It’s not easy being a cornerback in the NFL. The touchdowns you stop hardly ever make the highlight reels. But the ones you get beat for are played over…and over…and over again. (Ain’t that right Jason David?)
Saints cornerback Usama Young never expected the pros to be easy street. It never is for a cornerback. And while he understands the criticism heaped atop his team like gumbo on rice, he finds much of it misguided.
In part two of my interview with the rising star of the Saints’ secondary, he explains why you’ve got to walk a mile in a cornerback’s cleats to know just how tough it is to do what they do. But we don’t just talk Xs and Os.
Usama also lets us know how he keeps things “breezy” in the Big Easy.
Nola Chick: When did it hit you that you were living your dream of playing in the NFL?
Usama Young: When I first reported to rookie camp in New Orleans. I’d gotten drafted, I’d gotten the call from the Saints and it still didn’t hit me because I hadn’t gotten on that field yet.
But once I got out there and started competing against some of the rookies and trying to learn the defense and going through the two-a-days, I was like dang, this is not gonna be easy. That’s when I think it hit me.
Nola Chick: Who are some of the defensive backs you look up to?
Usama Young: When I think of defensive backs in the past I think of Darrell Green. He had a long career and he played for the home team, so I always saw him on TV in Washington. To have 20 plus years at cornerback and play some of those guys in the league now is just (he sighs in admiration).
And of course, there’s Deion. He was a playmaker, a show-boater. Those were my favorites growing up.
NC: What about current players?
Usama: There’s Champ Bailey and Aaron Glenn, a 15 year all pro, still has game and great knowledge of the game. Mike Mckenzie, still balling and coming back from knee surgery. It’s crazy just looking at these guys and to see what they’re going through.
NC: When I interviewed Mike McKenzie, he mentioned you as a player to watch on the Saints defense. How does it feel to know that a veteran you admire respects your game?
Usama: You strive to get on their level and when you hear them say “he’s on his way”, that’s a good thing. Every time something comes to mind, I look to a veteran. I always ask questions no matter what the answer might be...I’m just constantly striving to get better.
NC: Being a cornerback is tough. Do you think people misunderstand how hard it is to do what you guys do?
Usama: People always say it’s one of the toughest jobs but at the same time we deal with some of the most scrutiny and some of the most criticism on the team. When a long touchdown is scored, you know you’re the only one by the ball and everyone’s going to look at you and say it’s your fault.
I just think that a lot of people don’t know how hard it is to go backwards against a guy going full speed ahead running at you. You’ve got to do it off of instinct and athletic ability.
NC: You’re entering your third year in the league. Do you feel like you’ve finally settled in?
Usama: The pressure increases because they want improvements and you want to improve. Each year they want you to get better you want to get better. The fans want you to get better. If a guy’s at the bottom of the statistics doing the same thing not improving, he’s a disappointment.
NC: What advice do you have for up and coming players who want to get into the pros one day?
Usama: I went back to my old school last week and saw some of the kids working out. I went up to them and told them I know what y’all are working for. I was in your position some years back.
Just keep on doing what you’re doing and all your hard work is going to pay off; maybe not in the NFL, but in the classroom.
NC: How do you like New Orleans?
Usama: I love New Orleans. New Orleans is a great place. There’s always something going on. If I choose to go party, I can.
NC: (Oooh, he said the “p-word! My kinda Saint!) So where do you go to let your hair down?
Usama: It just depends on who I’m taking out whether it’s family or friends.
NC: I’m talking “out out.”
Usama: Well let’s see, there’s Thursdays at the Republic, Sundays is the Metro, and Saturdays 360. Usually the spot to be is Bourbon St. and the French Quarter.
(Hmm…before I run the risk of sounding like a stalker, I opt for a subject change.)
NC: Alright, so what’s your prediction for next season.
Usama: I’m looking for playoffs...to the Super Bowl.
NC: Oh my!
Usama: I know u didn’t expect me to say 10-6, 9-7, 8-8.
NC: Nah, but just know that now that you’ve said it, we’re holding you to it.
So there you have it folks. Confidence, intelligence, swagger, and skill…all wrapped in an adorable black and gold package. And while we loved his commercial with his dad, we’re hopeful his next Super Bowl appearance will be on the field and not in the commercial breaks.
(Oh, and we’re hoping he’ll be a Saint when that happens. Gotta be specific when you put stuff out there, you know?)