Smaller school, same big impression.
Sheep selected cornerback Dekoby Durant in the fourth round from South Carolina State, who plays in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
On Friday, Durant showed that there are more than one talented rookie cornerback at the start of training camp.
Two days after being selected in the sixth round Derion Kendrick after putting on a great game, Duran intercepted two passes when the Rams first practiced on the pads.
With thousands of fans showing up at UC Irvine for the Rams’ first public practice session, Durant fought off Matthew Stafford and John Woolford in team practice.
“Two really important games,” coach Sean McVeigh said.
The Super Bowl champion Rams selected four defensemen from a selection of eight with an eye to the future: Durant; Kendrick, who played in Clemson and Georgia; and the safety of Quentin Lake (UCLA) and Russ Yeast (Louisville and Kansas).
Durant – “everyone called me just Kobe as a kid,” he said in an interview this week – is fighting for a spot in an all-star full-back rotation. Jalen Ramseyveterans Troy Hill and David Long; and second-year professional Robert Rochell.
“I’m just listening to veterans,” Durant said, “so when my time comes, I’ll be ready.”
At 5’11” and 180 pounds, Durant intercepted 12 passes in four seasons at college. Last season, Durant raised his draft profile with the Rams when he intercepted two passes in a 49-3 loss to the strong Clemson, which McVeigh alluded to on Friday.
Durant was the first player to be drafted from South Carolina State since 2018, when linebacker Darius Leonard was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Duran said that although he did not play with Leonard, the three-time All-Pro inspired him.
“A big thank you to him for paving the way,” Durant said.
Now, Durant said he’s comfortable leading his former college teammates.
“It’s different when you actually play someone who has a chance to go to the NFL,” he said, adding: “My teammates…they feel knowing they played me and they see me in the NFL now, on the field, it gives them hope.
“They always ask me questions. They are proud of me and also want to be in this place. This makes them even more troublesome.”
Upon arriving at the Rams, organized in the spring, Duran plunged into the game.
Safe Jordan Fuller said he was impressed early on by Duran and the cornerback’s game continues to grow.
“I knew he had a special talent and I knew what he was capable of,” Fuller said Friday. “He hasn’t even touched the surface of who he could be.”
Durant has played in a hybrid “star” position that requires skill as both inside and outside cornerback.
Ramsey, a three-time All-Pro, has changed positions, but other cornerbacks are gearing up for the role.
“There are a lot of nuances we demand from this ‘star’ position, and he’s getting more comfortable with each passing day,” McVeigh said of Durant.
McVeigh does not play with starters or other key veteran players during preseason games. So Durant looks to have plenty of opportunities against the Chargers, Houston Texans, and Cincinnati Bengals as the Rams prepare for September’s game. 8th opener against Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium.
Duran said that he, Kendrick and other young quarterbacks compete to make each other better.
“I’m just making the most of it by talking to veterans,” Durant said, “and when it’s time for preseason games, all the rookies will be on the field and we’ll be ready to play.” “