LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne arrived at the NFL Scouting Combine over the weekend intent on achieving the same pre-draft success Patrick Peterson, his friend and former teammate, did last winter.
Peterson and Claiborne are the last two winners of the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the best defensive back in college football. Peterson, also a cornerback, was drafted fifth-overall last April by the Arizona Cardinals. Claiborne is widely regarded as the best cornerback available in this year’s draft, and he is a candidate to be selected by the Washington Redskins with the sixth-overall pick.
As part of his attempt to solidify his status as one of the draft’s top prospects at any position, Claiborne sought Peterson’s counsel before traveling to Indianapolis.
“His advice was just, ‘Go up and take over,’” Claiborne said Sunday afternoon.
Peterson struggled at times on defense as a rookie, particularly early in the season, but he was an electric returner. His four punt return touchdowns helped him garner Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors as a special teamer.
Claiborne averaged 26.1 yards on 17 kickoff returns and had one return for a touchdown in 2011, but he is determined to make an impact in the pros on defense.
I’m “more of a technician and trying to funnel the guys instead of getting really physical with them at the line all the time,” Claiborne said. He has experience playing the slot as a nickel corner, which ostensibly would help him fit into a Redskins secondary that includes cornerbacks Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall.
“If I’m lucky to get picked by a team, my job is to come in and make the team better,” said Claiborne, who measured 5-11, 188 pounds in Indy. “I’m going to go in and work hard every day to try to make the team better.”