So, your agent tells you that you’re about to be drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. What’s the first thing that goes through your head?
Complete relief and excitement to be drafted into the NFL, first and foremost. Once I calmed down and realized [I’d] be with the Colts, my entire family agreed I could not have gone to a better organization.
Where were you at during the draft? What was the mood like at the time?
I was at my home in Oxnard, California, with my family. The mood was tense because I was frustrated so many teams passed on me, but once I received the call, that all changed. We were happy. (Laughs)
What’s it like to be in the prime of your life and on top of the world?
I am very excited to be this young and in the position I am in life; I feel my body [is] ready to make the transition, and [I] plan on taking advantage of my youth. It feels great.
You came into one of the most talented young DB corps in the league. What do you think you bring to the table? Do you think you’ve got any qualities that’ll define who you are on this team? Who do you model your game after?
I feel blessed to have so many vets in the DB group. I bring press coverage to the table. My play at CB will define who I am on this team; [it’s] yet to be seen, so I’m focused on getting ready to play because I have a lot to prove. I do not model my game after anyone in particular. I play with my own style, but I do enjoy watching successful corners and [picking] up on what makes them special [to] incorporate it into my game one way or another.
The Colts secondary for the last few years has earned a reputation of being punishers. Do you consider yourself a strong tackler?
I’m actually ashamed of my tackling in the past. A must-improve for my game. But I do consider myself a good banger; (laughing) I’ll lower the helmet, for better or worse.
What did you think of the defensive scheme when you first started digging into the playbook? Is it a little more simple, or a little more complex than you initially thought?
The playbook is similar to my college D. [It’s] just football once we’re on the field, especially at CB; it’s a position that requires natural athleticism. Can’t teach that.
What were your impressions of head coach Jim Caldwell, and coaches Larry Coyer and Alan Williams?
I really enjoy Coach Caldwell’s coaching style and presence. He is very passionate, knows how to make the team laugh, as well as shut up and listen. I respect him very much. I enjoy Coach Coyer too. He’s an old-school, hard-nose coach; the type of coach that will help me reach my potential, so I can’t wait to play for him. He was on my head tough in Rookie camp, so I know he can’t wait to yell at me… when I mess up, that is (laughs). Coach Allen is a good coach who knows the positions well. I look forward to learning and ballin’ with him as well.
Who are your friends on the team? Anybody you tight with yet?
I’m cool with all the rookies, and eventually will be with the vets as well. I have to play first to earn that respect.
What do you think of the organization as a whole?
This is a legendary organization. Great things happen here.
You come in as a wide-eyed rookie, carrying around that big-ass playbook, and BAM!: ACL tear. What’s going through your mind in the training room when that happened?
I knew my body was not right. I thought I deserved it; it’s God’s plan. I have to respect the game and position I play and be in world-class shape to play at this level, or else.
How do you keep your head in the game when you’re on the IR list? How do you interact with the coaches and your teammates? What do you do on the sidelines when you’re in street clothes?
My focus is on my body and rehab. That is all that matters in my world right now. I interact with [everybody] daily; my mission is get right, and the team’s mission is [to] win. Eventually, I will join them and get on that mission to win; can’t help them this year by being injured, so I’m focused on getting healthy and back on the field.
You’ve carried that “prone to injury” label around for a few years now. How do you handle it when people criticize you in that regard? There were some people in the media and on the internet who knocked the Colts for picking you up in the third round for that very reason. You got anything to say to those people?
I have a young man’s body, playing a grown man’s game. Once my body grows into my frame, I don’t expect to be injury prone. That is why I have continuously gotten injured. My body needs to be stronger, and that’s exactly what I’m focused on this year. Hardbody from the core.
When did your talent level sort of catch on? Was it in high school or college? When did you know that you were destined to be a DB and not a receiver?
My talent level caught on when I was a little boy. I knew I was destined to play CB once I was drafted.
In terms of technique, what’s the biggest difference between college and the pros that you’ve noticed? What’s something you can’t get away with anymore?
The main difference I have noticed between college and [the NFL] is [that] this is a grown man’s game, and they hit full speed, every play, no hesitation. You can’t get away with being soft.
Was it hard to climb the ladder at USC with the crazy talent pool they have?
I never worried about competition. I figured if i’m on top of my game, it’s gonna make it real hard to beat me out.
Is there a guy or two on the Colts that you really look up to?
I love our safeties. Bethea and Sanders have that swag… straight dogs on the field, [and] I’m learning from them.
You’re going to have to at some point anyway, but how would you cover Reggie Wayne?
(Laughing) Can’t give my secrets away, man!
At this point of your career, do you still think of yourself as a fan of the game who’s still along for the ride? In other words, has it hit you that is what you do for a living now?
I’m excited to be a pro because I’m also a fan of football, and anyone who is a fan of football has a lot in common with me, so I respect the fans for their support.
In the little bit that I’ve talked to you, you seem like a pretty accessible, down-to-earth sort of guy. What do you think about the kind of interaction pro athletes (yourself included) have with fans with the rise of Twitter and Facebook? It sounded like you were pretty thrilled at your first autograph session as a pro.
I figure a true pro should be able to handle their interactions with fans via Facebook and Twitter. It will only make the game more exciting for the fans to get to know their players more. I feel football players are misunderstood; we wear those helmets so fans don’t really know us on and off the field. We’re normal dudes that went pro in our sports, thank God.
Did any family or friends tell you that there was a pretty good shot of you at that Niners game on the sidelines before they went to a commercial?
Nope, I’d like to see the picture though.
What was your major at college, and what do you think you can do with that field of study, either on or off the field?
My major was Economics. I can learn about how money works and apply that to my budget (laughs).
Are you involved in any charitable work, or do you plan to be? If so, who do you want to work with?
I do plan on getting involved in charity events and things of that nature [and] I do plan to work with someone to help Costa Rica out. [It’s] half of who I am. [I] have family there, but have never been.
Finally, tell me something that you want every last Colts fan to know.
[I’ve] learned my lessons, and I’m where I’m supposed to be, thank God.
My thanks to both Kevin for the thoughtful answers, and to Link Winter for the fantasic questions. Get well soon, Kevin! -DZ