No matter how you look at it, there weren't many cornerbacks more productive in college football last season than San Diego State cornerback Luq Barcoo. Now, Barcoo is looking to translate his impeccable takeaway ability to the NFL level with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A former JUCO transfer from Grossmont College, Barcoo stepped into a starting role with the Aztecs in 2019 following a year as a reserve and special teamer in 2018. In his first year as a D-I starter, Barcoo only led the nation in interceptions (nine) and pass breakups (16).
"When I'm playing corner and the balls in the area it just feels like ... I just feel like it's my ball, you know, it's like I'm responsible for going up and get it," Barcoo told JaguarReport this month. "Like, the ball belongs to me like a receiver would feel. So when I am at DB, I have that same feeling like when the ball is in the air; it is my ball. I am going to go get it."
Following a dominant 2019, Barcoo surprisingly didn't hear his name called during April's NFL Draft. As a result, the talented ballhawk found himself as an undrafted free agent. Barcoo's talents didn't go completely under the radar, however, as he became maybe the most sought after undrafted free agent in the entire draft class, eventually signing a record-breaking undrafted rookie deal with Jacksonville.
"I'm extremely appreciative of the opportunity the Jaguars gave me, and it does obviously feel great knowing that you have that type of support and somebody that's rooting for you out there," Barcoo said.
"But, after the draft - or towards the end of the draft -, a lot of teams hit me up, the 49ers, just pretty much honestly like 15-20 teams were contacting me because those were the teams I was talking to before the draft even started - because I was a little surprised I didn't get drafted because I had so much attention and stuff like that. But, unfortunately I didn't, but as soon as the draft ended I had a lot of teams contact me. But, the most competition I had as far as like what they were offering was the Indianapolis Colts, and then the Jaguars."
Jacksonville was able to beat out the Colts, 49ers, and over a dozen of other teams for Barcoo's talents thanks to a number of factors. For one, Barcoo will be close to a number of family members in Jacksonville. Secondly, Barcoo knows the opportunity he has in front of himself in Jacksonville since the team is short on cornerback depth.
Of course, another contributing factor is Jacksonville's culture. For the last several years, the Jaguars have made it clear (at least at most positions), that they are willing to roster the best players possible, regardless of draft status.
For an undrafted rookie like Barcoo, this is important because he knows that he will have a role as long as he earns one. It has happened to a number of other starts in Jacksonville's secondary, such as Tre Herndon and Jarrod Wilson, so why not Barcoo?
"It only adds motivation. It just motivates me because it shows you and allows you to understand that there is an opportunity here," Barcoo said. "Like they have a lot of guys that are starting now who went undrafted. So that is kind of like puts me in the same position and it just motivates me to be one of those guys who are able to do that.
"A lot of teams I feel like they go with there guys that they drafted, like they give you more -- like obviously every team does that where if you get drafted higher, obviously, they value you more in a way but I feel like here it is just like an open competition like the best guys are going to get on the field and I look forward to being one of those guys. So hopefully, that can happen. I'm going to work as hard as I can put myself in a position to be successful."
As Barcoo will find out as he continues in his first NFL offseason, and eventually first training camp, his peers in the secondary are able to connect with his journey and the challenges he faces as a rookie. Players like Herndon and Wilson had to fight and claw to make it onto an NFL roster and stick around, and now Barcoo will have to do the same.
Thanks to the presence of the veterans, as well as a culture that makes it clear that undrafted rookies have a chance, Barcoo can head into his first season with more optimism than a typical undrafted free agent.
Barcoo is one of the Jaguars' more intriguing undrafted free agents because of his ability to create takeaways and athleticism. Him going undrafted was surprising for a number of reasons, but it is the deciding factor which helped make him a Jaguar. And while some players would look at a situation such as Barcoo's with some negativity, Barcoo is taking the opposite approach.
"I'm a very optimistic person. I mean, I knew anything could happen. I coulda been an undrafted guy. I coulda been, second, third round. It didn't matter to me honestly," Barcoo said.
"Whatever the result was, I was gonna have the same mentality, same mindset towards just overcoming adversity, the same thing I've been doing my whole life. Going in there with a chip on my shoulder and showing them that I do deserve - I am a very talented player, and I just wanna prove that to everybody so I didn't really care where I was drafted.
"I wasn't disappointed at all. I'm actually very excited that just have an opportunity, opportunity in general because a lot of guys didn't get this opportunity just to even try out for a team. So, I'm just thankful for that and I look forward to going in there and showing everybody what I can do."