Detrick Bonner, Virginia Tech (6-0, 195): Bonner started the final 40 games of his career. As a senior, he turned in career-high numbers of 72 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for losses. His one interception gave him five for his career. Bonner is the latest NFL-caliber defensive back produced by the Hokies.
Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern (6-0, 198): Campbell started 45 times in his career and was a three-time all-Big Ten selection. As a senior, he was a second-team choice; even though he missed four games, he tied for the Big Ten lead with four forced fumbles. He finished his career with 11 interceptions, including three as a senior. Three older brothers played college football: Rashad Campbell (Cornell), Aquil Stinson (Georgetown) and Malik Jones (Bloomsburg). Little brother credited his brothers for making him tougher and improving his game faster.
Landon Collins, Alabama (5-11, 215): Collins is the latest high-profile safety from Alabama. In his lone season as a full-time starter, the true junior and former five-star recruit led the team with 103 tackles and three interceptions in 2014 with 4.5 tackles for loss and seven pass breakups. He was a consensus first-team All-American and a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive player. He was second-team all-SEC as a sophomore, even while starting six games at safety and three at dime. It was a happy ending for the family, even though her mom was upset that he didn’t stay home to attend LSU. "If you knew my e-mail account, it says 'All-American,'" the safety said. "I don't want to say the whole thing, but it says 'All-American,' and I've always been striving for that. I made that e-mail when I was in high school. And I said I was going to be that in high school and in college." He’ll have another chance to listen to his mom.
Justin Cox, Mississippi State (6-1, 187): Cox’s season was limited to nine games due to a charge of domestic violence. In his only season as a starter, he finished the season with 21 tackles and one interception.
Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State (6-1, 200): Drummond started the final 34 games of his career at safety and is tied for seventh in school history with 12 career interceptions. As a senior, he won the Big Ten’s Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year with team-leading figures of 72 tackles, four interceptions and a conference co-leading 15 passes defensed. He also led the defensive backfield with five tackles for losses. Drummond said his work ethic comes from his mom. "To see her work ethic, to see the way she goes about her day, the smile on her face — you never knew anything was wrong because regardless of what was going on in her life, she was gonna make sure she was smiling and gave us everything she had. When you have somebody like that in your life, to see her constantly work like that, never complain and always find times to make it to my games, it means a lot."
Durell Eskridge, Syracuse (6-3, 203): The towering safety started as a sophomore and junior before departing for the NFL. As a sophomore, he had 78 tackles, four tackles for losses and four interceptions. His production dropped a bit as a junior with 68 tackles, no TFLs and one pick. ”> As a kid, Eskridge spent periods of his life living in a police station or a car, among other places that didn’t resemble his home in the “Pork ‘n Beans” projects of Miami. "That," Eskridge said, "was some of the tougher times of my life. When you're a kid and you can't lay down and stretch out in your own bed or even lay down and stretch out on the floor, you're sleeping in the car. Just imagine that. That was crazy."
Clayton Geathers, Central Florida (6-1, 206): Geathers started the final 52 games of his career. He finished his career earning first-team all-conference with 97 tackles, 6.5 tackles for losses, one forced fumble and one interception. Geathers’ career total of 383 tackles ranks third in UCF history. Geathers comes from a famous football family. His nickname from those family football games? Porcupine.
Chris Hackett, TCU (6-2, 195): Hackett finished fourth in the nation with seven interceptions. And with that, it was off to the NFL. Hackett started all three seasons at TCU. He was a first-team all-Big 12 pick in 2014 after earning second-team honors in 2013. His hands come from imitating Falcons receiver Julio Jones back in high school.
Anthony Harris, Virginia (6-1, 188): Harris gained national acclaim in 2013, when he led the nation with eight interceptions – the most by a Virginia defender since Ronde Barber had eight in 1994. He wasn’t quite as productive as a senior, though he still posted 108 tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes defensed to garner all-ACC third-team honors. He could have turned pro following his junior season but that wasn’t how he was raised.
Gerod Holliman, Louisville (6-0, 202): In his only season as a starter, Holiman won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back after recording a dizzying 14 interceptions, which tied a 46-year-old NCAA record. With that much production, there was little reason to return for his redshirt junior season. His mom, however, was the primary reason why he turned pro. Holliman and his twin sister were the oldest of their mom’s six children. It was Holliman who became the male authority figure. “When you’ve got a guy who can line up everybody, takes that responsibility and doesn’t complain about it, you knew that somewhere along the line he’s had this responsibility before,” said Terrell Buckley, his position coach at Louisville and a former NFL cornerback. “It showed and he handled it great.”
Kyshoen Jarrett, Virginia Tech (5-11, 188): Jarrett was a three-year starter. As a senior, he led the team with 88 tackles while adding three interceptions and a forced fumble. Two of those thefts came in the Hokies’ upset win at Ohio State in September. His only all-ACC accolades were a third-team selection as a junior, when he had 71 tackles and two picks. His older brother is a triplegic (paralyzed in three limbs) with cerebral palsy. He is confined to a wheelchair, struggles cognitively and is legally blind. He helped take care of him as his single mom tried to play the bills. That meant waking up early to wash and feed his brother and get him into his wheelchair.
Dean Marlowe, James Madison (6-2, 203): Marlowe wanted to dominate and he mostly did just that. He was a four-time all-Colonial pick. As a senior, he had a career-high 96 tackles along with four interceptions. He started 47 of his 49 career games and finished with 326 career tackles (13.5 for losses) and 12 interceptions.
Tevin McDonald, Eastern Washington (5-11, 191): McDonald was a third-team FCS All-American with 78 tackles and three interceptions. McDonald, the son of former All-Pro safety Tim McDonald and the brother of Rams safety T.J. McDonald, started at UCLA as a freshman and sophomore. However, he was suspended for the bowl game during his sophomore year, reportedly for a third failed drug test, and was kicked off the team. He embraced the second chance and the opportunity to follow in his family’s footsteps.
Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss (6-2, 220): Prewitt was a two-time All-American. As a senior, he posted 64 tackles (four for losses) and three interceptions. He intercepted six passes as a junior, and the three-year starter grabbed 11 picks in his career. He could have turned pro after his junior season but there was work to be done.
Damarious Randall, Arizona State (6-0, 190): Randall earned some All-American honors during a senior season in which he tallied 106 tackles, two forced fumbles and three interceptions. His 85 solo stops rank fourth in school history. At Mesa Community College, he was a juco All-American in 2012 with nine interceptions and five total touchdowns (two receiving, two on interceptions, one on punt returns). Randall hoped to follow his brother’s path in professional baseball but a sore shoulder had Randall exploring his options. “I was watching college football games on TV, the thought that was going through my head: ‘That should be me playing there.' I just knew that the guys I was watching were not better than me.”
Jordan Richards, Stanford (5-11, 205): Richards was first-team all-conference and earned some All-America accolades, as well, with his 79 tackles, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. The three-year starter had three thefts in each of those seasons. Richards was a star on the field as well as off of it. He was one of just 17 players to be named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete, an honor that comes with an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship. He also serves as a tutor and mentor to kids.
James Sample, Louisville (6-2, 192): In his one season with the team, Sample led the Cardinals with 90 tackles and added four interceptions. After two injury-plagued seasons at Washington, Sample spent a season at a junior college before joining Louisville in 2014. After those challenges, Sample was speechless after his Louisville debut.
Derron Smith, Fresno State (5-10, 196): Smith was a three-time first-team all-conference selection. He had 93 tackles and just one interception as a senior; he entered the season leading all active FBS performers with 14 picks but didn’t get much action as quarterbacks mostly avoided him by attacking the rest of a weak defense. He had an incredible junior season with seven interceptions, eight tackles for losses and four sacks. He capped that season with 18 tackles and a pick-six vs. USC in a bowl game. Not bad for a player who received only one scholarship offer because he was deemed too small.
Jaquiski Tartt, Samford (6-1, 223): Tartt earned FCS All-American honors for a third consecutive season. As a senior, Tartt was second on the team with 62 tackles, including 53 solo stops, and one interception. That ran his career total to 277 tackles (199 solo) and six interceptions. He was the first player in school history tabbed for the Senior Bowl. It was an impressive career for a player who didn’t start playing football until his senior year of high school. He was high school teammates with Jimmie Ward and they remain close friends.
Jermaine Whitehead, Auburn (5-11, 196): In nine games as a senior, Whitehead posted 36 tackles and a whopping six interceptions. He was suspended for four early-season games due to an altercation with a coach and only started for half of the season. Whitehead was slated to go to Mississippi State, where his brother, Jacobi, attended.
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