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Small-school cornerbacks come up big


Leodis McKelvin is considered a bigger hitter and has been compared to Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson.

INDIANAPOLIS - Small-school cornerbacks could pay big-time dividends for NFL teams this year. Leodis McKelvin of Troy has been called a top-10 pick. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of Tennessee State has been climbing the draft charts since a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.

McKelvin caught scouts' attention last season when Troy faced top football schools like Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma State and Georgia. At 5-11, 190 pounds, McKelvin's big-hitting ability has drawn comparisons to Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson.

Teams also think that McKelvin could make the kind of impact on special teams as a rookie that Chicago Bears' Devin Hester made because McKelvin averaged 23.2 yards on kick returns, as well as 17.4 yards on punt returns.

McKelvin said that coming from a small school doesn't mean he can't play like both pro standouts. He points out several Troy alums who were honored as some of the top players in the NFC, such as Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and kicker Lawrence Tynes and Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

"We had two this year win the Super Bowl," McKelvin said. "We had two in the Pro Bowl."

Rodgers-Cromartie also has NFL ties with cousin Antonio Cromartie, the second-year San Diego Chargers cornerback who led the league with 10 interceptions last season.

"Him leading the NFL in interceptions and going to the Pro Bowl and doing well, and my last name being Cromartie, that kind of helped me, too," Rodgers-Cromartie said of his cousin.

The 6-2, 182-pound prospect was a last-minute addition to the Senior Bowl, where he impressed scouts with his raw talent and exceptional speed. In fact, Rodgers-Cromartie is the reigning Ohio Valley Conference indoor track champion in the 60-yard dash, long jump and high jump.

He lists his height as his next best asset.

"That's a big advantage," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "It's hard for quarterbacks to just chuck the ball over our heads. With me being bigger and my wingspan a little longer, it makes it a tougher throw for the quarterback.

"I know I've got a hurdle I've got to jump coming from a small school. It's not a personal thing, but I know I've got a lot to overcome coming from a small school."

Another cornerback making his way up the ladder is Iowa's Charles Godfrey, who grew up in Baytown and played at Lee High School.

{QUOTE}Godfrey's dream is play for the Texans. He even has the team's bull head logo tattooed on his right hand.

"I would go home and play for the Texans," Godfrey said. "It's right at home. They have a team that's really on the rise and has a great scheme and has something in store for them in the future. I would love and go and help them."

And he might be the perfect fit for Houston's scheme. At 6-0, 207 pounds, Godfrey is a physical player with solid man-to-man technique.

"I can play all coverages - Cover 3, Cover 2," Godfrey said. "It doesn't matter what coverage it is, I'm good at everything. I love to tackle. I love to come up and support the run. I'm pretty much the total package."

Godfrey said he wasn't surprised that the Texans interviewed him for 15 minutes at the combine.

"They talked to me," Godfrey said. "They got some information from me, told me that they were interested and they were going on looking at me and they were looking forward to seeing me perform here at the combine."

Other top cornerback prospects include Aqib Talib (6-2, 202) of Kansas, Brandon Flowers (5-9, 189) of Virginia Tech, and Mike Jenkins (5-10, 197) of South Florida.

"It's definitely something," Jenkins said of the combine. "I understand, because they're going to invest a lot of money in you. It's been pretty rough going through this whole process. They wake you up early in the morning. They check your body.

"If they see anything wrong with you, you have to get X-rays. It's just a long process, but it's pretty cool being up there with all the guys and the scouts."

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