Jason Verrett knows more than anyone about proving doubters wrong.
The former All-American TCU cornerback is a week away from seeing a lifelong dream come true when the NFL draft begins May 8. Verrett is rated as one of the top cornerbacks in the draft and is a likely first-round pick. He will be on hand at Radio City Music Hall in New York with his family and friends and TCU coach Gary Patterson.
For much of winter and spring, Verrett has been trying to prove that he can be an elite cornerback in the NFL despite his height. He’s 5-foot-9 and 189 pounds, which has led some draft experts to question his ability to cover the bigger, stronger receivers at the pro level.
“In the league it’s more about competing. It’s not necessarily that just because you’re 6-foot you’re going to be able to defend the jump ball and defend the deep ball,” Verrett said. “You still have to have that skill set and the instincts to make plays. My size hasn’t stopped me from making plays, so all I’m going to have to do is get smarter to make plays in the league because there’s going to be more smart receivers.”
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His size certainly wasn’t a problem against some of the best receivers in the game the past three seasons at TCU. He finished his Horned Frog career with 34 pass breakups and nine interceptions and was named the Big 12 co-defensive player of the year after last season.
He had shoulder surgery on March 17 to repair a torn labrum he first injured in September against Texas Tech and reinjured in November, forcing him to miss the game at Iowa State. He’s out of his sling and says his recovery is ahead of schedule. NFL scouts shouldn’t be concerned about any lingering effects from the injury, he said.
“I actually don’t think it’s been a problem,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to be able to do everything I needed to do. I was able to finish the season. I felt like I did everything I can control. Now that I’ve had surgery, the next priority is getting back healthy.”
Verrett had one private workout for an NFL team, the Carolina Panthers, but he’s met with others, including the Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets. Draft experts predict him going anywhere from mid-first round to early second round.
The last TCU player to go in the first round was defensive end Jerry Hughes, who was taken 31st by the Indianapolis Colts in 2010. Quarterback Andy Dalton was the 35th overall pick (second round) in 2011.
Verrett is back in San Diego, where he’s been training and rehabbing his shoulder. He’s been able to start working with machine weights to build back his shoulder strength. He grew up going to Oakland Raiders games, but he’s ready to change his allegiance.
“My mom told me whoever drafts me, that’s my new favorite team,” he said. “Right now, I’m a fan of all 32 teams. Whether I go first round or seventh round, I’m just going to be happy that I’m in the league.”
He hasn’t let the knock on his size bother him. After all, those same doubts have only kept him motivated and working harder than most in the past.
“You have a lot of people who aren’t that ideal 6-foot and have that big body frame, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make plays. I’m just going in there with a chip on my shoulder like I have,” he said.
After transferring from Santa Rosa Junior College to TCU in 2011, Verrett struggled early, especially against Baylor in the 2011 season opener, but he regrouped and recommitted himself to improving.
“Making that decision to go to TCU was probably the best decision of my life,” he said. “I have no regrets at all as far as the last couple of years and what I’ve been doing with my life. I applaud the school, I applaud the coaches, my teammates, everybody. I wouldn’t be in the position I am without them supporting me from Day One.”