RICHMOND, Va. – Rookie cornerback David Amerson is making a statement at Washington Redskins training camp.
A fashion statement. With his socks.
Amerson said he has about 10 pairs of stylish Stance-brand footwear. On Monday, he sported a gray and black pattern. On Tuesday, it's was red and black.
"Just my own little flavor into things, that's about it," the second-round pick said.
It's not that Amerson needs the extra attention. He's getting plenty, and in a higher-profile role than he could have expected.
Amerson has worked with the starting secondary for almost all of camp. The first few days he filled in for Josh Wilson, who was late getting cleared for practice because of offseason shoulder surgery. Now the rookie is on the other side of the secondary in place of DeAngelo Hall, who is sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Amerson's learning the hard way. When a cornerback gets burned in practice, it's quite noticeable. When he gave up a long touchdown pass on the first play of a drill on Saturday, he got yet another chewing-out from secondary coach Raheem Morris, who combines high volume and not-so-nice words to get his point across.
"As long as you're doing everything right, he has no reason to yell at you. When he is yelling at you, you know what it's for," Amerson said. "I don't take it the wrong way. I know that it's coaching. Everyone has their different ways of coaching. He's just yelling. Nothing wrong with that."
Amerson, from N.C. State, was the first of three defensive backs drafted by the Redskins in April to address a unit that ranked 30th against the pass in 2012. It will be a major disappointment if none of the three gets major playing time this season. Sixth-rounder Bacarri Rambo from Georgia has been working at first-string safety, a surprise given that he was taken two rounds later than Phillip Thomas of Fresno State.
Assuming Hall recovers in time for the regular season, Amerson and free agent pickup E.J. Biggers will compete for cornerback duty in nickel packages.
"I definitely see myself coming in here and being able to compete with the best," Amerson said. "With them throwing me in there, I don't see that as a problem at all."
Amerson didn't even play football during his first two years of high school in North Carolina, but during his sophomore year he dunked a basketball while wearing a pair of Timberland boots with the football coach watching. The coach couldn't resist such athletic ability and recruited Amerson to start at safety the next season.
Amerson chose N.C. State in part because he wanted to follow the path that eluded his older brother. Noah Amerson was actually the better athlete, according to David, and planned to play for the Wolfpack, but Noah started hanging out with the wrong crowd and ended up in jail. Noah now works in construction in Greensboro and lives his football dreams vicariously through David.
"Definitely, I learned from his mistakes," David Amerson said. "And took his positives and kind of applied it to myself."
On the football field, David Amerson appeared immune from mistakes when he set a single-season Atlantic Coast Conference record with 13 interceptions in 2011, winning the Jack Tatum Award as the nation's top defensive back.
But he was too eager to top himself. He was beaten on a pair of long touchdowns in N.C. State's opener last season and struggled much of the year, trying to make the big play instead of playing sound coverage. It's why he fell to the second round of the NFL draft.
With the Redskins, he's finding a steep learning curve. Hands have to be in the right position. Footwork needs to be perfect. Eyes looking the right way. He talks of "knowing what the quarterback's intention is" and "fitting in the right place" based on how the formation looks.
"I'm just starting from the bottom. I've got a lot to prove," he said. "Knowing they drafted me that high, and knowing they've got confidence in me definitely gives me confidence and motivates me to want to come out here and work hard and makes me want to learn everything, be on top of detail and everything like that."
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