|Many fans will remember the fast and fun "Rough Riders" secondary of the
Pack's defense in 1998 and 1999. The defense was anchored by the
cornerback duo of Lloyd Harrison and Tony Scott, at the time considered
the best pair of corners in the ACC. They teamed with safeties Jason
Perry, Adrian Wilson and Brian Williams to help anchor one of the best
interception-grabbing groups NC State has known. Although it's been the
road to success in the NFL that's been rough riding since then, all
are still in the league, each hoping for a breakthrough year.
For most of his career Tony Scott was overshadowed by Harrison's penchant for timely interceptions. Like Harrison, however, Scott had NFL speed. The New York Jets liked his potential enough to grab him in the 6th round of the 2000 draft. After making the team, Scott received significant playing time during his rookie year on special teams and in some nickel packages, even picking one interception. However, in 2001 coach Al Groh left for UVA and the Jets brought in Herman Edwards, a former defensive back himself. Scott did not receive much playing time, and this year before training camp he was released by the Jets. Fortunately, the division rival New England Patriots had seen enough of him to claim Scott off waivers immediately, and he's had a pretty good camp and preseason so far. This weekend against the New York Giants, Scott made his preseason debut with a splash, making six tackles and catching the team's only interception. You can bet he's looking forward to his first game against the Jets.
Scott's former backfield mate Harrison was a third-team All American his senior year, and the Washington Redskins drafted the speedster in the 3rd round of the 2000 draft. It seemed like a good situation at the time, a chance to be groomed behind Darrell Green for an eventual starting job alongside Champ Bailey. However, things did not work out that way. After a year of special teams work and sparse playing time, the Redskins fired Norv Turner and brought in Marty Schottenheimer. They also drafted another corner, Fred Smoot, in the first round. Despite a solid 2001 preseason, including an interception return for a touchdown in his last game, Harrison was released by Schottenheimer. The Chargers immediately picked him up, no doubt aided by the fact that the coach who originally drafted him, Norv Turner, was an assistant on their staff. As luck would have it, this year the Charger's staff was cleaned out and replaced by, of all people, Schottenheimer. To make matters worse, he again drafted a corner in the first round, Quentin Jammer. Harrison underwent knee surgery in the spring, missing offseason workouts, and the picture looked bleak. However, Jammer has yet to sign, and the Chargers' corners have suffered injuries at training camp, perhaps paving the way for better fortunes for Harrison. He received some playing time in this weekend's exhibition against the Cardinals, and made the books with one tackle.
Playing together again with Harrison is Perry, a 4th round draft pick three years ago. Perry had a solid season last year, in which he started 3 games and grabbed two interceptions. This year Perry is hoping to permanently win the starting job at free safety. Working in his favor is an injury to first-teamer Rogers Beckett, enabling Perry to start the Chargers' first exhibition game. Unfortunately, things didn't go Perry's way early on, when he and starting corner Alex Molden miscommunicated and gave up a 66-yard touchdown on a Jake Plummer-David Boston strike. Perry recovered and recorded a pass deflection on the night, and will likely get the chance to start next week's game as well.
When Perry graduated in 1998, Adrian Wilson was just coming into his own as a sophmore. Wilson made his mark that year, and followed it with a stellar junior year. Wilson left early to turn pro, and was picked by the Arizona Cardinals in the 3rd round. Scouts loved his combo of speed and power, and his decision to leave early appears to have paid off. He saw time on special teams and in the secondary last year, and in a backup role grabbed two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. This year, aided by the unexpected departure of starting strong safety Pat Tillman, Wilson appears ready to step right into the vacated spot. In fact, many experts had projected Wilson to beat out Tillman for the job this year anyway. Amidst offseason training, Wilson has even continued to pursue his accounting degree, taking classes at Arizona State over the summer. The Cardinals have their share of wolfpackers, including recently drafted linebacker Levar Fisher and giant tackle Jarvis Borum. Fisher is also competing for a starting job, but was set back last week by a pulled hamstring, causing him to miss the Cardinals' preseason opener. Wilson, however, started the game, and made his impact early on, pressuring the Chargers' Doug Flutie into an incompletion on the first play. For the game Wilson made one tackle and assisted another.
Finally, this year saw the departure of the last remaining member of the "Rough Riders," former safety Brian Williams. Of course, Williams had moved to corner for Chuck Amato by the time he left. This versatility, coupled with his size and athleticism, led to Williams being taken in the 4th round of the 2002 draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He couldn't have been drafted into a better situation, as the Vikings were a team in desperate need of quality depth in the secondary. Expected to play at safety for the Vikings, Williams has performed so well at corner in camp that he may not only earn the third corner spot, but steal a starting position. The Vikings recently waived one of the competing corners on the roster, former starter Kenny Wright, after Williams moved ahead of him on the depth chart. Unfortunately, after a promising start, Williams recently pulled his left hamstring in camp, and was inactive for the Vikings preseason opener against Cleveland. Reports indicate he has been slow to recover from the injury, but should be able to play when the regular season begins.
Former "Rough Riders" in the NFL
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