Cromartie would welcome Chargers selection

A day from now, the suspense will be over. The NFL Draft will take place and a few hours after it begins the San Diego Chargers will make their first selection. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie not only welcomes it, he thinks his visit to San Diego may have sealed it.

It seems strange that the Chargers will go back to the cornerback well after making so many such selections since 2002. Quentin Jammer was selected with the fifth overall pick that year and a year later they tabbed Sammy Davis in the first round and Drayton Florence in round two.

Three years later, Davis is gone, Jammer has never quite met the expectations and Florence has shown bouts of inconsistency. We would also be fools not to mention Jammer is entering the final year of his contract.

Which leads directly to the NFL Draft. Instead of flirting with a big name such as Ty Law, the Chargers prefer to spend wisely in free agency and build through the once a year meeting in New York.

Fitting their version of a successful off-season at pick 19 – Antonio Cromartie.

Cromartie visited the Chargers earlier this month and has met with a lot of teams in anticipation of the NFL Draft. Some teams wanted to know how his knee was healing – he did miss all of 2005 with an injury – and others wanted to find out about the man.

San Diego fell into the latter category.

"The visit went great," Cromartie explained. "I got to meet with all the coaches and I really got to spend time with Coach Stewart.

"I really talked to him a lot. That visit was my best because I actually got to sit down and talk with the defensive back coach who is going to be coaching me. It was a great being out there and being able to talk to him about life, not just football. I think the reason I went to visit is because the team is trying to know more about me as a person, not just as a football player."

Obviously, how he plays football is extremely important. The Chargers need a difference maker in the secondary after years of wallowing in misery.

It should be noted that the Bolts stress character and his visit to San Diego was part of that process, unveiling the cloud of uncertainty that comes with each selection. General manager A.J. Smith wants his type of players – San Diego Chargers.

But how, in a setting where the prospective interviewee is likely on the edge of his nerves, can Cromartie allow his personality to come out?

"I just be myself," Cromartie shrugs. "I always have a smile on my face. I am just a very jovial person that loves what I do in football and life in general."

Cromartie is back to full health and proved it during the NFL Combines when he hit 11-feet on his broad jump attempt, best among cornerbacks, and his 4.44 forty-yard dash ranked in line with the best cornerbacks.

As for his play on the field, the junior draft entrant notched four interceptions in 2004 and teams began to look the other way to find room in the secondary.

"I really didn't get tested that much," he said. "The times that I did, I may not have made the interception but feel like I made a good play on the ball. Through the season, I didn't really get thrown at."

That makes Cromartie eager for the NFL and the chance to be picked on.

"I would love for teams to throw at me," Cromartie said. "I would love that. Give me a more of an opportunity to show what I can do and get my hands on the ball. If they do, it means a lot more opportunities to make a play on the ball to make them pay for it. If they are not throwing at me it is also a good thing."

Displaying solid character but still keeping that cornerback edge has the Chargers looking at him hard with pick 19.

Asked if any other team made an impression on him during his tour of private visits, Cromartie was quick with his answer:

"Not as much as San Diego. A lot of teams have made an impression on me. Baltimore, Washington – every team I have visited made a positive impression.

"Being in San Diego and being around Coach Stewart, it felt like I was home. Being able to talk to him and find out how the system is run and stuff like that. The weather was great – but being able to talk to him and getting to talk to some of the player out there was great."

His comfort level in San Diego has him thinking it is a match made in heaven. The Chargers may be thinking the same thing.


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