A prospective NFL player couldn't assemble a stronger résumé than one Washington State cornerback Marcus Trufant has presented to the league.
He had a great performance in the Senior Bowl. He had a great performance at the National Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
"I'm a great player," Trufant says.
But before you assume he is merely being boastful, consider this: Trufant's success is the product of a strong work ethic and the sheer joy of playing the game.
"I go out and play every down like it's my last and have fun with the game," he says. "I think that's what helps me in football. I'm out there having fun. Anytime you're having fun doing something, it always helps you a bit to try harder and maybe practice more and do the little things that help you."
Trufant is widely viewed as one of the two best cornerbacks in the draft. The other is Terence Newman of Kansas State. Newman might have a slight edge in speed and his ability to close on receivers. At 5-foot-11, 199 pounds, Trufant is larger than the 5-10, 186-pound Newman and is probably better against the run.
But Trufant is hardly slow of foot; he has been clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.38 seconds. He has excellent overall ability and routinely makes big plays. He will tell you that his greatest asset is man-to-man coverage.
"All over a guy, lock a guy down," Trufant says. "That's what I try to do, that's my job, and I try to get it done."
Trufant shares his thoughts on other topics related to the draft and his career at Washington State:
On whether playing in a pass-happy conference such as the Pac-10 will help with making the transition to the NFL: "I think so. Going against teams every week that are putting the ball up all over the place helps a lot as a DB because you get used to the tempo of the game knowing that the ball's going to be in the air and possibly coming my way. It helps a lot getting me ready for the NFL."
On whether elevating his draft position motivated him to have such a strong Senior Bowl: "I just wanted to show everybody (NFL general managers, coaches and scouts), if there were any questions about certain things I could do or couldn't do, up close and personal what kind of player I was and what I could do on the field."
On whether he considered the risk of a poor showing in the Senior Bowl: "It's always a risk in football with anything you do, but I (went there knowing) what kind of player I am and what I can do. I went down there and played hard like I know how and it helped me, I think."
On not modeling himself after any particular NFL cornerback: "I try to model myself after myself. There's a lot of great corners out there and there's been a lot of great corners. I try to take a little bit from everybody. I watch games and I don't really have a favorite team. I watch games for the sake of watching the game. I love the game of football. I'm watching everybody to see what everybody does. You put it all together, that's how my game comes out."
On how covering the opponent's best receiver differs from playing a specific side: "It kind of helps you a little bit, but at the same time it's more difficult. Being a corner, you may get used to playing one side of a field. But playing both, I think it kind of helps me keep focused because you know, 'I'm on this guy. He can make big plays at any time because he's their best receiver and their best player.' So you've got to be focused and ready for the ball at anytime."
On facing USC quarterback Carson Palmer: "Palmer's a great quarterback, great arm. He had me running down the field quite a bit throwing the long ball. He's a great quarterback and he's going to do great things."
On the best receiver he has ever faced: "I faced R.Jay Soward my freshman year, and that was a good receiver to go against your freshman year. He's in the league now (with the Jacksonville Jaguars) and doing good things. He's one of the best I've ever faced."
On not being much of a trash talker during games: "Most cornerbacks talk a lot of trash, but I'm a little different. I try to produce more than I talk. I don't talk much on the field. Once you get into the game, it kind of happens. But I'm pretty much down to business and keep the talking to a minimum."