Deion Sanders may be secretly a psychic.
The legendary NFL cornerback, who won two Super Bowls and is leading the coaching charge at Jackson State in the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) realm, spoke highly of Los Angeles Rams draft pick Decobie Durant before the 2022 NFL Draft saying “he should be recommended for the NFL.”
Sure enough, Sanders ended up calling it in the end: Durant snuck into the draft and found his way inside the “Rams House” as the No. 142 overall pick in the draft — plus went higher than expected.
Where Durant Was Originally Projected
The South Carolina State cornerback caught Sanders’ attention at the 2021 Celebration Bowl.
Durant’s Bulldogs pulled the upset and the romp of JSU 31-10 — with the 5-foot-10, 180-pound cornerback helping lockdown his side of the field and forcing just 175 passing yards.
“I’m pretty sure he is (NFL caliber),” Sanders said to reporters afterwards. “He should get his shine on.”
Durant, however, had to deal with the stigma of being called undersized and hailing from a non-Power Five conference. Lance Zierlein of nfl.com projected him to fall in the sixth round. The draft expert, though, noticed where he made up for his lack of height.
“Durant might be undersized, but he plays with tremendous confidence and competitiveness,” Zierlein wrote. Zierlein also listed his nose for the football (12 career interceptions) and his “twitchy feet” as primary strengths. But again, the first weakness Zierlein pointed out was how Durant was “short and light” followed by “could struggle with bigger slot targets.”
Meanwhile, James Fragoza of Pro Football Network listed Durant as a fifth rounder, citing how Durant “is a late Day 3 pick simply due to his frame, age (24), and positional value (slot DB).”
Furthermore, Bleacher Report didn’t have Durant listed in their final Top 300 prospects before the draft and wasn’t listed among their cornerback rankings.
But in the end, Durant skyrocketed to the fourth round and became one of the surprise findings for the Super Bowl 56 champions. He also becomes one of three Rams picks who played in the East/West Shrine Bowl.
Durant Reacts on Getting Selected
Durant said the phone rang once but then dropped.
But the second time his phone buzzed, he noticed the location of the call.
“I was just sitting around. Then all of a sudden the phone rang and then it hung up. And I seen it was from California,” Durant said in talking to the L.A media on Saturday, April 30. “And then they called back again. I looked at my manager and I was like ‘I think it’s the Rams.'”
Indeed, the champs were on the other line asking Durant “Are you ready to be a Ram?”
Durant responded with a simple, yet excited “yes sir.”
The HBCU standout is expected to add some versatility and ball-hawking skills to Raheem Morris’s defense. Slot cornerback is one likely place where Durant will see some action. He told reporters he likes emulating his game after two Super Bowl winning defensive backs who played in a combined three Super Bowls since 2019.
“I’d say I modify my game style after a Stephon Gilmore/Tyrann Mathieu type style,” Durant said. “A little bit of Marshawn Lattimore as well. But I feel like my playing style is being a gnat to the ball and whenever the ball is in the air, it’s mine. It’s nobody else’s.”
The Bulldog becomes the second Football Championship Subdivision defensive back in the last two drafts to be selected by the Rams. Last year, the franchise took Robert Rochell out of Central Arkansas. But more astounding and profound for Durant: He’s heading to the Rams as an HBCU representative — after that realm didn’t produce a single draft pick last year.
“Coming from an HBCU, along with the other guys coming into the draft with me, we’re just trying to set the bar,” Durant said. ‘We’re trying to set the bar high not only for us, but other people along with us in the draft and the people who are coming in behind us next year. We’re just trying to open up more doors and letting other players know to never lose hope.”
And turns out, Durant helped make “Primetime’s” bold prediction come true by going from the HBCU to the league.