Former Fort Valley State safety DeRon Furr was originally a 4-star recruit competing as a true-freshman quarterback at Auburn in 2008. Along his journey through college, he faced the same problems and frustrations every student-athlete faces.
But other situations were out of the norm, changing his path to the 2014 NFL draft and bringing him to where he is today.
Where is he currently? He’s training in Tampa Bay, preparing for the draft. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
His path to the draft began before he even arrived on campus at Auburn. Then Tigers offensive coordinator Al Borges, who recruited him and got him to commit as a quarterback when most other schools wanted him to play defense despite not having any defensive tape to watch of him, resigned following the 2007 regular season.
An Associated Press report (via ESPN) from Dec. 11, 2007, the day he resigned, gathered this quote from Borges: “After speaking with coach [Tommy] Tuberville for the better part of 20 minutes, it became increasingly clear that Auburn needed a new offensive coordinator.”
Auburn won a lot of games with Borges as its offensive coordinator. In four seasons from 2004 to ’07, the Tigers went 41-9, including 2-1 in bowl games. But his offenses struggled the last two seasons he was there. Auburn’s average points per game dropped during his time in burnt orange and navy blue, going from 32.1 points per game in 2004 (ranked 18th nationally) all the way down to 24.2 points per game in 2007 (ranked 85th).
He didn’t stick around to coach the Tigers in their Chick-fil-A Bowl berth on New Year’s Eve of that 2007 season, a thrilling 23-20 overtime victory over Clemson.
Furr graduated a semester early from Columbus, Ga.-based Carver High School so he could enroll at Auburn early and go through spring ball with his new team. It went well, according to Furr, enough so that he thought he had a chance to contribute as a freshman.
But new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin had brought in junior college quarterback Chris Todd just days after being hired to replace Borges. Franklin told Furr he had “little to no chance” at playing as a freshman and that he would play Todd instead.
A dejected Furr attempted to transfer to no avail. After sitting out all of summer workouts, the young, eager-to-play football player sat down with his parents and the coaching staff to work things out.
It was decided that in order to maximize his athletic ability while also ensuring he get early playing time, Furr would move over to the defensive side of the ball to play strong safety for new defensive coordinator Paul Rhodes.
“I came out during seven-on-seven [drills] and caught three picks my first day,” Furr said. “That allowed me to jump immediately on the depth chart.”
Coaches certainly saw potential in the freshman, but some of the players who were around all summer working to get better saw Furr’s quick promotion as a slap in the face. The fact that the freshman former quarterback—who missed all of summer workouts, mind you—suddenly was going to play over veterans who put in the work didn’t sit well.
Aug. 2 was the last time Furr considered himself a member of Auburn football. After an incident with former secondary-mate Zac Etheridge and others, Furr left Auburn, ultimately transferring to his second choice from the high school recruiting process, the University of Memphis.
He had a good relationship with then-Memphis defensive coordinator Tim Walton and, after sitting out the mandatory year for transferring between Division I schools, played free safety and outside linebacker during his two seasons. He was farther away from home than he would have liked, but he was playing football, which was all that mattered—while Auburn is about a 45-minute drive from Columbus, Memphis is over six hours away.
He didn’t blow up stat sheets at Memphis. Instead, Furr blew up ball-carriers and showed flashes of the great athleticism that has scouts and teams taking notice this draft season. This play against Southern Miss in which he puts the right tackle (No. 75) on his behind in pursuit of quarterback Austin Davis is a great example.
But as it often does, life got in the way and forced Furr to make a change once again, this time closer to home at Fort Valley to be closer to his ailing mother. And with a daughter on the way, being closer to home made sense. He would play football with the Wildcats while looking after his mother and daughter and pursuing his Master’s degree in mental health.
He could have been down about having to switch schools for a second time, but instead, he embraced the opportunity.
“Everyone’s story is different,” Furr said. “Just gotta take advantage of every opportunity presented—it [was] a blessing for sure. I just thank God for showing me so much on this road.”
The humble 6’3”, 232-pound defender enjoyed a productive senior season with FVSU, tallying 60 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He finished just behind his brother, Division II All-American linebacker LeRon Furr, for the team lead in those categories.
DeRon made play after play last season, showing an ability to get to the ball in a hurry and punish anyone unfortunate enough to be in possession of it at the time of his arrival. Of his many highlights, the following two show a degree of recklessness you love to see from a football player. He’s not out of control; rather, he’s in complete control and knows exactly what he’s doing. And what he did while at Fort Valley is wreck plays for offenses.
These plays are similar in style, both showing a physicality matched by few in the draft class.
And they both put on display his earnest approach to the game; he will make the play by any means necessary, which is one reason I believe he is being overlooked this draft season. He may not be the fastest player in the draft, and he didn’t bench the most reps and jump the highest or farthest at his pro day. He also didn’t play BCS football and rack up eye-popping stats.
But he plays hard and with a lot of heart. Heart is not something you can measure with a ruler, time on a track or count out on the bench.
Heart shows up on film. Heart shows up in interviews. And most importantly, heart shows up in life. This father of two-year-old Milan Furr is ready for his chance with the NFL. He’s ready to show the world what they’ve been missing.
“I can’t wait to play. Been getting overlooked, but it’s OK…the chip is bigger than ever.”
All information and quotes gathered first hand from DeRon Furr unless otherwise stated