by Chris Warner
All-Star game, combine, pro day: call them the trifecta of NFL draft hype. Miss on one or more, and your stock can slide. Hit on all three like Don Carey did, and you might collect your winnings at the end of April.
Although he excelled at Norfolk State, the cornerback had a lot to prove after his senior season and did so during East-West Shrine Game practice week. Positive combine and pro day workouts only increased his chances.
Last Friday, Carey spent some time between his daily workouts talking with PD about the pre-draft process and one particular pro team’s interview.
What do you think has gotten more attention: your East-West Shrine practices or your combine performance?
Probably the Shrine practices.
What do you think stood out about those?
I was just competing against so-called higher talent, better talent.
Is that when teams first started to show interest?
Well, no…I’d been talking to a couple teams – the scouts and whatnot – prior to that. But things really did pick up after the East-West, so I guess yes.
And in terms of this pre-draft process, has it been overwhelming at all?
Not overwhelming. It gets tiresome. I mean, I’m kind of ready to just get it over with, find out where I’m going, if I’m going, and just play football.
Where are you right now?
I’m in Norfolk, Virginia.
What’s your daily schedule like?
Wake up around 6:30, work out, eat breakfast. Go to class, come back and work out again. I help the team out. They’re in spring ball right now, so I help out with the DBs.
So you’re coaching them?
Not really coaching…I’m kind of like a coach’s assistant, run drills with them and whatnot. If guys want help, like, on techniques, anything they need to actually work on, I help them after practice with that. But I don’t really consider it coaching, just giving some guys some extra work if they need it.
What do you think people who don’t know much about Norfolk State should know?
There’s a lot of talent here. We are a Division I-AA school still, and there’s a lot of talent down here.
What are some of the better schools you played against?
Kentucky and Rutgers were really the two best. William and Mary was a good school.
In terms of getting recruited out of high school, were you looking at any other schools?
As far as football goes, when it came down to signing day, I didn’t have too many options. I had some partial scholarships to a couple Division II schools, and I had some financial aid going to Lehigh University, but Norfolk State was my only full ride.
In high school, you returned punts. Did you get to do any of that special teams work in college?
Oh, no. The way our coaching staff had it set up, they pretty much wanted the receivers and running backs to do all that. I just focused on – at the time I played free safety – so I just focused on learning the defense and putting myself in a position to start.
Now, one of the biggest plays you had last year was blocking Hampton’s extra-point kick. Could you talk about that a little bit?
You want me to talk you through the play?
Hampton had just scored. There were (27) seconds left in the game, the score was 19 to 20. They go in to kick the extra point. Their wingman, we noticed all throughout the game, he would get lazy at times. Sometimes he would punch, sometimes he would lean, and, fortunately, it was one of those “lean” moments. Everybody pulled the right way and I was able to fly through the gap and get that block going. It was a complete team effort for us.
Are those the types of things that you look to do at the next level?
That and more.
Excellent…What teams are you talking to this month?
This month I was talking to the Dolphins, Seahawks, Steelers.
How are those interviews going?
It was pretty formal at first. I mean, now it’s getting down to them getting the feel of my personality and me getting the feel of how they run their organizations and whatnot. My confidence level has grown up a lot just talking to them. The more you talk to them, you know, the more you get a chance to know what they’re about. So it’s going well for me.
Have you spoken with the Patriots at all?
I spoke to the Patriots at the East-West Shrine Game, and for a second at the combine.
How are those conversations? What are those like?
The conversation with the Patriots, I remember that more than any other team’s. We, right away, talked playbook. They picked my head from beginning to end on what I would do. They put me into a lot of situations: I had to tell them what I would do in my defense, and then their defense. We would go (through) them and talk, and then we’d come back to that same play, and they’d say, we’ll try this play out, as far as our defense goes. That’s really unique. No one else has asked me to do that right now. No one else has put me in a situation where I had to respond (to) what I would do if I was at the corner slot or the free safety slot. It was challenging, but I liked it a lot. They really made me use my head and think.
Last question: Norfolk State’s mascot is the Spartans, so do you guys shout out quotes from the movie “300” a lot?
No, we don’t. At the beginning, our media guy…they’d play, like, a little video they put together. But besides that, the team really doesn’t do anything.
All right. Thanks a lot, Don. I really appreciate your time today.
All right, thank you. Thank you for calling.