Under-Radar Cornerback Has NFL In His DNA

Small-school cornerback Antonio Dennard visited the Packers this week. Do a Google search, and you won't find anything of significance about him, but Packer Report talked exclusively to him on Saturday.

On Antonio Dennard's Twitter page — @3DollarNard — is a picture of Dennard looking happy and relaxed in one of the leather chairs in the players lounge at Lambeau Field.

"Yeah, it's a great picture," Dennard said on Saturday, a few days after he had a pre-draft visit with the Green Bay Packers. "It was awesome. It was a great experience."

To say Dennard is an under-the-radar prospect would be an understatement. Finding out anything about Dennard is challenging. Dennard played cornerback at Langston University, an NAIA school in Langston, Okla. Langston's biography on the school Web site is sparse, and you have to go to the Central States Football League's Web site to find any stats.

In his bio at LangstonSports.com, it simply mentions that Dennard's parents are Yumeka Dennard and Johnnie and Lolita Harris. What wasn't mentioned is that Johnnie Harris played safety at Mississippi State, won two Grey Cups with Toronto of the Canadian Football League, was the Arena Football League's defensive player of the year in 1998 with Tampa Bay, intercepted three passes and started 12 games in five NFL seasons with the Raiders and Giants and closed his professional career with five more seasons in the Arena Football League.

"My dad played in the NFL. I've been around a lot of guys that played in the NFL, some legends," Dennard said. "I was around my dad, Deion Sanders, Omar Stoudamire, Kevin Mathis. I got a chance to be around all of those guys for years."

Dennard was born in Chicago but went to Wakefield High School in Frisco, Texas. Dennard was part of the fledgling school's first graduating class, which played a role in slipping through the recruiting cracks.

He played sparingly as a freshman in 2008 and as a key reserve as a sophomore. As a junior, Dennard broke into the starting lineup and tied for third in the CSFL with five interceptions. Tested less frequently as a senior, he responded with three interceptions and was named first-team all-conference.

Clearly, there are major questions about level of competition, since Dennard didn't face any NFL-caliber quarterbacks or receivers. He partially answered those questions at the HBCU all-star game featuring the best players from the historic black colleges.

"He's aggressive in all aspects, physical throughout routes, and quick up the field defending the run," Taber Small, the director of personnel for the HBCU game, wrote in his blog. "(He's) fluid turning his hips in transition, runs downfield with opponents and quickly gets his head back around to locate the ball and position himself to defend the throw. Displays a good break to the action out of his plant and plays with good awareness. Overall, Dennard is a physical corner who does not back down under any circumstance and shows natural ball skills."

Green Bay was his only visit. He took part in the Dallas Cowboys' workout for area prospects, impressing their staff so much that they took him out to lunch to learn more. He also had a workout for Jacksonville.

Despite his small-school roots and limited resume against decent competition, Dennard says he has "no doubt at all" that he can not only make a team but have a successful NFL career. He played mostly man as a junior and mostly zone as a senior. At 5-foot-10 1/2, he's got the height Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt prefers. (Tramon Williams and Sam Shields are 5-foot-11). He showed his athleticism with a a sub-4.5 clocking in the 40-yard dash and a 37.5-inch vertical, according to a source. He's been "coached up" by Sanders, which couldn't hurt. And he's supremely confident.

"I'm a talented kid," Dennard said. "I know my talent and I know my skill. I know I belong in the highest level of football. The questions about me and my competition, I know how to rise to the competition. That's what I've been around in Texas. I learned from the best players in the game. All I need is an opportunity. When I get that opportunity, I'm going to take it and run with it."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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