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Rookie Show On Tap As Bengals Set To Play First Game In Paycor Stadium

CB Allan George
CB Allan George

As befitting a Bengals rookie about to play in his first NFL game in Paycor Stadium's first ever game Friday (7:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12), Allan George zapped the home locker room's music box one day this week to the song list of the artist known as "Future."

As in, it's all ahead of him as the undrafted free agent cornerback from Vanderbilt looks to make a dent in the rosters numbers game. He grew up dreaming of the NBA and he fell so in love with baseball because of his dad that he still texts Kumar Rocker, the ace of Vandy's 2019 national champs.

But his dad talked him out of "being a short guard," and into "a tall cornerback,' as his son gets the shot in "The Show," he never got when the Bengals open the preseason against Arizona.

Head coach Zac Taylor is expected to ice his top three cornerbacks, as well as all other established starters everywhere else. Plus, second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt didn't practice Wednesday, which means the Nebraska cornerback may not go. And it's hard to see them pushing much Tre Flowers, the fourth cornerback just coming off missing some time week.

So on Friday figure on seeing plenty of the undrafted rookie cornerbacks like George, Delonte Hood, Bookie Radley-Hiles and Abu Daramy-Swaray and even more adrenaline.

The 5-11, 190-pound George, who didn't play football until he was a high school sophomore and only because he wanted to play with his older brother before he graduated, has already ignited a Twitter squall this camp. When Flowers and Eli Apple were sitting out last week, one day George lined up with the first defense.

"There's going to be a lot of excitement for them. You should feel that nervous energy or excitement, however you want to phrase it," Taylor said of the rooks. "You get a chance to get that out of your system and then just realize it's just ball.

"You felt it your first JV game, you felt it your first varsity game, you felt it your first college game, you feel it your first NFL preseason game. And just like any other, the second play of the game, that's gone. It's good to get that out of them and then see who really steps up and, over the course of the game, can be consistent. They're going to make mistakes. That's fine. Who can rebound quickly? There's all sorts of things we get a chance to evaluate these guys on."

The undrafteds are even a longer shot to make this roster, replete with young Super Bowl veterans at every spot. The expanded practice squad is always a target, but director of player personnel Duke Tobin and his scouts have been known to unearth some diamonds in the rough that ended up twinkling for more than a few years.

"There's a strong history here of Duke and his crew doing a great job of bringing in undrafted free agents that can come in here and compete for roster spots or initially make the practice squad and then be here years later," Taylor said.

"(Wide receiver) Stanley Morgan's a great example of that. (Former wide receiver) Alex Erickson, I mean, the list goes on and on. (Former center) Trey Hopkins. There's so many guys here who've had an impact on what's happened well before I ever came here. And so, it's exciting to see who in that group this year can step up and be that Stanley Morgan in whatever position group it is."

And they've all got a story.

Every rookie, no matter where he is on the depth chart, has a story.

A slice of George's yarn, nearly 13 minutes worth, has gone viral. It's already been two years since he proposed to Vanderbilt cheerleader Katlyn Richardson, an event that broke up their senior photo shoot and was caught on video.

"I couldn't believe all those accounts we ended up on, it was awesome," she says. "I think it was on ESPN Instagram and that was really cool. And I was thinking, 'What's going on? We're just two kids from Vanderbilt.'"

Yes, he got on one knee.

"Yes," she agrees. "He's a traditionalist."

She's been Katlyn George for about 13 months and before he went to training camp and she went back to her job as a heath care consultant, they celebrated their year anniversary on a trip to Greece and Turkey and he celebrated his 23rd birthday.

"I graduated in May last year and then he graduated last December," Katlyn George says. "We didn't have many (married) couples in our friends group at Vanderbilt. But we both knew what we wanted to do.

"I knew at some point we were going to be engaged last fall. But it was still a surprise."

That's a fast track and it's why the coaches find him a bit intriguing. He's an old soul type. That's why he opted for Vanderbilt out of tiny Andalusia. Ala., hard on the Florida line.

"It's about 45 minutes from the nearest highway. If you don't play for the state championship, they're not going to find you," Allan George says. "You go to Vandy, it sets you up for 40 years instead of four years in college."

George made it as far as a state semi, but Vandy caught wind of him in the postseason action and the recommendation of a current Commodore from the area also helped.

The playbook hasn't been all that hard to pick up for George after getting his degree in medicine, health and society. His father said he's been reading since he was three and not much longer after that he was telling him how far the moon was from the earth.

"When I was at Vandy I had four defensive coordinators and five position coaches," George says. "I had to be adaptable."

His quick feet have been noticed by the vets, particularly slot cornerback Mike Hilton and safety Mike Thomas.

"Smart guy. He's out there early at practice," said Hilton, an example of an old SEC undrafted cornerback who made it big.

Every rookie Friday night against the Cardinals has a story.

George's story is that he gets a big-league shot probably because his father didn't get one. Or because Daryl George decided not to take it.

"He was a really good baseball player," Allan George says. "But he wanted to come home and be a father."

That's because Daryl George says didn't meet his own father until he was 20 and on-deck in a junior college game in Huntsville. He moved several times over the years and when he returned to one of those homes after high school, a neighbor handed him a letter a few months old from the Pirates talking about the draft that was long over.

"Everything happens for a reason," Daryl George says. "It worked out."

After two years in JUCO, he played at Troy State and was a left-fielder for the Alabama school's last Division II team, one that went to the World Series and finished fourth. The next year he was an all-conference player for Troy's first Division I team. Then he went to tryout camps for the Mariners and Cubs.

"A guy there was very blunt and I'm glad he was," Daryl George says. "He told me they could pay me more if I was younger. But I was 22 and couldn't go back to school. He told me they could give me $15,000. I could make that going home. And I wanted to start my life (and raise a family). You could be in the minors nine, ten years and you never get to 'The Show.' It worked out for the best."

Daryl, 50, is still playing softball. He's a technician for Shaw Industries and finally talked his second oldest son into football.

"I kept telling him that he was a good basketball player and I think he loved baseball because I played it, but he kept telling me he didn't want to play football," Daryl George says. "But you know how it is. Sometimes if they hear it from somebody not you …

"You could see it when he played basketball. He could flip his hips and he was fast. I told him, 'You should play defense in football.'"

Now he's about to do it in "The Show." His wife, who has known him since she asked him for directions to the financial aid office freshman year in Nashville, isn't, surprised.

"Despite all the ups and downs, he's always stayed so committed to his training and his diet and all the things he had to do," Katlyn George says.

Since camp started, they've working apart. She'll be here Friday and they hope to see Daryl, a lifelong Giants fan, in New York for the game next week. If he sticks, Katlyn George says she'll be able to come to Cincinnati and work remotely.

"As long as I'm near an airport," she says.

Every Paycor Stadium rookie has a story.

Which ones are going to take off?

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