KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In a league of copying a team’s championship success, there’s a movement to identify big cornerbacks to emulate the Seattle Seahawks.
Jan 25, 2014; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad defensive corner Pierre Desir of Lindenwood (30) celebrates after an interception against the South squad. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
But traveling that route could be easier said than done.
“Big, fast guys are the fewest people around,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Everybody would like to get longer, taller guys that run 4.4, but there are just not very many humans like that in the world.”
Yet, competitors hoping to implement Seattle’s blueprint in this year’s draft have options, among them arguably the NFL’s worst-kept secret in Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir.
At 6-foot-1, 198 pounds, Desir projects as a second- or third-round pick, according to CBSSports.com and NFLDraftScout.com. He’s been linked in recent months as speaking to numerous NFL teams, including the Chiefs, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.
Desir’s draft stock has steadily risen due to strong showings at the East-West Shrine Game, Senior Bowl and Combine. And of course, there’s Seattle’s dominating Super Bowl win against the Denver Broncos between those events to boost interest.
“I think because of the success Seattle had, it’s helped me a lot because a lot of teams are trying to find that mold of a bigger corner who can cover since the receivers now are a lot bigger,” Desir said in a phone interview. “For me to be able to utilize my size and length to match-up with a receiver, just put myself in position where smaller corners can’t, is an advantage to myself and I think teams see that as well.”
Still, Desir, who split his collegiate career between Washburn and Lindenwood, is more than just size. He has the production to justify his place as a top cornerback prospect.
A three-time All-American and four-time All-MIAA selection, Desir’s 25 career interceptions rank as the second-most in conference history. He also ranks first in conference history with 52 career passes defensed.
Additionally, the Division II star was the inaugural recipient of the Cliff Harris Award, which honors the Small College Defensive Player of the Year.
While he’s been labeled by some as raw, Desir’s overall play quickly gained the attention of NFL scouts and analysts, including senior draft analyst Rob Rang of CBSSports.com and NFLDraftScout.com.
“He’s a fluid athlete with impressive ball skills,” Rang said of Desir in a phone interview. “He’s a game-changing type of cornerback in that he is the type of guy who can cover receivers, but also when the ball is in the air he can make the big play.”
Rang adds there remain areas of improvement, such as being physical against the run, but ultimately returns to what has made Desir a top prospect.
“I think he’ll be very intriguing given his length,” Rang said. “That’s one of the things that makes Desir so intriguing to both Seattle and Kansas City is that length and the ball skills. Those are traits that never go out of style.”
The recognition in recent months over his NFL potential has Desir feeling humbled.
Since arriving in the U.S. from Haiti as a toddler, Desir said growing up and playing football led him to eye the NFL. However, he never thought he’d gain the media focus coming out Francis Howell Central High School in Cottleville, Mo.
“I’m just blessed,” Desir said. “I always had dreams of being in the NFL, but as far as getting all the attention and publicity, I never dreamed about all that.”
Meanwhile, consistency on the field established a reputation for Desir, whose ability to defend the pass became a source of personal gratification.
He admits coming down with an interception isn’t easy, but credits the time spent studying film and how he practices as primary reasons for success.
“It’s one of the best feelings to be able to get an interception and give the ball back to your team for a chance to score or give yourself a chance to score with the interception,” Desir said. “I take a lot of pride in that, especially to get an interception in the game to help the team.”
Another factor assisting Desir on defense is understanding the position he lines up against. Desir said he also played wide receiver while in high school before eventually settling on cornerback.
Quickly processing how the wide receiver lines up or comes off the snap against him has benefited Desir in defending a play.
“For me, you understand the routes that are coming at you when the receiver runs the route,” Desir explained. “Basically being a corner, you have to be just like a receiver once the ball is in the air. I think those skills translate for myself, especially when I’m going up and attacking the ball.”
Feb 25, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Lindenwood defensive back Pierre Desir runs the 40 yard dash during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
In the meantime, Desir remains committed to improvement as he prepares for his Pro Day at Lindenwood on March 19.
He’s scheduled to return to the 4th & Inches Sports Performance training facility in Dallas where he said he’ll work on clocking a better 40-yard dash following a 4.59 result at the Combine.
“I didn’t run a time that I liked,” Desir said. “And that’s going to be my main focus during my Pro Day.”
Given his personal work ethic, it’s hard to argue against Desir coming away with a stronger 40-yard time as he looks to bolster his draft value.
He has a well-documented story of the sacrifices made in college, balancing school while working odd jobs to help provide for his wife, Morgan, and two daughters, Keeli and Kamryn.
Desir hopes to reward his family during May’s NFL Draft with that potential moment prospects look forward to.
“There will be a lot of screaming if my name is called, just a lot of emotions, a sense of relief because of all the hard word and sacrifices myself and my family put into this,” Desir said. “I know everybody is going to be happy, especially my wife and my kids, and my parents as well.”
But as to when it will personally hit Desir that he achieved a dream?
He paused for a noticeable moment, perhaps reflecting on his journey from a Division II school to catching the attention of NFL scouts, before responding.
“I would say Day One of training camp,” Desir said. “I think the draft – you watch it, you always want to be there – but to actually be in the facility with all the uniforms, guys you see on TV, putting the pads on, being a part of that team, I think that’s when it’s really going to hit.”