Cornerback, Michigan State
Initial comments ...
Lewis: "We're really pleased today to introduce Darqueze Dennard to you — or 'Quez,' as he's known. We're excited to have him here in Cincinnati now. He traveled from home yesterday, he'll take care of some things today here in Cincinnati, enjoy the Reds game tonight and then continue and get started with us here on Monday. It's an exciting time for him to kick off his NFL career, and we're excited to have him here as part of our football team. (He's) a key element to helping us get better moving forward. As we talked about Thursday evening, (we're) excited to be able to add Quez to our football team as a player, as a person and as a young man moving forward."
Dennard: "I'm just thankful to join this great organization and come in to help the team do whatever it takes to get to the Super Bowl."
You've had 24 plus hours to let things settle in. What's it been like for you and has it really sunk in?
Dennard: "It has. Driving up here and realizing my dreams have come true — it's a blessing, really, joining this great organization and talking to some guys that reached out to me. Adam "Pacman" Jones reached out and told me, 'Welcome to our organization. You've got some work to do to chase this Super Bowl.' Things like that. It's a great feeling to know you're joining a great organization, and joining players that actually care about you and look at you as their brother. It's cool."
Did anybody else reach out to you?
Dennard: "Vontaze Burfict. He reached out to me as well. Then a couple more guys reached out to me on Twitter. It's cool."
You weren't highly recruited out of high school, then you went to Michigan State and won the Thorpe Award, and here you are a first round pick in the NFL. What do you attribute all of your success to?
Dennard: "God, first and foremost. I give all my glory to Him. I wouldn't be here today without Him and all the blessings He's laid upon me. Just looking back on my journey, everything happened for a reason. That's how I look at it. Coming out of high school, I wasn't highly recruited, and I ended up at a great school with great coaches and great people around there to mature as a man, and get better as a team. A lot of people say that I slid down the draft board, but there was a reason why I slid down the draft board. God had a plan for me to be here. That's His plan and it's really a blessing to be here and join this great organization. Everything happens for a reason, and I just give all the glory to Him."
In Mark Dantonio's defense, the way he had you guys playing out on an island and with the pressure packages, those seem to translate pretty well to the NFL. Do you feel comfortable about the transition to the next level?
Dennard: "I do. I started the last three years playing one-on-one coverages the entire game against good receivers, and the only thing it does it makes you better. I'm ready for the next journey I've got coming, which is the NFL, and I'm just ready for it."
Coach Dantonio was here for three years at Cincinnati. Your position coach there was born and raised in Cincinnati. Have they told you anything about Cincinnati?
Dennard: "Coach D called me after I got drafted and I talked to him for a while. He told me it's a great city, and that Coach Lewis is a great person and he loved him. Coach B (Harlon Barnett) is from Cincinnati. He's always joking around, and he told me to tell everybody to give me a pass. It's cool to just be accepted in Cincinnati, and it's a great place to be."
Your position group has some high-character guys — Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones. You seem to be the kind of guy that fits right into that. Are you excited to get acclimated with them not only as football players, but as people?
"Definitely. Those three veterans have played a long time in the NFL and done great things. Just sitting in the meeting room to pick their brain and be under their tutelage, and for them to basically just help me out to live up to being a first-round draft pick, which all three of them were — just having them in the meeting room so I can reach out to them and talk football and life and how to handle things ... it's just great for me to be able to grow up with those guys helping me."
There are a few stories floating around about how exactly you were recruited to Michigan State. How did you actually get recruited there?
"Actually, I played (against) my college roommate, Keith Mumphery (in high school). He was committed to Michigan State and they (the MSU coaches) were there to watch him because it was our last high school game. I played against him, and I covered him. I ended up having a good game, and they called me on the way home saying they were interested. They flew out the next day and the recruiting process started. I went up on a visit and committed."
That had to be a whirlwind ...
"It was. Before, I wasn't going to actually play football anymore. I wasn't talking to any coaches, I didn't have any opportunities to play — JUCO, Division I-AA, or any level. It was just God delivering me a blessing, and I was thankful for it."
What is your biggest strength as a defensive back?
"My biggest strength is just playing the ball. I have a lot of strengths, I think — I can tackle, I'm a smart player as well, and I can play inside or outside. I can do a lot of things to help the team win."
What do you need to work on?
"Everything. Everything is not perfect. There's always room for improvement. A thing that I can work on that I haven't done a lot of is playing off-coverage. But I am comfortable doing it. I can do it. That's not the only thing I'm going to work on, though. My complete game can get better."
Are there any cornerbacks in the NFL that you've followed or tried to borrow some things from?
"I try a lot of things from a lot of players. You can't just take one good thing. There are a lot of guys in the NFL that do a lot of great things. I try to look at my game and pattern some things that they do to mine."
Anyone in particular?
"I'd probably say Darrelle Revis. We have the same body type. He's a press corner, and that's what I did in college. He's very technical with his technique, and he comes up with tackles as well."
You've played on some big stages in college and are used to it. Will that help you in the NFL?
"I definitely have. Playing on a big stage and at a high level against great competition has prepared me for a stadium as big as the Bengals', or wherever we play. I've played at pretty much every stadium in the Big Ten. I've also played at the granddaddy of them all — The Rose Bowl — and that's a pretty big stadium. Playing in those venues has prepared me for the NFL."