The NFL Combine is trucking along on Sunday. While all eyes were on the field to watch the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers go through their drills, the defensive backs took their turn to answer media questions.
Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks is expected to be one of the first cornerbacks drafted. A physical corner who excelled in press coverage, he discussed the upcoming learning curve associated with the NFL's tighter rules on defenders:
I've talked with Maurice Claiborne a couple of weeks ago and he was telling me some of the problems he had. Coming from college you could beat a guy up all the way down the field. In the NFL, you can only touch a guy five or six yards. Just getting around some older guys, learning new things, learning how to play the game all over again. It probably will be a challenge.
Banks also thinks that playing elite competition at the SEC helped him better prepare for the professional level:
We all think we're pros. We all thought we were pros when we were in college. Playing around those guys gave me confidence that I could go out and compete with anybody in the country, anybody in the world, I mean college for the National Football League.
Q: Did you get notes from your brother Marcus on how to prepare for the combine?
A: Yeah, really he just told me to be myself. Do what I have been doing, and just take it to another level.
Don't put too much pressure on yourself, and just let it come to you naturally.
Q: How strange is it that you're the third in line to not only play in the league, but play the same position.
A: It's cool. I don't know the last time when there's been three brothers in the NFL. It's definitely a milestone. It's big for our family, and our city. And so I'm just going to continue it going.
Trufant played mostly man coverage at Washington, and that remains his main strength, although he's passable in zone coverage. His draft stock depends on how his speed and slim frame translate during drills.
"Me and Earl talk all the time. He's just constantly reminding me to do my thing, and a football player's going to be a football player."
How does your game compare to his game?
"I just try to mold my game around his passion for the game. My freshman year I used to watch him run around the field, practicing full speed, full intensity. So I try to model my game after his."
LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu is one of the biggest wild-cards in this year's draft after multiple off-field incidents, so it was crucial for him to make a good impression:
"First of all, I want them to be able to trust me. I hold myself accountable for everything I've done and in this past year it's been tough. At the end of the day I want them to know that I'm a football player. I want to be a great teammate and I want to be the same leader on the field that I know I can be off the field.
Do you expect teams to trust you right now?
"I'm not totally asking them to trust me right now," he said. "What I have asked is for them to give me an opportunity to play the game. I've had a lot of time to reflect on it, especially without football. It's really given me a different outlook on life and it's just about being the right kind of person."
"Honey Badger" spent time in drug rehab and credits current NFL players Patrick Peterson, Darrelle Reis, Morris Claiborne and Corey Webster for being part of his support system. He will have one of the more scrutinized workouts this week. He hopes to emulate Janoris Jenkins, who also had off-field issues but wowed scouts at the Combine and had a quality rookie year with the Rams.
The defensive backs are the last unit to arrive in Indianapolis. They will do their bench press reps on Monday and hit the field on Tuesday for their drills.
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