For T.J. Cowart, Playing Corner Means Being More Than Just A Cover Guy
By ODU Athletics
Nov. 3, 2008
I was almost a year ago when T.J. Cowart picked off Bayside quarterback E.J. Manuel three times during a high school football game. Manuel, ranked the second best quarterback in his class and the eighth best recruit overall in the country, was already committed to Florida State. However, for Cowart that game caused recruiters to take an even closer look at the all-district cornerback from Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach. Yet after considering offers from several local schools and I-A Kent State, Cowart decided to be a part of the resurgent program at Old Dominion University.
"ODU had everything that I was looking for," said Cowart. "Not only did the school have a great academic program, but it also gave me a chance to make history as part of the first football team in more than 60 years."
While ODU had everything Cowart was looking for in a football program, he in turn has been everything the Monarch coaching staff has hoped for and more. At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds with 4.4 speed and nearly a 40-inch vertical, he possesses not only the speed and athletic ability to cover receivers, but also the attitude and the mindset to come up and play against the run.
"I consider myself a physical corner and I always have been. It's just in me to do that. I'm a corner who likes to come up and hit people, but I will cover too," says Cowart.
Cowart admits that in high school he was able to get by purely on his athletic ability, but at the college level the game is a lot faster and he has to focus on fundamentals and the playbook. Something assistant head coach and defensive backs coach Chip West has helped him with.
"Coach West is a great person who is straight forward with the way he wants you to do things and he's taught me a lot since I've been here," added Cowart. "I didn't even have to back pedal in high school, I just flew around and made plays. Here you have to focus more on your technique, and also there are a lot more coverages and blitzes so you have to study the playbook more."
Since arriving for camp in August Cowart's biggest improvement has been in his man-to-man coverage, something West attributes to the fact that Cowart is the type of player who wants to get better every day.
"We've been blessed with a group of guys in the secondary who are all physical and T.J. is one of them," says West. "He's been a physical player since day one, but his man coverage skills have continued to improve and that's because he is very coachable and soaks up everything that you tell him."
Five years from now when Cowart departs from Old Dominion he'd like to test his skills in the NFL against players like Randy Moss whom he confidently says he can stop. However, if that doesn't work he'll be perfectly fine with putting his sports management degree to work.
"That was one of the good things about coming to ODU," said Cowart. "I knew that regardless of what happens on the field, I'll have five years to work on my degree and that's something I can always fall back on."