A couple of years back I had an opportunity to sit down for quite some time with future NFL Hall of Fame free safety Ed Reed. Arguably Reed, now with the New York Jets, may go down as the greatest defensive player to ever come out of Louisiana and he spoke to me about what is the most important feature to have a cover man in the NFL as a cornerback or safety.
“Most of the time it is not about athleticism, it is about being mentally tough. There are some really talented athletes who have played the position, but because they can’t take the fact that you will get beat at times and teams pick on you no matter who are they crack physically and then mentally under the pressure.
Every year you watch these Combine athletes and you see these really good college players hit the league and few make an impact. In the NFL they don’t care about your resume in high school or college. They challenge you over and over again. You have to shake off a bad play and make them pay the price to challenge you again. Some guys get beat, it affects the next play and it is like an odor that comes off them that teams notice and with body language. It’s like that in other professions too. You can see who has been challenged and who produces. It’s called mental toughness.
In the NFL you are not always going to defend or shut down your opponent. But what makes someone great is making plays when you have been challenged and getting ready because next week they will come after you again. Enjoy being challenged and make so many plays that they look another way. I am not afraid mentally when I hit the field. I know Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson, Ronnie Lott, Champ Bailey, Darrelle Revis played with that same mentality and the younger guys today in Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Lardarius Webb and Earl Thomas play that way. You better be mentally tough to play cornerback or safety in the NFL today. You can talk all the smack you want, but you had better be prepared to be challenged, no matter how good you are. ”
Saints cornerback Corey White take note of that advice from one of the greatest defensive players to ever put on a jockstrap and shoulder pads at his position.
The battle will happen again next week and the following ones.