Desmond Trufant knows what it’s like to be a rookie cornerback with high, immediate expectations. It was just seven years ago when the Atlanta Falcons took him with their first-round pick and put him in the starting lineup from Week 1.
Now the Detroit Lions have their own first-round rookie cornerback in Jeff Okudah, taken 19 spots higher than Trufant was back in 2013. Expectations are likely even higher for Okudah, but the young corner will have Trufant in the locker room this year, helping him manage first-year expectations and sharing his own experiences. Trufant has only spent a couple practices with Okudah, but he’s already come away impressed by the former Ohio State corner.
“I think he has what it takes,” Trufant said during a Thursday zoom call. “I can just tell he’s fundamentally sound. That’s big, coming to the NFL from college. Can you do your fundamentals every play, whether you’re tired, no matter what the situation is? Can you continuously do that? And I can already tell he’s a technician, and he just works hard, too.”
This isn’t the first time that word technician has come up when describing Okudah. Back at the NFL Combine, that’s the exact word he used to describe himself.
“I try to consider myself a technician, so that’s just what I try to rely on because I know that when everyone’s athleticism fades away, now all you are left with is your technique,” he said per MLive’s Kyle Meinke. “So, I try to sharpen my sword every chance that I can get.”
But as a rookie, there will be bumps in the road. There will be times in which Okudah isn’t perfect, and he’ll give up a big play or two. That’s just the nature of the position.
Trufant had his own welcome-to-the-league moment on the very first preseason play of his NFL career. On “Monday Night Football,” Trufant had the unenviable task to tackling Bengals two-time Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham one on one. It went... well, I’ll let him explain.
“In the game, he caught a little pass in the flat, and I came up to try and tackle him and he pretty much just ran me over out of bounds, and he was just talking crazy,” Trufant recalled.
Sorry to do this to you, Desmond, but we found that play:
Yesterday, Desmond Trufant talked about getting his "Welcome to the NFL" moment on the very first preseason snap of his NFL career.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) August 14, 2020
He wasn't kidding. pic.twitter.com/30lWBBXcgF
That sort of thing is going to happen to an NFL cornerback, rookie or otherwise. According to Trufant the key to making an immediate impact—as he did in his rookie season (two interceptions, 17 passes defended)—is how you react to letting up a play.
“You’re the man one play, the next play, they’re talking about you,” Trufan said. “You just gotta stay even keeled. It’s a marathon at the end of the day. This position, at some point, somebody’s going to make a play on you, but how do you react to that? Are you going to come back and make another play or are you just going to continue to let it roll?”
That’s wise advice that he’s undoubtedly sharing with Okudah, as the two prepare to be Detroit’s starting outside cornerbacks when the season start less than a month from now.