it," Rodriguez joked. "No, Ka'Deem has been doing all the right things. He's always been a good guy to coach. He just had a couple of issues he had to straighten out."
And Carey says he has.
If he's learned anything this offseason, it's that he's in the spotlight more than he ever has been. He's used to people watching his every move on the football field.
He's had to adjust to everyone watching off the field as well.
"That's crazy to me," Carey said. "I have to be smarter. I have to know when I do something - good or bad - everyone's going to have a reaction to it and it's going to be a big deal. Everyone knows me.
"You have to use that as a good thing; not a bad thing."
Carey was charged with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct, stemming from an incident with his then-pregnant ex-girlfriend in December. The following month, he was asked to leave a UA-UCLA basketball game at McKale Center because of an altercation with a security guard.
Now, things can likely start to get back to normal for Carey. His first interviews are over. Rodriguez is prepared to let him creep back into the public eye and represent the UA more than he has in the past.
The junior, who led the nation in rushing last year with 1,929 yards and 23 TDs, said he wants to be more of a team leader this season. He knows that his role will be different.
"You have some of the younger kids coming in and looking up to you," Carey said. "So I have to set a good example and continue to work."
He also knows his days of being under the radar are over.
Forget fans and observers watching him closer, opposing defenses also won't let him out of their sight.
"A lot of people are going to come after me this year and I'm just going to have to take it on," Carey said.
It won't help that quarterback Matt Scott is no longer next to him to take some of the pressure off.
"I'm going to miss Matt," Carey said. "We used to have a lot of fun during the games. But me and whoever the quarterback is going to be; we're looking for a bond. It's going to be a little different, but not that much different than what it was last year."
Granted, he's grown up some in the offseason. Still, Rodriguez said his running back is pretty much the same person he was when he met him the first time.
"There was no change in his demeanor from the first day we got him until the last day of the season," Rodriguez said. "Even with his success, our guys know we don't believe in the star treatment in this program."
Carey said with all his offseason missteps behind him, he's obviously ready to focus on this season.
He's done his fair share of reflecting in the offseason and even with the troubles he's had, it's hard for the running back to believe how far he's come since he began playing football in Southern Arizona as a 7-year-old.
"I'm starting to look back now going into this season and see how far I've come and how far my family has come," Carey said. "I'll sit around with my friends and family and we just think, 'man, this is crazy.' In a blink of an eye, I'm about to have a year or two left down here.
On StarNet: Keep up with the UA football team year-round with Daniel Berk's blog at azstarnet.com/berk
• Friday: Scrimmage on campus
• Aug. 30 (Friday): Season opener at Arizona Stadium vs. NAU, 7 p.m. on Pac-12 Arizona
Training camp: Day 16
At Lowell-Stevens Football Facility
• The UA didn't practice Sunday. Instead, the team hosted its annual media day, took its team picture and delivered season tickets to fans.
• Newcomer watch: Safety Tellas Jones, a redshirt freshman from Miami, had an interception in the team's open practice Saturday night at Arizona Stadium and is competing for playing time in the secondary.
• The big number: 6: The team will return to practice tonight at 6 p.m. The Wildcats have eight remaining practices in fall camp, before turning to game week on Aug. 26.
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at email@example.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk