May 8, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard, a consensus first-team All-American and 2013 Jim Thorpe Award (nation's best defensive back) winner, has been selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round (No. 24 overall) of the 2014 National Football League Draft on Thursday, May 8. Dennard becomes Michigan State's 34th first-round selection and the first since wide receiver Charles Rogers went second overall to the Detroit Lions in 2003.
The 5-11, 197-pound Dennard becomes the first defensive player from Michigan State to be drafted in the first round since linebacker Julian Peterson was selected No. 16 overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 2000. In addition, he becomes the first Spartan defensive back to be picked in the first round since Herb Adderley in 1961 (No. 12 overall by the Green Bay Packers). Michigan State has had at least once player chosen every year since the inception of the common NFL Draft in 1967.
Dennard also was selected recipient of the Jack Tatum Award, presented to college football's best defensive back by The Touchdown Club of Columbus. In addition, he was named one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (presented to the nation's top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America).
The Dry Branch, Ga., native was chosen the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second year in a row in 2013. A unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches, he was named Big Ten Defensive MVP by ESPN.com and CollegeFootballNews.com.
Dennard finished the season ranked fourth on the team with a career-high 62 tackles, including 3.5 for loss (8 yards). He led the team and ranked sixth in the Big Ten with 14 passes defended, and also tied for the team lead with four interception and 10 pass break-ups.
Dennard was one of the main reasons Michigan State finished No. 1 in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in pass efficiency defense (92.3 rating), No. 2 in total defense (252.2 ypg.) and No. 3 in pass defense (165.6 ypg.).
"It was a relief, just actually getting a call and talking with the coaches," said Dennard on Thursday evening in Macon, Georgia, following his draft selection. "It was a great feeling, just knowing where you were going at and having a chance to play football."
Although he was invited to attend the NFL Draft in New York, Dennard elected to stay home and have a NFL Draft viewing party with friends and family in Georgia.
"I think it was just a great experience for everybody," Dennard said. "(For) my family to be able to witness it, because they helped me out not only my whole career, just my life and teaching me more and things like that, and also for my friends...I thought it was just a great privilege for me to have it here and let everybody be around."
"The first thing the Cincinnati organization can expect from Darqueze Dennard is a very professional attitude in his general lifestyle and preparation," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said. "He brings the right attitude and effort to work every day. He's a recent graduate of Michigan State. Darqueze had a 3.66 grade-point average this semester, and that's just another indicator of his work ethic. He continues to strive for excellence,
"Darqueze has tremendous ball skills, and he's extremely quick. Most people don't know that he had a hamstring injury going into the NFL Combine and he still ran a respectable 40. With that injury behind him, he'll run as fast as anyone on the football field. In addition, he's a great tackler. During his college career, Darqueze played every position in the secondary: star, safety, boundary corner and field corner.
"He has `it.' Darqueze possesses all of those intangibles that allow him to gain ground and constantly improve as a player. He's an extremely humble young man, and he's going to be an asset in the Greater Cincinnati community."
"We're so excited to be able to sit here and pick Darqueze Dennard there at our pick at 24," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis at a press conference Thursday night. "We went into the draft really feeling like we could get some new life and really improve our football team in a couple of areas with young players, and in the secondary was one option, and we were able to get that on the head here with this pick. We really feel good about him, the style of play that he has demonstrated at Michigan State. Secondly, the quality he shows as a person and how he carries himself. He's been a leader there, so he fits the mold we were looking for."
Dennard was named to ESPN.com's Big Ten All-Bowl Team after helping the Spartan defense limit No. 5 Stanford to its third-lowest offensive output of the season in the 24-20 victory over the Cardinal in the 100th Rose Bowl Game; the Cardinal threw for just 143 yards, its second-lowest total of the season. He also produced three stops, including a 2-yard tackle for loss.
Dennard recorded three tackles, two pass break-ups and forced a fumble in Michigan State's 34-24 win over No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans limited the Buckeyes to 25 total yards in the fourth quarter, including zero passing yards, as MSU rallied from a 24-20 deficit to claim a BCS berth in the Rose Bowl.
On Senior Day against Minnesota in his last appearance at Spartan Stadium, Dennard tied his career high with nine tackles and also broke up a pass.
He recorded a career-best nine tackles and an interception in MSU's 30-6 victory at Northwestern, as the Spartans claimed the Big Ten Legends Division title for the second time in three seasons. It marked Dennard's personal best fourth interception of the season and 10th of his career. MSU's defense pitched a shutout in the second half against the Wildcats while allowing just seven first downs and 95 total yards.
Dennard produced an impressive all-around effort in the win over No. 23 Michigan, as MSU held the Wolverines out of the end zone for the second consecutive season. He picked off a Devin Gardner pass at the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter, and the Spartans proceeded to march 97 yards on an eight-play touchdown drive to seal the 29-6 victory. Dennard also forced a fumble and collected four tackles against the Wolverines.
He posted seven tackles in Michigan State's 14-0 victory over Purdue, including a half tackle for loss (1 yard). MSU's defense recorded its first shutout since 2011 (44-0 over Florida Atlantic) and its first against a Big Ten opponent since 1999 (34-0 at Northwestern).
Dennard totaled five tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass break-up in MSU's 42-28 Homecoming win over Indiana, as the Spartans limited IU to season lows in passing offense (259 yards) and total offense (351). The Hoosiers entered the game ranked ninth in the nation in total offense (535.0 ypg.) and 10th in passing offense (346.0 ypg.).
Dennard was selected Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording eight tackles and a career-high two interceptions in MSU's 26-14 win at Iowa. The Spartan defense limited the Hawkeyes to 264 total yards - 183 yards below their season average. In addition, MSU held Iowa to 23 yards rushing (1.4 yards per carry) - 221 yards below its season average. Michigan State shut out the Hawkeyes in the second half, as Iowa managed just six first downs, 6 rushing yards and 104 total yards in the final two quarters. Dennard's second interception at the 5:25 mark in the fourth quarter helped ice the game, and it marked the third multi-interception game of his career (2012 Outback Bowl vs. Georgia, 2012 vs. Nebraska).
Dennard started three years at cornerback for the Spartans. He collected 167 tackles and 30 passes defended (20 pass break-ups, 10 interceptions) in 44 career games, including 40 starts (29 consecutive to close out career). Dennard finished his career ranked tied for 11th in MSU history with 10 interceptions.
On developing a relationship with the Bengals...
I met with them at the combine. They also came to my pro day and I talked with them then. I also had a visit with them. I had been talking with them throughout this process. I think where I fit in is in that I bring a younger body into a veteran group of defensive backs. When I get there, I'm going to be a sponge and learn from those guys. There's Dre Kirkpatrick who was a first-round draft pick and he knows what the burden is and how much pressure there is to perform, but I'm ready for the task.
On his placement within the first round...
I didn't pay any attention to the mock drafts or anything. Whatever situation I was in, God put in place. It was planned. Wherever I ended up, that's where I was supposed to be.
On Cincinnati's location...
It's a great city. I had the opportunity to go there a couple of times with my teammates from Michigan State. There are a lot of Bengals fans. They get behind their team. They're also a great team. They've made the playoffs the last three years. They've got all of the tools to fight for the Super Bowl.
On his family's reactions during the draft...
They were getting nervous and a little upset by a couple of picks. My friends actually did a great job of lightening the mood right before I got drafted. My friends got up and started dancing and telling jokes. As the draft went along, it got better actually with my friends. It was cool.
On the meaning of being a Spartan...
Being a Spartan means everything to me. They just have great guys and great coaches who love their players. I think just being a part of that is something they can't take away from you like being a part of this season. All the friendships and relationships I've built there, being a Spartan means everything to me. It basically taught me how to be a man. It taught me how to be a professional. Michigan State will always hold a dear place in my heart. I'm forever grateful for the Spartan Nation as well as Coach D.
On being rivals with Le'Veon Bell (Steelers running back) now...
It's pretty cool. When I finally got in at MSU, I had to tackle him in practice before, so it won't be anything new. We joke around about those things, but I'm looking forward to it.
MSU head coach Mark Dantonio
On how Dennard's first-round pick helps the perception and future of the program...
I think we had a great defense this year and a great secondary. I think Harlon Barnett has done a tremendous job with that. You know he's a Cincinnati native, so he's fired up I'm sure, along with Coach Narduzzi and the rest of our defensive staff who had been at the University of Cincinnati. Mike Tressel was down there as well. They are all very excited. He's also the first defensive back I think since 1961 when Herb Adderley was drafted to be a first-round pick. That's serious company because he's (Adderley) a Hall of Fame type of guy. Darqueze deserves that. He's one of the finest defensive backs I've ever had the opportunity to be around in my 35 years of coaching.
On this being his first-round pick as head coach at MSU...
We're heading in the right direction. We've had great players and we've had a lot of players get drafted. You know we're going to have other guys drafted tomorrow and the next day... This program is going in the right direction and we're heading for the next level. I just think the Bengals made a tremendous pick with Darqueze not just because of his university but based on the fact that he's a tremendous football player and his ability to raise the level of play at every level.
On his thoughts back when Darqueze came back for a senior year...
I really didn't think about any of this because I knew Darqueze was committed to getting his degree. I think his mother was very instrumental in that and his grandparents. Darqueze Dennard not only succeeded on the football field as an All-American, but he graduated this semester as well with a 3.66 grade-point average this semester while doing all these different things. He was committed to getting a degree here. He was committed to playing and finishing this thing with his teammates and his coaches. He'll have a ring and he'll wear it for the rest of his life. Then maybe he'll get a Super Bowl ring and then he'll have some things to hold onto for the rest of his life.
On Darqueze's commitment to the Spartan Family...
He's amazing, you just don't see it that often. He's at every practice talking to our players. More impressively, he's up at 5:30 in the morning during winter workouts and works out with them. He's working out with the players at 5:30 in the morning and those are just things you don't see. You know, Javon Ringer did those types of things. That's the type of player he is. He's the type of person who's not going to settle. The way he is right now, he's always going to get that extra ground and make that extra step. There will come at time when he'll be all-pro in the NFL because of his work ethic and the standards that he holds to be true.