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In the Green Room with Michigan St. CB Darqueze Dennard

  • By Andy Fenelon NFL.com
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There might not be an NFL prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft who has risen higher or faster in the past four years than Darqueze Dennard.

The cornerback from Dry Branch, Ga., a one-stop town with a population of 3,198, was lightly recruited as a senior in high school. How lightly?

"I had zero offers going into my final game," Dennard says. By the end of that final game, one in which Michigan State recruiters were in attendance to watch a wide receiver who had already commited to the Spartans, they knew they wanted Dennard, too.

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The rest is history. Dennard, who went on to win the Jim Thorpe Award as a senior at MSU, is one of the top cornerback prospects in the draft and is expected to be taken in the first round. We caught up with him on Thursday during his visit to NFL Network and put him on the clock.

Question: You arrived at MSU as a lightly regarded two-star recruit from rural Georgia. Now, some view you as the top cornerback in this draft. How does that happen?

Darqueze Dennard: I don't know. It's a blessing to be sure. I think God just had a plan, and I believed and trusted in it.

Q: Do you ever think of what might have happened to you had Michigan State not stepped up and offered you a scholarship?

DD: I think about that a lot, actually. I'm thankful for everything I have because I really don't know where I would be at. Probably wouldn't even be playing football or have gone to school because my family didn't have the funds to go to college and get an education. It was really a blessing. I think about it a lot, where I was and how far I've come. I'm just grateful for everything.

Q: Can you name the last Spartans player to be taken in the first round of the draft?

DD: Charles Rogers. I never met him as a person, but he's all around our football building (in photos). He was a great college player, but money kind of messed him up.

Q: Now you jump into a business world that's going to make you a very wealthy man. How will you spend your first million dollars?

DD: I really don't need too much; I'm a simple person. I don't think I'm going to change. I honestly believe that. Looking at all the people before me who continue to make the same mistakes. That's something I use to show me what not to do. If my money goes anywhere, it will go back into my hometown. What I really want to do is open up a community center, a rec center for kids around my county. I didn't have that growing up. I want to give back to my community.

Q: Some are calling you the most complete corner in this draft -- a physical press corner who will support the run. What are the areas you need to improve in?

DD: You always can improve on everything. But if I had to say one thing, probably playing off-coverage. I can do it, but people haven't seen me do it. A lot of people see me as just a man-to-man corner but I can do everything else. I know how to play zone. I know how to play man-off. I know how to do other things as well. There's really not a scheme that doesn't fit me. I'm a versatile player.

Q: Worst-case scenario for you on draft day?

DD: Coming from where I come people don't have this chance, so there are no worst-case scenarios for me.

Q: Have you been hearing where you'll land in the draft?

DD: I really don't pay attention to any of that. I let my agent worry about that. They say anywhere from eight to 32. But we'll see.

Q: How does your game compare to the draft's other top corner, Justin Gilbert?

DD: I'm an all-around player. I do everything well. He's an athlete. He's a good player, don't get me wrong. He also returns kicks, so he has some added value.

Q: Have you ever returned kicks?

DD: I did in high school and I did as a freshman (at MSU), but ended up getting hurt. And going into my sophomore season they didn't want me to get hurt, so I wasn't asked to do it any more. But every day after practice I stayed behind and did it.

Q: Do you have visits lined up, and if so, with what teams?

DD: The Steelers and Cincinnati. I'm not sure about the rest. My agent just gives me my schedule on Sunday and tells me where I'm going. It's tough because I'm also in school right now, planning on finishing up in May (with a degree in communications).

Q: You're a cousin of Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard. Are you close?

DD: Growing up we weren't close, but toward high school we kept in touch. We talk all the time now. He has helped me so much, giving me advice on how to prepare for a game, what to look for in receivers. And with this process, he's saying just have fun with it.

Q: Which wide receiver do you look forward to facing the most in the NFL?

DD: All of them, really. You have Calvin Johnson, you have Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall, you've got A.J. Green and Julio Jones -- all those guys I grew up watching. I'm looking forward to facing all of them.

Q: Type of receiver who gives you the most trouble?

DD: I can handle all of them. None of them really give me problems.

Q: Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis had 10 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown primarily against another top corner in this draft, Ohio State's Bradley Roby. How did you fare against Abbrederis?

DD: He's a good player, but he never had a game like that against me -- (laughs) -- never.

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