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Scouting Combine Research Series: Cornerbacks (Part 2)

Who dreams of Olympic rings and golden arches? Who was deemed not good enough to play defense when he was in high school? Who used football as a way to escape violence? Those answers and more as we get to know the cornerbacks.

Here are the 34 cornerbacks who have been invited to the Scouting Combine. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Heights and weights come from All players are seniors unless noted. For Part 1, CLICK HERE. For Part 3, CLICK HERE.

Adoree' Jackson, USC: (5-11, 185): Junior. Jackson was a three-way playmaker for the Trojans. On defense in 2016, he had five interceptions and 11 breakups to total 16 passes defensed to win the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back. In three seasons, he intercepted six passes and added 28 more breakups. He caught only two passes in 2016 but had 27 catches for 414 yards as a sophomore, when he was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the nation’s most versatile player. And his three-year tally on returns was 27.1 yards with four touchdowns on kickoffs and 12.6 yards and four touchdowns on punts. So, mission accomplished with this series of tweets from Spring 2015. “I want to be unforgettable. I want to be unstoppable. I want to be unbelievable. I want to be uncontrollable. I just want to be remembered.”

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Jackson spent part of his early years in Belleville, Ill. His speed was the stuff of legend. When he was 8, he raced a train. "I knew I was going to get in trouble. It's either I make it or just get hit by the train, because I'm going to be in trouble anyway.” Jackson, obviously, won the race. “I have never seen a kid run as fast in my life,” said one of his childhood friends. “He shot right in front of the train!”

Jackson is the two-time defending Pac-12 long-jump champion and finished fifth at the 2015 and 2016 NCAA Meets to earn All-American honors. He fell short of qualifying fgor the Rio Olympics, though. Blame it on Ronald McDonald. “I love it. It’s my go-to. A lot of people on the team try to get me to eat healthier. If I go out with them, I’ll eat what they want me to eat and do the things that they want me to do just to be a team player. But if I don’t go out with them, I eat McDonald’s.”

Sidney Jones, Washington (6-0, 181): Junior. Jones was a three-year starter who earned All-American honors in 2016 and Academic All-American honors in 2015. In 2016, Jones intercepted three passes, broke up six others and forced two fumbles. In 2015, Jones was first in the Pac-12 with 14 pass breakups, fourth with four interceptions and tied for second with three forced fumbles. His three-year totals were eight interceptions, 21 additional breakups and six forced fumbles. Teammates called Jones “Sidney Lake” because Jones’ highlights showed up on defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake’s teaching tape all the time. “This is how you do it. This is what it looks like,” Lake tells the group. “If you want to do a really good job of this certain bump coverage that we teach, here is Example A, and it’s usually Sidney. There’s no doubt. It’s him, over and over and over.”

During offseason drills between his freshman and sophomore years at Diamond Ranch High in Pomona, Calif., Jones attempted to move from receiver to cornerback. The varsity coach, however, sent him back to offense. “I just looked awful to him,” Jones said. “He was like, ‘You’re an offensive guy only. Go to offense.’ That kind of blew up. My parents found out and they didn’t like that too much and I transferred. Having that in the back of my head that you’re not a corner … that always stays in the back of my head. That’s kind of like my inspiration.”

Damontae Kazee, San Diego State (5-10, 184): Kazee is the only cornerback in Mountain West Conference history to earn back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards. As a junior, he tied the MWC record with eight interceptions. He contemplated entering the NFL Draft but came back for his senior season. “I don’t see a downside (to returning),” he said at the time. “Some people say, ‘What if you get hurt?’ It’s football. People get hurt in football, no matter what. I’m going to have to live with that (if it happens). I’m not going to sit here and cry about it, just continually try to grind. If my draft stock drops next year, so be it. As long as I have a degree to go with it.”

His stock didn’t drop, not with seven interception and eight additional pass breakups for a total of 15 passes defensed. That gave him a career total of 17 interceptions. Not just a ballhawk, Kazee forced four fumbles as a freshman. Kazee talks the talk on the field but is quiet off the field.

Kazee’s older brother was a running back at San Diego State.

Kevin King, Washington (6-3, 192): King started at safety as a sophomore before spending his final two seasons at cornerback. During those two years, he tallied five interceptions and a total of 29 passes defensed. He had two picks and 15 passes defensed as a senior, when he was an honorable mention on the all-Pac-12 team. One of those interceptions came against Arizona State — a remarkable, one-handed grab that sparked a blowout victory. “That might be Odell Beckham’s brother right there,” Huskies receiver Chico McClatcher said.

He certainly knows the game: King’s coach at Bishop O’Down High School in Oakland was former NFL linebacker Hardy Nickerson.

Ashton Lampkin (6-0, 189): Lampkin took advantage of a medical redshirt to earn honorable mention all-Big 12 with one interception, three pass breakups, one forced fumble and 34 tackles. He also had one interception as a junior, when he missed time with a broken thumb that required surgery. His career-high total for interceptions came in 2014, when he had two in the first four games – including one against Jameis Winston -- before a season-ending ankle injury. “I wanted to die,” his mom said when she saw the injury.

Brendan Langley, Lamar (6-0, 199): Langley’s career came full circle. A couple times. At Georgia, he started the first four games of his freshman season at cornerback. During spring practice leading up to the 2014 season, he was moved to receiver. He didn’t see any action on offense to start the 2014 season so was moved back to defense, where he started one game and played in a few others.

At the end of the season, he transferred to Lamar where he started off at … you guessed it, receiver. He wound up moving back to defense, where he started three games as a junior. Finally entrenched at cornerback, Langley intercepted six passes and averaged 11.7 yards per punt return with two touchdowns to be named a first-team FCS All-American.

Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State (6-0, 195): Redshirt sophomore. In 2016, Lattimore intercepted four passes and broke up nine others for a team-high total of 13 passes defensed. He was first-team all-conference after missing all of 2014 and the second half of 2015 with hamstring injuries. Surgery and yoga got him on the field and kept him on the field. “It makes me nervous every time there's a deep ball and he has to rip it and run," Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said during spring practice.

In his hometown of Glenville, Ohio, only 12.8 percent of the population has a high school diploma. Forty-five percent live below the poverty level. The night song is a violent one, harmonious gunshots and sirens are the children's lullabies. "I know this sounds incredibly cliché, but I didn't want to fall into the gangs and violence. My environment is one of my main motivations. Football is my way out," Lattimore said.

Jourdan Lewis, Michigan (5-10, 188): After starting seven games as a sophomore, Lewis earned first-team All-American honors following each of his final seasons. As a junior, he set the school record with 22 passes defensed (two interceptions, 20 passes breakups). He could have entered the draft at that point but was persuaded by his girlfriend to return for his senior season. Despite missing three games due to injury, Lewis intercepted two passes — including a one-handed grab to clinch a victory over Wisconsin — and added 11 pass breakups for a total of 13 defensed. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back, won the Tatum-Woodson Award, which goes to the Big Ten’s top defensive back, and earned a truckload of first-team All-American honors. He is the school’s career leader with 45 passes breakups, making foes pay a price for underestimating his abilities.

Size is a concern after measuring 5-10 on the dot at the Senior Bowl. “I get it just about every interview. When I'm talking about a bigger receiver or anything like that, you always talk about my size. It's the first thing you go to. But I just trust my technique, honestly. I just believe in myself so much that it doesn't matter who I go up against. I think I'm always going to win.”

William Likely, Maryland (5-7, 175): Likely’s season and college career ended after six games with a torn ACL. Six of his seven career interceptions came as a sophomore. As a senior, he had 32 tackles, one forced fumble and three pass breakups on defense and averaged 27.4 yards per kickoff return. He was dynamic as a junior, even without an interception. He forced three fumbles and broke up 11 passes on defense, averaged 25.4 yards per kickoff return and 18.2 yards (with two touchdowns) on punt returns on special teams, and carried 11 times for 93 yards on offense. Likely was first-team all-Big Ten as a junior, when he started at cornerback and wide receiver vs. Wisconsin. He also was first-team all-conference as a sophomore, with touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns to go with two touchdowns on interception returns.

Likely is from the dirt-poor but football-rich community of Belle Glade, Fla. He was coached in high school by Roosevelt Blackmon, a former Green Bay Packers player. “Some of the kids kind of got on me when he was in high school and I said, ‘If I had 10 more Will Likelys, we’d win every game,’” Blackmon said. “Then we were watching a Maryland game and they interviewed the coach and he said the same thing.”

Growing up in “The Muck” brought out the best in Likely. Sugar cane is the staple crop. At harvest time, the field is set on fire and the kids try to catch the rabbits trying to flee for safety. “Then we’ll wait on the side and the rabbits will start running out,” Likely said. “They run to get away from the fire. While they’re running fast, we have to try to catch them.”

Arthur Maulet, Memphis (5-9, 188): The junior-college transfer had a good junior year (38 tackles, two interceptions, seven breakups) but a bigger senior year (two interceptions, 13 breakups, 72 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles).

He played only one year of high school football before walking on at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Before that, his family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, spending time in Dallas, Michigan and Atlanta. “It was so crazy because it all happened so fast. It was two months here and two months there. We lived in Atlanta for a year, and that was kind of my downfall. I took the bad road. I really wasn't focused. It just wasn't working, and my aunt and uncle back in Louisiana asked me to move back with them.” Back in New Orleans, he starred in basketball and was an all-state soccer before giving football a try. He eventually moved in with one of the football team’s coaches.

Fabian Moreau, UCLA (6-0, 205): Moreau started 40 games over the past four seasons. As a senior, he intercepted two passes and finished sixth in the conference with 10 passes defensed to earn honorable-mention all-Pac-12. He was a second-team choice in 2014, when he had one interception and eight passes defensed. He missed most of the 2015 season with a Lisfranc foot injury. He sustained the injury in a September game against BYU. The pain was a “10 out of 10,” he said, but he didn’t know the extent of the injury. So he returned for the final series and helped the Bruins hold off the Cougars.

He was a running back and wide receiver at Sunrise (Fla.) High School and played receiver and running back at UCLA before settling in at cornerback.

Jalen Myrick, Minnesota (5-10, 202): Myrick started for two seasons, including as a senior, he was an honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team. He had one interception, 11 breakups and 3.5 tackles for losses among his 41 stops. He averaged 22.1 yards on kickoff returns and 4.9 yards on punt returns. He was honorable mention as a junior, too, with three interceptions, and averaged 28.2 yards per kickoff return as a sophomore.

How did a kid from Bloomingdale, Ga., end up at Minnesota? A friend of the family happened to know Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith. Smith passed Myrick’s name along to the football coaches, who liked what they saw. The coaches liked what they saw even more as Myrick matured. “When he first came here, he’s like 18 going on 15,” defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said. “He was kind of goofy funny. It wasn’t ever anything bad, but you’d see he was on Twitter at 2 in the morning, talking about the Atlanta Hawks or something. It was like, ‘Hey, go to bed.’ … He’s matured from that. Now he’s 21 going on 19, so he’s improved.”

Ezra Robinson, Tennessee State (5-11, 185): Robinson spent two years at Michigan State before transferring for his final three seasons of eligibility. He started six games during his first two seasons at Tennessee State before becoming a full-time starter as a senior. He was first-team all-Ohio Valley with five interceptions and eight additional breakups. During his redshirt freshman season, he was third on the depth chart and got into some trouble.

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