Rookies turn the corner fast nowadays in the National Football League — not only quarterbacks, but defensive backs from Tyler in particular. First-year players jumping to mind include three first-year starting quarterbacks leading their team in wild card matchups today: Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Washington’s Robert Griffin III.
On a note closer to home, those cornering the market in little-to-no time include a pair of former John Tyler cornerbacks: Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks and Teddy Williams of the Indianapolis Colts.
Lane and the Seahawks visit Griffin and the Redskins today in an NFC matchup, with Luck, Williams and the Colts taking on the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC first-round playoff game. Williams wears No. 21 for the Colts and Lane No. 20 for the Seahawks.
Just recently, former John Tyler cornerback Aaron Ross won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants as a rookie starter.
Former John Tyler running back Kendall Hunter helped the San Francisco 49ers reach the NFC championship game last year, where they lost to Ross and the Giants, who captured their second Super Bowl in a five-year span two weeks later. An ankle injury ended Hunter’s second season with the 49ers, who have a first-round bye, although Super Bowl hopes still exist for two former JT teammates: Lane and Williams.
Lane made a fast gain up the Seahawks’ depth chart, doing so for the league’s No. 1 scoring defense. Seattle allowed an NFL-low 15.3 points per game during the regular season.
Lane, a 2008 John Tyler graduate who was drafted out of Northwestern State in the sixth round last year, moved into the starting lineup for the final three games, following Seattle’s 58-0 drubbing of Arizona in Week 14.
He made 10 of his 15 tackles as a starter. Lane (6-0, 190) expected to play in nickel coverages before getting thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries and suspensions to four other Seahawks defensive backs.
In his first start, Lane matched up one-one-one with San Francisco’s Randy Moss, arguably the best deep threat to ever play the game. Lane held his own, with Moss finishing with three catches on six targets.
Lane missed a practice earlier in the week, but is listed as probable for the wild card game. His toughness continues to impress coaches and teammates alike.
“You’re not about to challenge him and have him back down,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said of Lane. “Some players have the dog in them. Some players don’t. It’s something you can’t teach. You can’t coach. You can’t develop. It’s something that’s either in you, or it’s not. He has a big dog, and if you’ve got a big dog in you, you’ll find a way to make it in this league.”
Williams played in all four preseason games for Dallas before getting released prior to the start of the regular season. While away from the NFL, Williams spent time with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League.
The eight-time college track All-American, who held the world’s fastest time in the 100-meter dash at 9.90 seconds for more than two months at UT San Antonio, quickly caught the NFL’s attention after returning a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown with the Mountain Lions.
The Colts picked up Williams, a 2006 JT graduate, on Oct. 29 and promoted him to the active roster on Nov. 16, using him primarily on special teams as the gunner. After skipping football in college — UTSA added the sport after Williams’ senior season in track — the speedster clocked a 4.26 in his first year after signing with the Cowboys at the start of training camp.
After bouncing around at receiver, cornerback and special teams with the Cowboys, Williams (6-1, 198) has logged action in seven consecutive games in his new dome home, with the Colts going 5-2 in the process.
He spent three seasons on the Cowboys’ practice team, getting called to the active roster in 2010 but never appearing in a regular season game, making 2012 technically his rookie season as far as playing experience.
“Most of the time you work your way up the totem pole, special teams first and then when you get your chance on defense you just have to take the opportunity,” Williams told the colts.com official team website. “I just learn from the older guys and work as much on my craft and technique to be able to get better.”