TCU cornerback Jason Verrett was named a Walter Camp first team All-American on Thursday, a day after earning Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors from the league’s coaches.
Verrett’s three-year run as a Horned Frog has been a fascinating study in resiliency after he famously struggled against Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in the 2011 season opener in his first start at TCU.
He’s used to questions about that Baylor game, in which the Bears threw for six touchdown passes, including three against him.
“That’s just part of my story. They go back to that game and try to say ‘where did this kid come from?’” he said. “It changed me as a person and grew me up as an athlete on the field and off the field, too.”
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It was a humbling experience for Verrett, who was recruited by TCU safeties coach Chad Glasgow from Santa Rosa Junior College in California. He wanted to quit after the game but said his teammates and coaches helped get him through it.
“After that game I had a lot of fans and people turning their back on me, but my teammates and coaching staff and this school still had my back,” he said. “That’s pretty much what made me a fighter and all the accomplishments I have now I thank TCU for it.”
Verrett rebounded and was starting again two games later and finished 2011 strong. His All-Big 12 performances the past two seasons has caught the eye of NFL scouts, many projecting him to go in the first or second round. He contemplated leaving early a year ago but decided to stay to get his degree. He graduates with a communications degree Saturday.
He played much of the 2013 season with a torn labrum in his shoulder after a hit against Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro in the third game. He re-injured it on a blocked kick attempt against West Virginia in early November and missed the Iowa State game.
“It was a little tough because I was trying to decide on my future and whether I should go ahead and knock out surgery now or if I should wait,” he said. “Coach P kept telling me to keep putting that fight in because I’m a small guy and people at the next level wanted to see me compete and show that physicality and that toughness that I have. That stuck with me to finish those last two games.”
It’s eye-raising that Verrett wasn’t named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which honors the nation’s top defensive back. But that probably has more to do with TCU’s 4-8 record than the year Verrett had. He consistently held opponent’s best receivers to well below their averages.
He limited Baylor’s all-conference receiver Antwan Goodley to one catch for 12 yards. That was something Verrett had a knack for doing. He held Texas Tech’s Eric Ward without a catch and helped slow down LSU’s swift receivers. Verrett said defending LSU was his best performance of the year.
“That was just a big game. People wanted to see me play against an SEC team and I thought I played well,” he said. “That was fun. [Odell Beckham] is a real good receiver.”
Verrett leaves Dec. 28 for San Diego where he will train at Athletes’ Performance to get ready for the NFL Combine in February. Verrett grew up near Oakland, Calif., and has always been a Raiders fan. Not so much anymore.
“Nah, all 32 teams” are tied for his favorite now.
Some draft experts have him going in the first round, but Verrett has tried to ignore the speculation. He’s had weekly phone conversations with former teammate Josh Boyce, who plays with the New England Patriots.
“All that stuff will take care of itself. My main focus is getting my body healthy and getting on a diet to gain weight and get ready for the combine,” he said. “Josh is a hard worker and somebody I liked competing with here. He’s given me some advice and a little insight to how it is.”
Verrett was surprised to learn he earned a share of the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, something he hadn’t expected. But, considering where he’s come from, nothing, including a job in the NFL, should surprise him anymore.
“I’m just blessed. It’s shocking to see all the accomplishments I’ve had over the course of my three years here,” he said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity that I got. I thank my teammates and coaches because without them I probably wouldn’t be in this situation.”