Logan Bowles / USA TODAY Sports

Scouting Combine Research Series: Cornerbacks (Part 3)

Who gained his toughness through a military family? Who went back to school as a senior to inspire others? Who gave money and shoes to a homeless man? Those answers and more as we get to know a deep class of corners.

Here are the 34 cornerbacks who have been invited to the Scouting Combine. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Heights and weights come from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com. All players are seniors unless noted. For Part 1, CLICK HERE. For Part 2, CLICK HERE.

Sojourn Shelton, Wisconsin (5-9, 170): Shelton had a strong senior season, recording four interceptions and 12 additional pass breakups to earn first-team all-Big Ten. The four-year starter intercepted nine passes with 32 breakups in four years.

Shelton was a wise-beyond-his-years player, whether it was self-scouting his own play in youth football to requesting a move from quarterback to cornerback as a high school freshman because he knew it was better for his long-term goal of playing in college. At Wisconsin, he had four interceptions as a freshman and the four as a senior. In between came the challenging times. “My freshman year, having so much success and then my sophomore year being a down year, you see both sides of everybody being excited for you, and then the bad side of it. Overall, it’s just prepared me and got me to the player that I am now. I know how to handle both (success and failure).”

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Channing Stribling, Michigan (6-1, 179): Stribling started 18 games and intercepted six passes during his career. He was second-team all-Big Ten as a senior with four interceptions and 13 pass breakups giving him 17 passes defensed — the fourth-most in school history. He had two picks in a showdown against Wisconsin.

As an Army child, Stribling was a boy on the move. He moved eight times in his first 18 years, from Germany to Hawaii. He became an all-state player at Butler High School in Matthews, N.C. Those moves inspired him to play through pain, including when his shoulder popped out against Ohio State in November. “I have a lot of military background in my family. Knowing what they went through, not knowing who’s with them, who’s not. Just making sure that’s in my mind at all times. Just making sure they didn’t sacrifice their whole life for me to just lay down. Got back up.”

The moves were the least of Stribling’s worries. “It was like a whole week I didn’t talk to her,” Stribling said after a game against Ohio State in 2013. “I’m panicking, trying to figure out what’s going on. I’m watching movies, army movies, and people are getting killed, and I’m thinking, ‘That could be my mom.’ It’s kind of hard just trying to focus.”

If nothing else, Stribling will live forever on one of Allen Robinson’s tattoos.

Cameron Sutton, Tennessee (5-11,182): As a four-year starter, Sutton intercepted seven passes and broke up 30 others for a school-record 37 passes defensed. Plus, he had 13 tackles for losses, forced three fumbles and averaged a sizzling 14.6 yards per punt return with three touchdowns. Sutton was a projected first-round pick last year but decided to return to Tennessee. “It’s bigger than me, it’s not just about me,” he said before the season. “It impacts everyone around me. I would say I have had an impact on my teammates and the coaches, the university and the community, and I realized it is another opportunity to do what I love with people I love.”

Unfortunately, Sutton missed half of his senior season with a broken ankle sustained in a September game against Ohio. With an eye on this year’s draft, Sutton could have taken a cautious approach to his rehab. Instead, he attacked it with an eye on returning to the field. “Just the opportunity to get back out there is something that I don’t take for granted and it’s a true blessing.” During a six-game absence, he wore his helmet while hobbling around the field on crutches to provide inspiration and advice to teammates.

Jalen “Teez” Tabor, Florida (6-0, 201): Junior. Tabor, a former five-star recruit, was a part-time starter as a true freshman in 2014 and first-team all-SEC as a sophomore and junior. He picked off nine passes — including three pick-sixes — during his three seasons. As a sophomore, he had four interceptions and 18 passes defensed. As a junior, he intercepted four more passes. Tabor was suspended for the season-opening game of 2016 because of a fight with a teammate. How did he handle that? By giving a pair of shoes and $22 to a homeless man near campus.

In his letter to Florida fans declaring he was going pro, Tabor wrote: “Where I grew up, nobody’s really expected to go to college. I often doubted whether or not it was in the plans for me. So getting the opportunity to go to a school — any school — was significant for me and my family. When I think about my journey, coming from inner-city D.C. and living in some challenging environments, to arriving on campus and seeing the Swamp for the first time, I realize that I’ve been a part of something bigger than just a football team. It has reminded me to continue to work hard no matter the circumstances.”

Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson (6-0, 200): As a senior, Tankersley started all 15 games for the national champions. He had four interceptions, 11 additional breakups (15 passes defensed) an six tackles for losses en route to first-team all-ACC. Two of the picks came in the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech. As a junior, with opponents targeting star Mackensie Alexander (now with the Vikings), Tankersley intercepted five passes. That’s incredible production at a school that has produced a bunch of NFL corners.

He considered entering the NFL Draft but came back for one more season. “Coming back for my last year was the hardest decision I had to make. I had my mind made up about leaving and was definitely going to leave, but I just felt incomplete. I wanted to come back to finish, not just on the field but finish in school. Having a chance to do that is a dream.”

Jack Tocho, N.C. State (6-0, 200): Tocho was a four-year starter who posted career numbers of five interceptions and 26 additional breakups. As a senior, he had two interceptions and nine breakups.

Tocho earned his degree in accounting in only three years and hosted his own radio show, “You Don’t Know Jack.” He is the son of Kenyan immigrants. “Having been to Kenya three times, I have experienced first-hand the conditions my extended family members live in. All of the relatives in the United States, including my family, have always sent money back to support them. If I were to have to pay for college, I would be working to pay off loans, of course, but it was understood that my parents would support me as well. The downside would be less money could be sent to my family members in Kenya. We are able to support them even more now.”

Tocho surprised himself at his level of success. “Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I never really trusted in my abilities. While experiencing college, I had to learn to be more confident, and stand up for myself and what I believe in.”

Marquez White, Florida State (5-11, 191): White was a two-year starter, registering two interceptions and four pass breakups for a total of six passes defensed as a senior and one interception and two additional breakups as a junior.  “I feel like I don’t get the recognition because I don’t get thrown the ball, so I don’t make those crazy, spectacular plays,” White said.

Between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he joined FSU’s basketball team. He played in six games. "It helps me with my ball skills," White said at the Senior Bowl. "My feet definitely can move really well. I transition as much as I can. I still shoot from time to time. ... But this is my career now. Maybe later on in life, I'll be able to coach it or something." He was AAU basketball teammates with Michigan’s Channing Stribling, who is also a top cornerback prospect in this draft. "Neither one of us thought we would be playing college football at this level — we both wanted to go to the NBA,” White said before FSU’s Orange Bowl matchup against Michigan. “God had a different plan for us, just being here, playing in a game as big as this with so much history, playing the same position, competing against each other, it means a lot."

Tre’Davious White, LSU (6-0, 184): White had a tremendous senior season, earning consensus first-team All-American honors and being a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back. He registered two interceptions and 14 additional breakups for a total of 16 passes defensed, including a pick-six against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field. The four-year starter finished his career with six interceptions, 34 breakups, 11 tackles for losses and 10.0 yards per punt return. The PBU count ranks fifth in LSU history.

White returned to school to earn his degree rather than entering the NFL as an early-round draft pick. “Getting a football scholarship from LSU was my way out of a poverty stricken neighborhood that was full of violence,” he wrote in a letter to students. “I will be leaving LSU with a college degree, becoming one of the first people in my entire family to graduate from college. My hope is that by graduating from college I can set a great example for my younger brothers and sister to follow and hopefully inspire others who come from a similar background as me to get an education and make a difference in the world.”

White and former LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne both grew up Shreveport, La. “Every time I looked around, he was always at the games I was playing,” said Claiborne, a standout corner with the Dallas Cowboys. “I remember one of my teammates telling me, ‘This little dude is always talking about you and saying he wants to be like you.’ When you hear that, you want to be a great role model. We have a relationship that’s built up over time and it’s very special and important to both of us. We have the same goals, coming from the same place. We’ve always had a lot of people telling us we can’t make it out.”

Howard Wilson, Houston (6-0, 185): Redshirt sophomore. Wilson ranks as one of the top ballhawks in the class. He intercepted three passes as a true freshman in 2014. In the third game of his sophomore year, he intercepted his first pass of the season but sustained a torn ACL on the return. Wilson returned in 2016 and intercepted five passes and breaking up 10 others for a total of 15 passes defensed.

Quincy Wilson, Florida (6-0, 209): Junior. Wilson was second-team all-SEC in 2016 with three interceptions and six additional pass breakups. Wilson and Teez Tabor form one of the best cornerback tandems in the nation. “It’s kind of like little brother, big brother type of thing, where growing up, you don’t want your brother to be better than you,” Tabor said. “You want to be better than your brother. And just that competition every day for three years since we’ve been here.”

Wilson’s father, Chad, played cornerback for Miami (Fla.) in the early 1990s. Younger brother Marco signed to play for Florida in January. Chad was Quincy’s high school coach. From there, he went to the school coined “DBU” for its penchant for cranking out top defensive backs. “I came to Florida so I could be with the best DBs. It just brings out the best in you.”

Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado (6-2, 195): Witherspoon tied teammate Tedric Thompson for No. 1 in the nation with 23 passes defensed, coming on one interception and a school-record 22 breakups. All that got him was second-team all-Pac-12 honors. It was an incredible season, considering Witherspoon had four pass breakups while starting eight games as a junior. Witherspoon played only one year of high school football, focusing instead on basketball, baseball and soccer as a kid. “I had played soccer growing up, all my life,” Witherspoon said. “My senior year, I just wanted to play with some of my buddies, so I said, ‘Forget soccer for a semester and play football.’”

He was only 5-foot-8 as a senior. He took his 4.4 grade-point average to Sacramento City College in 2013. Then he grew 7 inches in 16 months and was on his way to Colorado, where he has perfect grades as a pre-med student.


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