Is Mississippi State freshman cornerback Kevin Dockery the next one we'll be talking about?
After receiving almost no recruiting attention early in his senior season, Dockery performed well enough during a game to cause Mississippi State assistant coach Terry Lewis to go back to and tell Coach Sherrill that he was the real deal.
"What really sold us (on him) was when coach (Terry) Lewis came back and said we better look at (Kevin) Dockery because he was really a great athlete on the field," said MSU coach Jackie Sherrill.
Lewis, a 30+ year coaching veteran who has a keen eye for talent, could see that Dockery was a playmaker who was playing out of position at quarterback.
"He was playing out of position because he is not a quarterback," said Sherrill. "You get a kid who is playing quarterback, then a lot of people don't project him in other positions."
The Mississippi State coaching staff looked long and hard at Dockery's game film and decided he could play cornerback on the collegiate level.
Former Mississippi State secondary coach Melvin Smith, who helped recruit Dockery for State, explained to Dockery why they liked him at cornerback.
"When (Smith) talked to me about it, he said I played both sides of the ball, but when I was on defense, I still found energy to make plays," explained the 5-9, 185-pound Dockery. "He knew if I could just concentrate on defense, I had the talent to be a very good defensive back."
Current secondary coach Curley Hallman, one of the top defensive back coaches in the college ranks, agreed with Smith's assessment that Dockery has the ability to play cornerback.
"He has ability," said Hallman. "He's not the tallest guy in the world, but at (cornerback) you don't have to be that tall. You have to be able to move your feet and play with your eyes. And he does those things. I think he is going to be a really good player for us."
There are other things - the always important intangible things - that Hallman likes about Dockery.
"The first thing that I liked was his maturity," said Hallman. "He is very serious about everything that he does and that goes back to his maturity. I also like his conditioning. I kid them in the staff meeting that we need to find out what Doc did at his hometown to get in shape because he came in in great shape."
While Coach Hallman sees a lot of positives in Dockery, he also realizes that Dockery is only a freshman and has a lot to learn.
"He needs to work on recognition and the pace of the way things happen as opposed to how they happened in high school," explained Hallman. "There are a lot more formations on this level. He is still learning, but he is very conscientious about learning it."
Dockery also knows he has a lot to learn, but he knows Coach Hallman is the man that can help him.
"I have learned a lot from Coach Hallman," said Dockery. "He really pushes you to do things that you don't necessarily want to do. He is a real good coach. He is a big part of why I have become as good as I am."
As for Dockery's recruiting slight, that doesn't concern Hallman in the least.
"First off, I wasn't here during recruiting, but it doesn't mean a hill of beans how many guys recruited him," Hallman emphasized. "I always tell young guys the story of (12-year NFL veteran) Brett Favre. Delta State and a junior college offered him and that was it (before Southern Miss came along with their offer). Now look where he is."
Dockery has a pretty good idea why he was so lightly recruited.
"I started at quarterback my first two years," said Dockery. "My junior year I was just the type quarterback who controlled the game and made sure it didn't get out of hand. I wasn't a passer," said Dockery.
However, after the starting tailback was injured in the first game of his senior season, Dockery finally got his chance to shine. And did he ever.
Basically playing both running back/quarterback, he gained 2,400 yards and scored 27 touchdowns during his senior season. For his play he earned a place on the Clarion-Ledger's second-team All-State team and first-team All-State on the Mississippi Association of Coaches Class 4A team. He was also named co-Most Valuable Offensive Player in Region 1-4A. Dockery, who has a 38.5 inch vertical leap, even placed third in the state in his powerlifting classification during the spring.
Despite those honors, Mississippi State continued to be the only four-year school that showed enough interest in Dockery to offer him a scholarship. He, along with his more highly sought after teammate, Deljuan Robinson, signed with State the first day of the signing period.
After going through August two-a-days, the MSU staff knew then that they had made the correct decision about Dockery and decided he would play his true freshman season. That surprised Dockery to an extent.
"(Playing early) has been a big surprise for me, but I knew if I worked hard I would probably get a chance to play," explained the quietly confident Dockery.
Although the speed of the college game and the mental part of it has been something that he has had to adjust to, Dockery has no doubt that he has the ability to go up against the SEC's best wide receivers.
"I feel like I can line up and run with any receiver and cover them," said Dockery, who has been clocked in the 4.3 to 4.4 range in the forty yard dash.
While he has confidence and ability, he also knows there are things he needs to continue to work on.
"I need to react more quickly to the ball, reading the quarterback a little longer," said Dockery.
Finally, Dockery, who already has that special swagger that you see in most of the great cornerbacks, has this word of warning to the college coaches that overlooked him coming out of high school.
"I think a lot of colleges made a mistake overlooking me," Dockery said. "I am going to make them pay."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.