Florida cornerback Joe Haden, a potential top 10 pick in the NFL draft, ran a disappointing 4.57 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine a couple of weeks ago in Indianapolis. He hopes to redeem himself Wednesday at his pro day in Gainesville, Fla. In a conversation with Sporting News’ Dennis Dillon, Haden talked about his football career.
Sporting News: How eager are you to run at your pro day?
Joe Haden: I can’t wait. My back is finally 100 percent, so I can’t wait to go out there and perform. I’m just anxious and ready to do it.
SN: Since the Combine, what have you been working on?
JH: All I’ve been working on is my 40 starts. That’s basically it. I’ve probably run about a thousand 40s.
SN: You ran a 4.57 40 at the Combine. How disappointed were you?
JH: I haven’t run that (slow) since my freshman year in high school, so I was really disappointed. Down in Florida, all I ran were 4.34s or 4.33s. So I’m looking forward to running in the 4.33 range like I always have.
SN: Why was your time in Indianapolis so slow?
JH: I had a back strain while I was working out before the Combine. I didn’t think it was going to affect my time like that. When I was running, it didn’t feel so good.
SN: A lot of players prepare for the Combine at special training centers all over the country. You stayed home in Fort Washington, Md., and worked out with your dad at his gym. What was that like?
JH: It was great, especially being able to sleep in your own bed at home. I have four younger brothers and just being able to spend time with them was special. And then to work out with my dad‹he’s been training me every since I was a little boy‹and to see my mom. Just to be able to come back home and hang out with all of them was a blessing.
SN: Do you feel like you’re the best cornerback in the draft?
JH: I feel like I’m definitely the best corner. What you get from me is what nobody else can give you at corner‹a strong, hard-nosed player who can lock down one side of the field and isn’t afraid to play man, isn’t afraid to blitz and isn’t afraid to tackle.
SN: You arrived at Florida as a quarterback, then moved to wide receiver and finally ended up at cornerback. How difficult was it to make that switch?
JH: It was definitely difficult, not having played the cornerback position before. But I had some good coaches who taught me what I needed to know. I had the ability to do what I needed to do; I just needed the coaching to know what was going on.
SN: You were the first true freshman at Florida to start at cornerback. What did that mean to you?
JH: I didn’t even know that until after the first game, when my dad texted me and congratulated me. That meant a whole lot to me. When I first got there, I was playing a different position. Just to switch over and start, and then be the first (true freshman) to ever start‹knowing how many great players have played at Florida‹was an honor.
SN: After setting several Maryland high school records for passing, you were recruited as a quarterback by several schools. How different would your career have been if you had played quarterback in college?
JH: It would have been a whole lot different. I don’t think I would be in the situation I am now. I know God put me in the best situation for me, and that was to go to Florida and switch over to corner. If I had been a quarterback, I don’t think I’d have left school early and I don’t think I’d be projected to go in the first round of the draft. I’m 5-10 and three-fourths; I don’t think there’s too many of those (quarterbacks) that go in the first round.
SN: Is there an NFL player who you admire or have tried to emulate?
JH: When I was younger, my favorite player was Michael Vick because I played quarterback. Then when I started playing corner, I started watching all the corners‹Nnamdi Asomugha from the Raiders; Charles Woodson‹he won the Heisman at Michigan as a corner; and Champ Bailey. This year, I was busy watching Darrelle Revis because what he did is definitely how I want to play in the NFL.
SN: What do you like about Revis?
JH: He doesn’t really play with a lot of fanfare. He just takes care of his business. He’s out there on an island, and whenever the ball comes over there he makes a play on it every time.
Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at email@example.com.