SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Patrick Laird is all set to make his NFL debut this coming Sunday.
When the Mission Prep graduate takes the field for the Miami Dolphins, the rookie running back will become the first ever Royal to play in the NFL.
It's just the next step in a football career that started many years ago on the youth fields in the Five Cities.
"He is the hardest worker of anybody that I ever met," said his father, Dr. Michael Laird. "He is absolutely dedicated to his passion, which is football."
It's a passion that runs in his family. His father played for Cal Poly during the early 1980's. His brother Kevin was a star at Mission Prep too, before moving on to Cornell.
His four sisters are all athletic standouts as well, with volleyball running on that side of the family.
For Patrick, stardom came on the gridiron, where he earned All-American status during his time with Mission Prep.
During his senior season, he was named San Luis Obispo County player of the year after leading the Royals to an 11-3 record and a championship game appearance.
After high school, he moved on to Cal, where he joined the Bears as a walk-on.
When he arrived on campus, his father said the coaches really didn't know who he was or where to play him.
By his junior season, he was the starting running back. During his senior season, he became one of the top backs in the nation and was the face of the program.
Not bad for a player who spent his first season primarily on special teams.
"It was just a matter of him getting the opportunity, which fortunately for him, came his junior year, and when he got that opportunity, he made the most of it," said Dr. Laird.
Now, he's taken his talents to South Beach, not as a highly drafted player, but as an undrafted free agent, where he's had to prove himself all over again.
"When he sets his mind to something, he really dedicates himself," said Dr. Laird. "He works as hard as anyone to achieve to goals, so we weren't really surprised that he made the 53-man roster with the Miami Dolphins."
Patrick's hard work is legendary to those who know him.
Longtime area coach Mark Grosz not only played with his father at Cal Poly, he coached Patrick while at Mission Prep.
"Patrick as an athlete was the hardest working guy we had in the weight room," said Grosz. "He was the most serious guy in getting guys to buy in with what Coach (Chad) Henry wanted. Off the field, just a quality individual. He was a guy that had six or seven businesses on the side. He was an entrepreneur. He mixed music. He did it all."
Grosz said there was no doubt Laird was the top player in the county, despite playing for a small school.
"He was a special player," said Grosz. "We didn't have to block guys because Patrick would make guys miss. He said, don't worry about that guy, I'll make him miss and I'll run."
Just like his time at Cal, Laird seized the chance in Miami to prove any doubters wrong that he could stick in the NFL.
In three preseason games, he led the team in rushing yards and scored two touchdowns.
"When he got his opportunity to carry the ball for the Dolphins, he made the best of it," said Dr. Laird. "After two games, he was leading the NFL in average yards per carry. He led the team through all four preseason contests. He had a rushing touchdown. He has a receiving touchdown. He showed himself well enough that they kept him on the 53."
Now on the roster, Laird will be part of a rebuilding Dolphins team that many are expecting to struggle during the upcoming season.
His father said his son knows the challenges that lie ahead this season, but is determined to help the Dolphins win games.
"What Patrick does is he focuses on what can he do to make himself the best he can be," said Dr. Laird. "What can he do to provide for the team, whatever they need. That's what his focus is."
When the Dolphins host Baltimore this Sunday, his mother and father will be there in Hard Rock Stadium to cheer him on.
"It's something that we had never in our wildest dreams imagined that he would be out there on an NFL team with any team, so that will be great," said Dr. Laird. "We are very proud of Patrick. We think he has the ability to accomplish anything that he wants. On and off the field he will be successful."
Laird is one of three San Luis Obispo County players to earn a roster spot in the NFL this season.
He joins Nipomo alum Akeem King, a veteran cornerback with the Seattle Seahawks, and Josh Oliver of Paso Robles, a rookie tight end with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It may be the first time ever there are three San Luis Obispo County high school graduates in the NFL during the same season.