Aaron Donald's return means another grueling season for opposing offensive lines, while All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner is set to command the defense in his first season in LA. In the secondary, star cornerback Jalen Ramsey is likely to enter his seventh season as hungry as ever after getting a tase of what championship success is like.
So when the Rams took South Carolina State cornerback Decobie Durant with the No. 142 overall pick in the fourth round of the draft in April, it brought a relatively unknown name to a defense filled with guys that are on track for the Hall of Fame.
Being around all this star power through the first part of offseason work has only fueled the fire inside Durant, whose three seasons as a cornerback at a small HBCU program didn't prevent him from getting noticed by the Super Bowl champs. If anything, it's made his mature approach to the game all the more refined.
During an appearance last week on The Pivot Podcast, the rookie discussed how being around all this talent has elevated his preparation and mindset entering his first year.
"Just attacking every day 100 percent," Durant said. "Me personally, every day I wake up and tell myself I gotta be one percent better than I was yesterday. Whenever my name gets called, and Lord forbid somebody gets hurt, they gonna depend on me. They drafted me for a reason. So I’m attacking every day like it’s my last."
Durant admitted he wasn't expecting to get selected on the first day of the draft. He used this as motivation, keeping tabs on all 17 of the cornerbacks that were selected before him. But even getting an early call on the final day of the draft was a surprise.
"I wrote down all the corners that went before me," Durant said. "But you know, coming from South Carolina State and just hearing what the media was saying, I didn’t have my mindset on the first two days. I didn’t even think I was gonna go in the fourth round. I thought it was gonna be fifth through seven."
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Even more promising for his potential growth is the willingness to matchup with a Rams receiving group that contains the likes of downfield speedster Van Jefferson, Pro-Bowl veteran Allen Robinson, and 2021 Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp.
"I ain't never been a hider," he said. "That's only gonna make me better. A lot of guys in that receiving corps that's gonna help me whenever game time comes. Ain't no need to hide. Ain't ducking no action."
Durant didn't shy away from top competition on the collegiate stage either. When South Carolina State traveled two-and-a-half hours northwest to visit in-state opponent and a perennial College Football Playoff contender in the Clemson Tigers, Durant showed out with two interceptions.
Despite the Bulldogs getting trounced in a 49-3 loss, Durant was the team’s lone bright spot. His two picks off of Clemson quarterback D.J Uiagalelei displayed excellent ball skills on what was likely the biggest stage for him to receive looks from NFL scouts up to that point.
In total, Durant had an impressive 12 career interceptions during his time at South Carolina State. He’s the first S.C State alum selected in the NFL Draft since three-time All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard was taken 36th overall by the Colts in 2018.
You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7
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