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Five things learned at the NFL Scouting Combine – Day 5

Iowa’s Amani Hooker followed Josh Jackson as Big Ten defensive back of the year


INDIANAPOLIS – As several defensive linemen turned heads on the field Sunday, safeties and cornerbacks wrapped up the week of media availability at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Here is a handful of highlights:

1. Josh Jackson has been a valuable resource for Iowa safety Amani Hooker.

One year ago, Jackson garnered a lot of attention at the combine as the reigning Big Ten defensive back of the year who led the nation with eight interceptions as a junior.

So it only makes sense the Packers' second-year cornerback had a few words of encouragement for Hooker, Iowa's junior safety who was named the Big Ten's top DB in 2018 after leading the Hawkeyes with four interceptions.

Hawkeyes have won the award in three of the past four seasons and five times dating back to 2012. Hooker, considered one of the top safeties in this year's class, has been in steady communication with Jackson and past winners Desmond King (2015) and Micah Hyde (2012).

"They're my mentors," Hooker said. "Whenever I can text them, call them. They give me their feedback and what they think. Coming into this weekend, they said, 'Just be confident, be yourself' and I'll be fine."

2. Julian Love loved covering Equanimeous St. Brown.

Love was matched against St. Brown on the boundary in almost every practice for two years at Notre Dame.

At 5-feet-11, 193 pounds, Love was giving up a considerable amount of size to the 6-5, 214-pound St. Brown, who was a sixth-round pick of the Packers in last year's NFL Draft.

Size wasn't the only problem covering St. Brown, though. It was his intellect that really brought out the best in Love, who racked up an incredible 40 passes defensed over his last 26 games in South Bend, Ind.

Meanwhile, St. Brown caught 21 passes for 328 yards in his first season with the Packers and Love sees even bigger things ahead.

"E.Q. is special," Love said. "He's a guy, especially against me, he switched it up. A slant wasn't the same slant every play and I think that's what made him really special. He's a student of the game and you appreciate that going against him because you realize that's what the top-level guys are doing to stump you."

3. A trio of Washington DBs learned from watching Kevin King and Co.

Byron Murphy, Jordan Miller and Taylor Rapp were all in the infancy of their college careers when another trio of Washington defensive backs – Kevin King, Budda Baker and Sidney Jones – were all drafted in the second round in 2017.

With the Huskies' reputation as "DB U" factoring into his decision to commit to the school, Murphy watched and learned from the three upperclassmen as a redshirt freshman in 2016.

"The biggest thing was learning from them and watching their film, and just being a student at the time," Murphy said. "Coach (Jimmy) Lake told me I was going to redshirt so I sat back in the meetings and paid attention to everything. Watching what they did, I tried to put that in my game, as well."

Rapp started as a true freshman in 2016. The 6-foot, 202-pound safety eventually racked up 171 tackles, 14 passes defensed and seven INTs in 40 college games, but that first season was a learning experience.

"When I made my first start, I didn't know it was real," Rapp said. "Because I was playing with obviously first-round, second-round guys who left right after my freshman year. That was an incredible experience playing with them."

A hamstring injury limited King to six games last season, but Miller still sees a bright future for his former teammate, who has been helpful in offering advice throughout the pre-draft process.

"Kevin is one of the most athletic dudes I've met," Miller said. "He's a 6-3 dude who can run a 4.4. He has long limbs. He's a big guy who can play."

4. Deionte Thompson wants to become Alabama's next great NFL safety.

A four-star recruit coming out of Orange, Texas, Thompson committed to Alabama due to the long list of safeties that has thrived in the NFL after playing for Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.

Next month, Thompson looks to join the likes of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Landon Collins, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Mark Barron and Eddie Jackson as difference-makers in the NFL.

"I went to Alabama because of the great tradition of defensive backs who played there and the great tradition of DBs who are in the league now," Thompson said. "I played for the best coach in college football and he's going to go down as the greatest coach in college football history. Being able to be in the room with him every day … it made me the player I am today."

Considered one of the top safeties in this draft class, Thompson took over as a starter at the end of 2017 prior to starting 15 games as a redshirt junior this past season.

The 6-foot-2, 196-pound safety had 79 tackles, two interceptions and forced four fumbles, tied for the second most in a season in Alabama history.

Thompson said he had 11 formal interviews scheduled for Sunday night. He didn't perform drills at the combine after having surgery on his wrist two weeks ago after suffering a "freak" injury in the weight room. Thompson expects to be ready for his pro day at Alabama on April 2.

5. Greedy Williams loves his nickname.

Andraez "Greedy" Williams received his popular nickname from his aunt because how of much the future LSU cornerback ate as a baby.

The handle stuck and became apropos given the position he plays on the football field. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Williams became the first Tigers cornerback in a decade to lead the SEC in interceptions, with six.

"I love my nickname. It matches me very well," Williams said. "I've never had a problem with my nickname. Everybody calls me 'Greedy' in my family. That's the name they knew me by and that's the name I wanted to go by."

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