Seven impressive things you have to know about the newest Bengal, first-round pick Darqueze Dennard.
-He goes by 'Qwez,' and comes from the tiny burg of Jeffersonville, Ga., population 1,300.
"It gave me motivation to get out, but it's a family atmosphere,' Dennard said Friday, in between making travel arrangements to Cincinnati for Saturday's 11:30 a.m. news conference at Paul Brown Stadium. "You walk down the street and people open their arms. Everybody knows everyone. Your mom or your grandmom or things like that. It's very calm. You don't have to worry about too much."
-Dennard's grandmom, Peggie Curry, worked in a zipper factory for 30 years. His grandfather, Claude Curry, worked in the kaolin chalk mines for years. Together with his mother, Lisa Curry, they raised him. The reason Dennard didn't go to New York City for the NFL Draft? His grandparents, now retired, don't fly.
"I wanted them to be here for my special moment," Dennard said. "They pretty much raised me and showed me the definition of hard work. I felt like it was a big moment not just for me, but for them and everybody else who helped me."
-When Dennard walked last Friday in East Lansing to receive his communications degree, he became the first member of his family to graduate from college. That's why he stayed in school this past year even though he got a first-round grade from the NFL Advisory Board. He says it topped getting the call into the NFL Thursday night.
"The college degree, that was big for my family," Dennard said. "It set the standard for my younger cousins and younger siblings. There was a little more emotion to last night than it was at the graduation."
-Dennard's one college offer got pulled before he played his last game for Twiggs County High School. Middle Tennessee withdrew its scholarship and it looked like that was it. Then in his last game against Dooly County, Michigan State came to check out their wide receiver on the other team. Dooly's Keith Mumphrey had already signed with the Spartans. But Dennard caught their attention.
"I probably wouldn't have played football," said Dennard if the call never came. "That's the crazy thing about it. I'd still be around the Macon (Ga.) area having a nine-to-five."
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio recalls offensive coordinator Dave Warner making the trip and seeing a guy that played tailback, corner, free safety, punt return, kick return.
"And he excelled," Dantonio said. "(Warner) was watching him play against Keith and he said, 'You've got to really see this guy."
Dennard visited East Lansing, said it felt like family, and signed on even when other BCS schools like South Carolina started to jump in. And Mumphrey became his roommate.
"He stayed the course with Michigan State," Dantonio said.
-There is a nice Cincinnati thread to this story. Not only is Dantonio the former University of Cincinnati head coach, but the guy who followed Warner into Twiggs County to cross-check was secondary coach Harlon Barnett out of Cincy's Princeton High School, a former Spartan and seven-year NFL veteran.
"The best corner I've ever coached," Barnett said. "The way he plays, he reminds me of Darrelle Revis before Revis got hurt. Is he a shutdown corner? I would say, 'yes.'"
-Dennard is one of the guys that Dantonio built around to produce Michigan State's resurgence. Dennard's four years have coincided with the most wins in Spartans history and Dantonio is still shaking his head over what he did this spring AFTER he was done playing.
"Most seniors are getting ready for the draft and are preoccupied with everything that's going on," he said. "But he would take the time to come to every one of our practices. He would take the time to come to every one of our 5:30 in the morning workouts and work out with our players. Carry a 3.66 grade point average. That's very rare when you talk about young men."
-As of Friday afternoon Dennard had yet to talk to his new teammates, but he met cornerback Leon Hall on his visit to PBS a few weeks ago. It was seven years ago the Bengals drafted Hall in the first round out of Michigan and it is his pressing, reliable, physical style they see in Dennard. Not to mention his unassuming, unvarnished work ethic.
"We joked around for a little minute because he went to the school down the road. Other than that he's a really good guy," Dennard deadpanned. "He's a great player, very consistent. I think he goes a little underrated. I think he's one of the top corners in the league and I respect him a lot."