Undrafted, But Still Undeterred: Q & A With Cowboys’ Rookie Cornerback Bryan McCann
Being able to interview an NFL player – albeit over e-mail – is one of the huge pros of sports writing. No matter who it is, All-Pro nose tackle Jay Ratliff, or undrafted free-agent Bryan McCann, it is always a lot of fun to be able to get inside the mind of a pro-athlete, even if it is just through a few quick questions.
Starting July 24th (first day of training camp), Bryan McCann will pick up were he left off in OTAs – fighting for the job as the Dallas Cowboys’ fourth cornerback. As with most rookies – especially undrafted ones – the best way to make the 53-man roster, is to be able to contribute immediately on special teams, and move on from there. McCann has a great shot to make the team, because of his great speed and athleticism, which is ideal for special teams – most notably in the return game, as well as covering punts as a ‘gunner’.
When the draft finished and you hadn’t heard your name called, what was the first thought that crossed your mind?
When I didn’t hear my name called during the draft it was not a big shock or surprise. I have had to take the harder road my whole life, so I’m used to it. I just viewed it as an opportunity to go in and impress whichever team I was going to be a part of. Rookie FAs usually do not have high expectations from the coaches/players, so I just used that as motivation. No pressure, no expectations, so I could just go out and have fun.
Obviously you’re an athletic player, but as with almost all positions, a player can only use their athleticism for so long before flaws in their play begin to arise. What do you believe you have to work on and improve the most to make the 53-man roster?
Physically, I feel that I need to improve my patience at the line of scrimmage when guarding the slot receiver. Patience will help with coverage and being able to get hands on the receiver off the line. Mentally, I need to cut down on the processing time of motions, reloads, etc. of the offense. The faster I realize the check, the better I can do my job.
I recently heard your secondary coach, Dave Campo, say that if any of the (defensive back) rookies are going to make the team, they need to be a solid special teams player. You were quite a successful return man at SMU, but where else do you think you could contribute special teams-wise?
My biggest asset is my speed, so I definitely feel that I can contribute on special teams as a gunner on both the Punt and Punt Return teams. I believe that my speed along with the aggression needed for being a defensive player will make me a good gunner.
Which veteran have you learnt the most from since arriving at Valley Ranch?
I have definitely learned the most from Terence Newman. He is helpful on and off the field. He is good about telling little hints that most people learn from playing experience… I know what to look for before experiencing it firsthand. His locker is next to mine, so I get to pick his brain randomly when questions arise.
Who was your favorite football player growing up?
Deion Sanders. He was the best at his position, and that’s what I am striving to be as well.
Do you prefer to play off the receiver or right up on them?
I’ve always preferred press man over being off.
Toughest receiver you ever faced in college?
My ex-teammate, Emmanuel Sanders. If I had to choose from another team it would be Jarret Dillard of Rice. (He is currently playing for the Jaguars)
What do you think sets you apart from other players?
My speed and aggressiveness definitely set me apart from other players. When I see a play developing I’m headed toward the ball as quick as I can to make the play — no hesitation or half-stepping. I’m coming full speed and aggressively to disrupt the offense.
McCann will have his fair share of competition in training camp. Sixth-rounder Jamar Wall and fifth-year veteran Cletis Gordon will also by vying for the fourth cornerback spot. While Gordon has more experience than McCann and Wall attended a college with a more renowned football program (Texas Tech), neither has the same type of athleticism as McCann, which at least, levels the playing field to a certain degree.
It will be an uphill climb for McCann, no doubt about it, but with the work ethic, determination and athletic prowess he possesses, I believe he has a great shot at making the final 53-man roster.
You can also follow Bryan McCann on twitter @ http://www.twitter.com/bmac929
You can follow me @TLH_Long