Tony Jefferson, Safety, Oklahoma

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TFG’s Rookie Roundup series features a multitude of draft prospects, illuminated through Q&As. Learn more about their off-the-field lives, as well as where they may fit in in the NFL.  We’ll be adding players frequently between now and April 25th (start of the NFL Draft), so please check back often!

When he’s not busy training for a soon-to-be NFL career, former Sooners safety Tony Jefferson likes to perform goofy skits with his buddies.  None of them are for air, Jefferson told me as he prepares for this week’s Combine.  Yet based on his energy and eloquence during our conversation, it is quite evident that his inner-thespian wouldn’t mind a stage.

Same goes for his inner-running back.  Jefferson was a split RB/DB in high school, rushing for 28 touchdowns his senior year.  He won’t experience a senior year of college football, though.  Based on his successes as a college safety, which this season include being named a 2nd team All-American and finishing the year fourth in the country with 119 tackles – Jefferson decided the time to enter the NFL was now.

Most draft experts consider Jefferson a better run than pass defender, and find his versatility intriguing. Here is Jefferson’s NFL.com Draft Profile. He is currently projected to go in the 2nd or 3rd round.

 

(Photo via SoonerSports.com)

Melissa Jacobs:  At what point in your life did you know you could play professional football? 

TJ: It was my freshman year in college, the game after Texas. I had a good game and another good one when we played Cincinnati. I had a lot of tackles in that one. I was still trying to get acclimated to college football, but I was going against some good guys and making plays. I thought I could go somewhere with this.

MJ: How difficult was the decision to leave Oklahoma with a year of eligibility remaining?

TJ: It was very difficult. I still think about it a lot, ‘What if this? What if that?’ I’m sticking with my decision, though. I’m running with it

MJ: Speaking of running, your twitter handle reads as follows:  “Safety for the Sooners, but a better running back.” Is that really true?

TJ: It is. Coming out of high school I was really good at running back and had a lot of offers for the position. When I chose Oklahoma they said they’d try me at both and see where everything ended up. They had a different plan for me when I got there and I have no complaints about it. But if I had the opportunity to play running back I think I would have been just as good, if not better.  In my opinion. {laughing}

MJ: What current NFL safety does your style most emulate?

TJ: For safety, I watch Ed Reed all the time. To highlight his greatness, I think of a certain play in the Super Bowl. He was on man-to-man coverage with the receiver and he came off because he saw [Colin] Kaepernick running and put pressure on him, which helped cause the incompletion at the goal line. It really showed off his instincts and was a big factor in sealing the Super Bowl win. My coaches have praised me for my instincts so Reed is really who I model myself after.

MJ: Pretend I’m a scout and tell me in :30 seconds or less why I should draft you.

TJ: I’m well-coached. I‘m a leader. I’m going to come in right away with eyes open, ears open, willing to listen to the players that are already there. I’m good at accepting coaching, and I want to win ballgames. The money and all the things that come with it are cool but I love the game of football. I want to win the Super Bowl, and I will destroy any distraction that might affect me or my teammates.

MJ: Obviously you’re going to be asked specifically about recent reports that basically bashed your work ethic. How do you plan to respond?

TJ: I’ll just tell them how I’ve been a hard worker since I got there, since freshman year. There are plenty of things that go on in the media world that you can’t just believe. I talked to my coaches about it and they said they had never said anything like that. In the end, though, it’s all up to me. I’m a hard worker. In fact, I was actually voted “Lifter of the Year” my sophomore year. When you play football at Oklahoma you can’t be a slacker or you won’t make it.

MJ: What’s the first thing you’re buying when you sign that first contract?

TJ: I’m going to make sure I take some money to put away for my potential kids for their college. I know how it is. I’ve had family friends who are struggling and I don’t want to deal with that. I want to take care of it as soon as possible.

Here’s a nice Jefferson tribute video:

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Melissa Jacobs

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