“People used to tell me that all the time: Try safety,” Ittersagen says. When playing zone, per Sports Info Solutions, … So are their backups. Justus Parker, Texas Tech. I wouldn’t take it that far. Redskins CB Brian Davis upends Buccaneers WR Mark Carrier. It’s a mystery, but Sehorn was the last prominent white cornerback, with very few others sprinkled throughout the years in the interim between Sehorn’s retirement and now. 38 broke up a 40-yard fade down the opposite sideline. “At this point,” he says, “it’s going to take a coach who’s willing to take a risk—somebody who will stick his neck out there for a kid who loves the position and has a future there.”. Sehorn played with the Giants from 1996 to 2002. “I’m not going to be politically correct about this,” he warns. But how might Dr. King have reacted if a scientist showed him studies suggesting that black men are better equipped than white men for 160 of the most coveted, highest-paying jobs in America, that white cornerbacks are inferior to those of African descent? Nah. He logged one year with the St. Louis Rams in 2003 at safety but was out of the league shortly thereafter. Yeah. Wide wingspan, thin legs, narrow hips, long strides. Eighteen months and zero calls later, as Lisowski watched Sherman and fellow corner Walter Thurmond leave Super Bowl XLVIII with injuries, he was surprised to feel the same butterflies behind his ribs that he used to feel when he was about to run onto the field. One hundred-sixty black cornerbacks, give or take. Lisowski couldn’t get there inside a Trojan Horse, as Kilmer did. All Rights Reserved. How’d he get down here? He has worked in the past with MMA champions and 2008 Olympic wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo, among others, and he doesn’t know how to pull a punch. Parker enters … Eagles CB Dustin Fox lines up against the Packers. Just be on the roster with CORNERBACK next to your name instead of SAFETY.”. Here's a look at the 10 highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL currently, nine of whom don't play for their original teams: Richard Sherman is one of the most accomplished players of his era. Competing against each other in practice from 2007 through ’10, the two young men—Mueller the corner and Sherman the wideout—were identical beneath their epidermises. As he describes it, “I feel like I beat football in a way. Even if I’m a white coach or a coach who’s pulling for [the white cornerback], I’m still thinking, ‘Why is he here? Sehorn and Lisowski and the other corners do a lot of pausing and thinking, too, before they talk about their position and their skin color. “Mark was a better athlete than I was, no question,” says Sherman. The last White cornerback to start a game in the NFL was Jason Sehorn … “The solitary nature of the position is more appealing to young African-American players,” says Dr. Edwards. The wide receiver position hasn’t totally wiped out the white guys like the running back and cornerback positions have (shout out to Jason Sehorn AKA The Last of a Dying Breed), but it’s pretty damn close. Twenty-six years would pass before Russell Wilson equaled Williams’s achievement, in 2014, during which time black backup QBs won seven Super Bowl rings. Then again, Ethan Kilmer played corner in the NFL without playing a single snap at the position at Penn State. But the diversity ends at one position—it's been 14 years since a white player has regularly started at cornerback. Clearly blacks are way over-represented based on disparate impact. After two years of calls to Thurman, seeking his college coach’s counsel—“He told me, ‘You’ve got to fight to play corner,’” Sehorn remembers; “‘they’re not gonna move you back just because you want to’”—Sehorn was finally sent homeward to the boundary. Davis, the last white guy to play cornerback regularly in the NFL before Sehorn and Kaesviharn came along, started 15 games for the Redskins in 1988 and ’89 (opposite Hall of Famer Darrell Green) and was a backup for three other teams before he retired in ’95. “Doug said to me one time, ‘BD, what I like about you, you don’t see color,’” says Davis. My teammates told me, ‘That’s Fred Biletnikoff.’ ”. Yes, it can get mighty awkward anytime a white man raises his hand and points out what might be a touch of racial discrimination against him, especially in America in 2017. !” asks the revered Berkeley sociologist and activist. The coaches began to see me as this fragile track guy, which I guess I kind of am.”, But what if Mueller’s finicky physique had held up, and what if he’d been afforded the chance to make the mistakes that Sherman made in his first year at corner? He can’t run, he can’t jump, he’s too damn nice.’ That’s another stereotype, by the way: nice, polite. They’re all African American. That’s how Kilmer got shoved onto the field to play a position he had only dabbled at in practice—except now he was going against the Saints’ league-best passing offense. One year later another white corner, Colorado State’s Nick Oppenneer, took one 97 yards to the house against the Lobos. As for the 14-year Sehorn gap, Entine explains, “Two things have happened. Maybe the Seahawks had caught on to the right-shoulder injury he’d suffered during his first practice that spring. Kevin Kaesviharn lines up against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2006 season. Known for being one of the league’s biggest trash talkers, Jalen Ramsey can certainly back it up. He was a scholarship cornerback for four injury-free years at Montana, yet he never became a regular starter, and he realizes that this fact explains why his NFL dream never panned out. Here’s what it had to say: “To be fair, though, calling Sehorn the last of the white cornerbacks means ignoring the dozen or so snaps Dustin Fox played for the Eagles and the Bills in 2006 and ’07. “Forget starting,” says Fox. Brady's response: "You're a stud, bro. I vertical-jumped 40 inches. They asked, ‘Is he a safety?’ I said, ‘No.’ They were like, ‘What?’ Jason went out there and proved them wrong.”, It’s been 21 years since Sehorn officially became an NFL corner. [NFL coaches] want a f------ baller.”. Even if he had, he wouldn’t want to come off as an excuse maker or as if he’s trying to play some upside-down race card. Tre'Davious White … Take a look at how all 24 of his selections stack up. Had Dennis Thurman walked a different route across the USC campus 24 years ago there’s a good chance we’d all be saying Kaesviharn anytime we spotted a white cornerback. Vividly. “That’s just the way it was. “We knew we only had one more year with him and that we had to find a place for him.”, Cornerback wasn’t an option, Thurman adds, “until I walked past the gym one afternoon and saw Jason playing basketball with [future Pro Bowl linebacker] Willie McGinest—backpedaling, sprinting, jumping, rebounding. That sudden demotion—and it was a demotion (a ’11 study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research concluded that cornerback is the most challenging of football’s 15 positions; it’s also paid, on average, the sixth-highest, whereas safeties are paid tenth-highest)—was softened by the strange praise Fox heard from several NFL coaches that week. The outspoken Richard Sherman was a fixture with the Seattle Seahawks for several years before going to San Francisco. Sharon M. Steinman/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images, “I loved Donny as a player and a teammate,” Sherman, now a four-time Pro Bowler, says of Lisowski’s short stint with Seattle. “Why didn’t I come into the league as a cornerback?” asks Fox, 34, who today cohosts a popular radio sports talk show in Cleveland. I’m a corner.”, Dustin Fox would disagree with that assessment. Might Mueller be doing what Sherman is doing now? I’m a competitor. If the preseason is any indication, the Cardinals are going to force a lot … A few snaps later he snuffed out a slant route, slapping Wilson’s spiral into the FieldTurf with an emphatic whap-bomp. Besides, he endured worse disrespect on the field. Tre'Davious White and the Buffalo Bills are finalizing a four-year, $69 million contract extension with $55 million guaranteed, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. I made plays at Ohio State. Not a single white one. Dinosaurs, sabre-toothed tigers and starting white NFL cornerbacks… three creatures that have gone extinct. So are there any white cornerbacks presently playing in the NFL? Why?”, Fox’s position coach at Ohio State was Mel Tucker. “I could have played in the NFL,” says Lisowski, who is still in top condition due to his recent enlistment in the Navy, where he will work as a medical corpsman. ... All of this is up for interpretation—if you dare go there. New Chapter! Long arms, of course, are nearly as dear to aspiring cornerbacks as speed; ask any corner who has found himself out of position on a fade. New Mexico’s coaches presumably do not tell recruits this. It’s unclear why there are no white players at the position, as essentially every other position has white players. Last season, Buffalo played zone coverage on 57% of its defensive snaps, and there wasn’t a better zone cornerback in the NFL than White. “Did some thinking. Over the past 20 years, only seven white men have played cornerback in a regular-season NFL game, including receiver Mike Furrey, who was thrown Edelman-like into the Browns’ rotation in … Fox’s defensive coordinator with the Vikings in the summer of 2006, Mike Tomlin, called his little-used safety “the American Dream Dusty Rhodes,” after the white professional wrestler from the 1970s who fought on behalf of the working man. Fact is, Rutgers’s Anthony Cioffi and BYU’s Micah Hannemann were the only white corners to start for a BCS school recently. Paylor was an NFL writer with Yahoo Sports and formerly covered the Chiefs for the Kansas City Star. It’s a mystery, but Sehorn was the last … II Augustana], in the Arena league. Born and raised in Seattle, the 28-year-old Lisowski will always remember the summer of 2012, when he had the Seahawks’ practice facility buzzing. © Copyright 2021 Endgame360 Inc. All Rights Reserved. Lisowski signed a three-year deal with Seattle, and from April to August in 2012 he drove his dad’s brown ’01 Tahoe to the Seahawks’ facility, where he worked out, practiced and studied as a member of the team he grew up worshiping. Afterward my daughter was trying to tell me something about this girl—she was describing her shirt, her brown eyes, everything about her. “Forget starting,” Dustin Fox says. “I haven’t thought about all of this for a long time...”. It means overlooking Ethan Kilmer’s single magnificent snap as a corner for the Bengals in ’06, and it completely neglects another member of the Cincinnati secondary that season, the real Sehorn – the last white player to start a regular-season NFL game at the position. Pending that, the status quo holds. Ranking top 10 safeties, cornerbacks in NFL: Marcus Peters lands redemption, Tyrann Mathieu steals the throne Ready yourself for a curveball or two in the 2020 defensive back rankings Mueller ran sprints for the Cardinal track team at 6' 3" and 200 pounds. It means overlooking Ethan Kilmer’s single magnificent snap as a corner for the Bengals in ’06, and it completely neglects another member of the Cincinnati secondary that season, the real Sehorn—the last white player to start a regular-season NFL game at the position. The glowing orc that those scouts watched run that day—shirtless, shaved head, sun-starved skin—turned in a time that was not only faster than Johnson’s personal best but one that also would have ranked third among corners at the ’12 combine (and fourth at this year’s event), had he been invited. “What separated me [from Sehorn] was that I played the position for as long as I can remember,” says the 40-year-old Kaesviharn, now a sports performance coach in Maple Grove, Minn. “I was a corner in high school, in college [at Div. Hey, you’re the long-lost white buffalo!’ I was like, Who is this guy? It raises the question: Exactly how black do you have to be to be good at corner?” Loosing a belly laugh of incredulity, Edwards continues: “If blacks are superior, why is the league wasting all of this money on scouting? It’s been this way for more than 10 years. Or so kids think. In 2008, Texas A&M had a white cornerback named Jordan Peterson who returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown against New Mexico. What got Lisowski noticed was the 4.38 40 that he ran in March 2012 in front of NFL scouts who had come to Missoula to see Trumaine Johnson’s pro day. The … A sampling of NFL cornerbacks African-Americans have dominated the cornerback position. The Baltimore Ravens' Marlon Humphrey is second, at … This has nothing to do with white or black.”, Try telling that to Fox, who arrived at the 2005 combine expecting to find his name listed among the cornerbacks (“right above Domonique Foxworth’s”) but instead finding it among the safeties, none of whom were smaller than Fox’s 191 pounds. Just go to the black community and scoop up all your players and win every game.”, “If you’re a young kid,” says Terence Newman, one of the few active players who didn’t request anonymity on this topic, “you try to emulate somebody, right? I can’t even get a shot? Any kid out there who’s pulling on a pair of Sherman’s Iversonesque forearm sheaths to start the revolution might want to know that, for road games, Sherman prefers his sleeves white. For a while there Lisowski believed he might get invited to another NFL camp and become the first regularly contributing white cornerback in the NFL since the Giants’ Jason Sehorn, who took his last snap at the position in 2002. “But in the end I think it was just a matter of [the Seahawks] preferring taller corners.”, Sherman played with a white cornerback at Stanford for whom height wasn’t an issue. “My measurables were better than half the corners in the league. And I go, ‘Wait, are you talking about the black kid?’ ”, “To me, that’s what Dr. King was talking about,” Davis says. It just doesn’t show up as often in white bodies. That day, as Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, Davis became the last white cornerback to do so. The students were given a standardized test … Finally, a player that actually currently plays cornerback. I knew it.”. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, Why falling in the NFL Draft could cost a player big, Ethan Kilmer’s single magnificent snap as a corner for the Bengals in ’06, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman for the spot duty he pulled over 13 regular season games in ’11, when he capped Washington’s Super Bowl–record 35-point second quarter by intercepting John Elway just before halftime. In particular he remembers an older, gray-haired man in Oakland who used to chain-smoke on the sideline during warmups. “I could make those plays. Jason Sehorn had to make his case to play cornerback in the NFL. (Photo: Getty) One of the most consistent cornerbacks in NFL history, LeBeau was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. That’s how I’ve tried to raise my [kids]. Am I gonna stand up and say it was discrimination? At their rookie camp that May he repeatedly won praise from Carroll, who after one lively scrimmage told a nest of microphones, unprompted, “I like Donny Lisowski. NFL.com senior analyst and personnel guru Gil Brandt ranks the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history. A white cornerback has not started at the position in the NFL since Jason Sehorn in 2003, making this the 17th consecutive NFL season without a starting white cornerback. Sehorn had two incredible seasons in 1996 and 1997 before tearing his ACL returning a kick in the 1998 preseason. The website Thank God It’s Saturday compiled a somewhat satirical countdown list of college football’s greatest white cornerbacks in the “hopes” of another one reaching the NFL. Brian Davis was not wired to care about such minor details, even though the mistake did lend him a whiff of ethnicity. He earned the respect of Carroll and his assistants, men he said were first-class in all of their communications with him. (Johnson, a third-round pick who started for the Rams last season, owned one of the Grizzlies’ two corner spots during all four of Lisowski’s years there.) In 1994 the Giants moved Sehorn back to safety the moment they drafted him. No one knew that the three starts Kaesviharn would make at cornerback two years later, in ’03—the season the Bengals nudged him to safety—would be the last starts by a white cornerback until, well ... ever? [Actually, Fox’s vertical at the 2005 combine was 43 1/2 inches—not only second best among safeties that year but second best among corners and fourth best among all players.] What is one thing all these cornerbacks have in common? Jason Sehorn (top row, third from right) with his youth soccer team. It requires one to defend wide receivers that may have speed that approaches the level of Olympic track athletes. “Sherm was a lot hungrier to get to the NFL than I was,” says Mueller, now an assistant track coach at Duke, “but the main difference was injuries. But those days have passed; Lisowski is out of the game. He’s also never missed a Pro Bowl, nabbing eight selections in eight tries. Day’Ron Sharpe and Armando Bacot were caught "partying without masks" after North Carolina beat Duke, according to Stadium's Jeff Goodman. After I ran a 4.43 at the combine. Peterson is always a threat to run an interception back for a touchdown with his incredible speed. To me, this whole [white cornerback] thing was never a race issue. I want to see what else I can learn and do and change in the world.”, As for the actual Sehorn, who at 45 is now a part-time broadcaster and full-time dad: “I wore sleeves for a reason,” he says. Despite a productive three-year run with the Atlanta Falcons, Poole’s one-year, $3.5 million free-agent deal with the New … In the spirit of Italian sprinter Piettro Mennea, who in 1979 broke the world 200 record by running it in 19.72 (still the best time by a nonblack athlete), Cioffi defeated the favorite in that state title race, Anthony Averett, who now starts at cornerback for Alabama. They got the opportunity, I didn’t. I’m a corner.”. Today Peterson is the outside linebackers coach at Texas State, his childhood dream of becoming the next Sehorn having ended with a gruesome elbow and shoulder injury his sophomore year. He was an up-and-coming player poised to make his first Pro Bowl sooner or later, and that came to fruition in 2015. So while it’s clear that not many players at the position are white, does that mean there are currently zero white cornerbacks in the league? So, growing up, I was the minority. Forget getting snaps. But that day his name wasn’t on the sheet at all. And it’s what they’ll need going forward if they hope to break into an NFL lineup again. “Jason was probably the most naturally gifted athlete on our team,” recalls Dennis Thurman, then the Trojans’ secondary coach and last year the Bills’ defensive coordinator. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs may have lost this year's Super Bowl, but the young quarterback found fans in the Bucs' receivers group. One interesting phenomenon in the NFL is the lack of white players playing cornerback. After stints in Tampa and New England, he’s now retired. For me it was Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith. Meanwhile, other than Sehorn (who allowed a 38-yard TD to receiver Brandon Stokely in the Giants’ Super Bowl XXXV loss to the Ravens—“We call that white on white crime,” says retired cornerback Dustin Fox), no white cornerback has even suited up for the NFL’s championship game. Today, 80% of African Americans are people born of some level of interracial and intercultural mixing. “What is Entine talking about? “It comes down to this: How many white guys are f‑‑‑‑‑‑ fast enough to play cornerback in the NFL? Ittersagen played two snaps at corner for the Titans in 2010 thanks to a series of injuries at the position and, more specifically, to a winding 88-yard interception return by Jason McCourty that was negated by a penalty and which forced McCourty, the exhausted starter, to pat his helmet and let Ittersagen pinch-hit for two plays. Blacks are only 13% of the population, yet about 66% of the NFL players. “Like it’s easy. ... Once you see all that, once you’ve proven to yourself that you can compete with the best, what more is there to do? The highest paid cornerback in the NFL is now the Los Angeles Rams' Jalen Ramsey, who makes $20 million in average annual salary. So you want me to put on 25 pounds and play inside the box? He wore the same surging bird decal on his helmet that Marshawn Lynch wore on his. “Nothing against other races, but right now African-Americans are just more athletic. © 2021 ABG-SI LLC. “The only resistance we felt [at USC],” says Thurman, “came from scouts and personnel people when they first came in to evaluate Jason. Then he quotes the late civil rights leader word for word: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”, “If blacks are superior, why is the league wasting all of this money on scouting?” Dr. Harry Edwards asked. And Sherman is one of the biggest community activists in the NFL. And sometimes white running backs and corners might be intimidated. The league’s next Roger Wehrli (one of two white corners in the Hall of Fame) might as well be named Shirley. I tore my labrum in both shoulders, broke my toe, had six concussions, two herniated disks. “It’s a touchy subject,” Kaesviharn says of his move that season to safety, where he got his last 47 NFL starts. Caucasians are obviously well-represented in the NFL, and the league has 64 starting cornerbacks (not to mention nickel corners who come off the bench). The Cardinals’ cornerback has 24 interceptions up to this point in his career. Donny Lisowski never experienced any issues as a white cornerback at the University of Montana, but he never quite stuck in the NFL. “Even raising the issue of racial differences is considered racist in some circles,” Entine points out in Taboo, “an odd stance considering the lip service given to cultural diversity.” He’s right. “I proved in the most competitive practice environment in the league, working with the best secondary in the league, that even with one good arm, I’m right there with them.” He turned down a CFL contract after Seattle released him, then he dabbled in Arena and semi-pro ball before realizing “there’s more to life than getting to the NFL. But to prove that there wasn’t discrimination—I mean, you can’t really do it.” Asked if he ever felt he had to be twice as good as other corners just to keep his job, Kaesviharn pauses. Fox laughed at the joke, but by the time his four-year career reached its last stop, in Buffalo, it was slightly less funny. His best 60-meter time was 6.96—a hair slower than Lisowski’s PR of 6.89 but faster than the 7.06 Sherman ran for Stanford.