NFL Scouting Combine Research: Cornerbacks, Part 1

Which top prospect got his work ethic from long days in the field? Which elite player moved to the United States when he was 10? Who was fueled by a competitive family? Those answers and more as we get to know the cornerbacks.

Mackensie Alexander, Clemson (5-10, 195): Underclassman. Alexander, one of the top recruits of the Class of 2013, played just two seasons for the Tigers. Showing that interceptions can be an overrated stat, Alexander didn’t have any in his brief career. He didn’t give up many completions, though. In fact, according to Clemson’s coaches, he allowed only 11 catches in 2015. Alexander missed the 2013 season with a groin injury but started in 2014 and 2015, breaking up 11 passes during that span. He earned All-American honors both seasons, including third team from The Associated Press this past season. “I want to be the best corner in the country, and I know for a fact that I am," he said before the season. "But I want to show people. It's about showing them every day." He plays with supreme confidence on the field. Off the field, he prefers to work in peace. Said tight end Jordan Leggett: “He doesn’t talk to anybody.” He’s a different person on the field, though. “I tell people all the time, I don’t talk trash,” said Alexander. “I tell them I love them. I don’t think they seem to like that very much. I just speak facts. I’m big on facts. I don’t just go out there and open my mouth like that and talk out of curiosity, to see what he’ll say. I just speak facts. It’s all facts. People don’t like facts nowadays. They want you to lie to them. I’m not going to lie to them.” Alexander grew up in Immokalee, Fla., a farming community inhabited mostly by immigrants from Mexico or Haiti. Alexander, with Haitian roots, joined his family in the fields picking tomatoes, watermelons and oranges when he was 10 or 11. "Nobody's really got much," Alexander said. "You do your job, you work, you clock in and clock out." He might not have made much money but he gained a remarkable work ethic. "The coaches always know where to find me," Alexander said. "I have the same routine every day, and it doesn't change for nobody."

Eli Apple, Ohio State (6-1, 200): Underclassman. Apple played only two seasons for the Buckeyes, recording four interceptions and 17 passes defensed during that span. After redshirting in 2013, Apple intercepted three passes in 2014 — including Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota’s final collegiate pass in the national championship game vs. Oregon. He changed his last name from Woodward to Apple to honor Tim, his father since age 2, in December 2012. “I am the man I am today because of his tireless love and commitment to our family," Eli said in statement announcing his name change. "So it is with great pride and honor to carry his last name. I am truly blessed to be Eli Apple." That’s just part of his personal story. He lived in Ghana when he was younger, and his mother, Annie, was born in the West African country and also lived in such places as Liberia, Nigeria, England and Scotland. He moved to the United States when he was 10. “It’s so fun for me because I love America. I absolutely love this country,” his mom said. “I love it because America gives you the two things you need to be successful and to achieve anything in life — the freedom to serve God and the freedom of education. What else do you need to do anything in life? I believe in the inherent goodness of this country.” Said Eli: “It’s crazy. A lot of people don’t know all the stuff that my mom has gone through, the stuff that my mom’s parents have gone through, but that’s hard work and perseverance. My mom is not the type of person to take no for an answer, and it’s taken her a long way.”

Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota (5-9, 189): After playing in junior college in 2011 and as a reserve for the Gophers in 2012, Boddy-Calhoun sustained a season-ending knee injury during the second game of the 2013 season. He started 21 games the past two seasons and recorded nine interceptions and broke up 15 additional passes. He was third-team all-Big Ten in 2015 (and academic all-Big Ten) with four picks. Not bad for a guy who thought he would be playing for Division III Wesley after a standout high school career in Wilmington, Del. Before arriving at Minnesota, he changed his last name from Boddy to Boddy-Calhoun to honor his father, who died in a car accident when he was 7. “He meant everything to me. He actually introduced me to this lovely game. He taught me some good things: work harder than the next man. After every football practice, he would make me run an extra lap. That’s something that’s instilled into me to this day.”

James Bradberry, Samford (6-1, 209): As a senior, Brown intercepted two passes and broke up 11 others, adding 45 tackles (29 solos) and four tackles for losses. He was first-team all-conference and third-team FCS All-American. Brown intercepted two passes in each of his four seasons and finished his career with 27 breakups. Bradberry started his career at Arkansas State but transferred following his redshirt season because he wanted to play corner, not safety, and to be closer to home. "My whole mentality, especially when Corey White got drafted right before I came here, was that I can still have the same opportunity at Samford as I would at a mid-major. And then with Quaski [Jaquiski Tartt] getting drafted in a high round, that shows something."

Anthony Brown, Purdue (5-11, 195): Brown was a three-year starter, with all four career interceptions coming during a senior season in which he was an honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team. Three of his four picks came against Nebraska, the first Boilermaker to pull off that feat since 1997. He added 59 tackles, one tackle for loss, six additional breakups and a blocked kick. As a sophomore, he had a career-high 69 tackles. As a junior, he had career highs of 10 passes broken up and 5.5 tackles for losses. Brown popped up on recruiting radars after finishing third in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at Florida’s state track and field meet during his junior year at Hillsborough High School in Tampa.

Artie Burns, Miami (Fla.) (6-0, 193): Underclassman. Burns started 23 games over his final two seasons at Miami. He intercepted an ACC-high six passes and broke up five others in 2015 to earn second-team all-conference honors. He intercepted a pass in three consecutive games, a first at Miami since the late Sean Taylor in 1987, and broke up six passes in 2014. At Miami Northwestern High School, he was the nation’s top hurdler and a four-time state champion, and he competed in track and field for the Hurricanes. Burns finished second at the ACC Championships in the 110-meter hurdles and would like to compete in this year’s Olympics. His father is in prison in South Carolina, serving 25 years for cocaine trafficking. His mother, a former track star at Miami Northwestern, died of a heart attack in late October. “I am so proud of Artie,’’ she said a week before she died. “Through all the adversity of not having a father, he’s overcome it and has been a positive role model for his family.”

Juston Burris, N.C. State (6-0, 213): Burris intercepted one pass and broke up seven others during his senior season. He added 38 tackles (29 solos), three tackles for losses and forced one fumble. Burris, a native of Raleigh, N.C., who primarily played wide receiver in high school, started the final 41 games of his career, with one interception and five pass breakups as a junior and one interception and six breakups as a sophomore. 

Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State (6-0, 182): Calhoun was named one of just 12 National Scholar Athletes and was a finalist for the William Campbell Trophy — aka the Academic Heisman. Calhoun, who graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies in May with a 3.51 GPA, received an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. He was the only Scholar-Athlete in the SEC and the school’s first since Derek Sherrod in 2010. Along with excellence on the field and in the classroom, Calhoun has spent time volunteering with the Salvation Army, Starkville Manor Nursing Home, Oktibbeha County Humane Society, Deuce McAllister’s Catch 22 Foundation and also provided tornado relief to people of Louisville, Miss. "I always wanted to be different. I didn’t want to be the average kid in high school who was a good football player and didn’t do well in school. I wanted to make a difference in my community and in my life. I worked hard in everything I did and, fortunately, having the pedestal of being a good football player made me stand out even more. That made me a great leader in my school and that’s probably why she pushed me so hard.” Calhoun, a three-year starter, intercepted two passes and broke up eight others while adding 39 tackles and 6.5 TFLs. He finished his career with six interceptions. Calhoun wasn’t on Mississippi State’s radar. About two weeks before Signing Day, coach Dan Mullen visited Calhoun’s school to visit a five-star prospect. This is the guy you want,” the principal told Mullen. “Just take a look at him. He’s our hardest worker, our best leader. He may not jump off the tape when you watch, but if you take him, you won’t regret it.” Calhoun took a visit to Mississippi State — canceling a visit to Jackson State — in a gamble that worked out for both sides.

Maurice Canady, Virginia (6-1, 191): Canady was a three-year starter who tallied five interceptions and 24 additional pass breakups during his career. As a junior, he had three interceptions and a total of 12 passes defensed to earn second-team all-ACC honors. He had no interceptions but six passes defensed as a senior. One of his five punt returns was brought back 74 yards for a touchdown. Opponents tended to shy away from throwing in his direction. “This dude is a talented dude,” receiver Canaan Severin said. He went to the Senior Bowl to show he can play press-man coverage.

Ken Crawley, Colorado (6-0, 184): Crawley started almost every game during his four-year career with the Buffs. As a senior, he had one interception and a team-high 13 pass breakups. He chipped in 46 tackles (40 solos), including one for a loss. He finished his career with three interceptions and 36 breakups. During the summer semester, Crawley recorded a 4.0 GPA. Those are remarkable achievements for the Washington, D.C., native. "I lived and grew up around violence and violence in my home. You go on the wrong turf, you might get jumped or something might happen to you." A cousin, Stephon Morris, played defensive back at Penn State and spent training camp with the Patriots in 2013.

DeAndre Elliott, Colorado State (6-1, 183): Elliott started 33 games during his four seasons, including all 11 of his games as a senior, when he had two interceptions, broke up two others and one blocked kick. For his career, Elliott had seven interceptions and an additional 20 breakups. In 2012, he was arrested for trespassing in a sorority.

Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech (6-0, 197): Underclassman. Maybe it’s the drinking water in the Baltimore home of Vincent Fuller and Nina Dorsey-Fuller. Vincent Fuller, a defensive back, intercepted six passes in seven seasons for the Titans and Lions. Corey Fuller, a receiver, has 18 receptions in two seasons with the Lions. Kyle Fuller, a cornerback, has six interceptions as the Bears’ first-round pick in 2014. Now, it’s Kendall Fuller’s turn. He intercepted six passes in 2013, when he was a Freshman All-American, and two more (with 15 breakups) as a sophomore despite a broken wrist, when he was first-team all-ACC and a third-team All-American. His junior season was limited to three games by a knee injury. So, yes, football is a family affair for the Fullers. “If one of us picks something up, the rest will pick it up and try to beat the other one at it,” Fuller said. “So like, me, I started bowling. So now anytime one of us goes bowling, they’re going to bowl to see if they can beat me.”

ALSO IN THIS SERIES

Cornerbacks, Part 1 (FREE)
Cornerbacks, Part 2
Cornerbacks, Part 3
Outside linebackers, Part 1
Outside linebackers, Part 2
Outside linebackers, Part 3 (FREE)
Inside linebackers, Part 1
Inside linebackers, Part 2 (FREE)
Defensive ends, Part 1
Defensive ends, Part 2
Defensive tackles, Part 1 (FREE)
Defensive tackles, Part 2 (FREE)
Defensive tackles, Part 3 (FREE)
Offensive tackles, Part 1
Offensive tackles, Part 2
Offensive guards, Part 1 (FREE)
Offensive guards, Part 2 (FREE)
Centers (FREE)
Tight ends, Part 1 (FREE)
Tight ends, Part 2 (FREE)
Wide receivers, Part 1 (FREE)
Wide receivers, Part 2
Wide receivers, Part 3
Wide receivers, Part 4 (FREE)
Running backs, Part 1 (FREE)
Running backs, Part 2
Running backs, Part 3
Fullbacks (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 1 (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 2 (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 3 (FREE)


Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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