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The Maturation of Corey Webster

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The Maturation of Corey Webster

Post  Big_Pete on Fri Jun 12, 2009 5:34 am


"The Maturation of Corey Webster

Giants’ cornerback Corey Webster insists that he hasn’t changed much since his rookie season.

Well, not exactly. He has a new tattoo -- one that spans across most of his upper back. But other than that and maybe "growing up a little," the five-year veteran, said he's still the same player he was when the Giants drafted him in the second round of the 2005 draft.

Originally recruited as a wide receiver to play at LSU, his head coach at the time, Nick Saban, decided to try Webster at cornerback during his sophomore season. The Vacherie, LA native took to the position switch like a hand in glove. In fact, he did so well, that he became a permanent fixture in the defensive backfield for the Tigers, playing in 48 games with 29 starts and finishing with 117 tackles (88 solo), 16 interceptions, and 51 pass breakups.

One of his most memorable career games took place on October 12, 2002 in a nationally televised contest between LSU and Florida at the “Swamp.” During that game, all Webster did was pick off three of Gators quarterback Rex Grossman’s passes, returning one 45 yards for a touchdown en route to a 36-7 win for the Tigers and NCAA Defensive Player of the Week honors for Webster.

As Webster began to rack up honors at the collegiate level – honors that included recognition as a two-time first-team All-American and a three-time first-team All-southeastern Conference selection – he began to hear his name and “potential first round draft pick” mentioned in the same sentence.

Not looking to get his hopes up too high though – Webster was coming off an injury-filled senior season that caused his stock to tumble – all the cornerback was looking for was a chance to show that he was capable of contributing to a defense in need of a young, aggressive, and hungry cornerback to add to its defensive backfield.

That defense turned out to be the Giants, who in the 2005 draft didn’t have their first round pick – that choice, along with their fifth round pick, went to San Diego to complete the Eli Manning trade from the previous year.

So that April, the Giants waited a little over seven hours before finally announcing their selection of Webster with the 43rd pick overall. The selection of Webster was met with mixed reviews from people outside of the organization.

However, former Giants general Manager Ernie Accorsi, who rubber-stamped the pick, defended Webster. “This isn’t an overachiever, or an underachiever, or somebody who slipped through the cracks for any other reason than the one that he got hurt,” Accorsi said shortly after the draft.

It didn’t take long for the Giants to appreciate what they had in Webster, who has always been more about hard work than about ego as far as his draft status went.

“I’m going to tell you the truth,” Webster said when asked about whether his ego was bruised when he slipped to the second round. “No, it wasn’t really a blow because I understood the situation. To be hurt is hard because you can’t do anything about it. But in the end, it made me a better person.”

During the summer of 2005, Webster came to Giants training camp filled with all kinds of hopes and dreams that are typical of most NFL rookies. However, he was quickly brought down to earth when he suddenly found himself thrust into a system that was foreign to him.

“I didn’t like the style of defense they had here when I first got here,” Webster admitted. “In Coach Saban’s system, the cornerbacks were asked to press all the time and play a lot of man-to-man coverage. But when I first came here, I had trouble getting used to playing ten yards off the receiver.”

Despite his discomfort his first two seasons, he worked as hard as he could to learn and embrace it because it was what the coaches wanted and what they felt would give the team the best chance to win, a goal which he also shared. As a rookie, he played in 15 regular season games with two starts, plus a start in the NFC Wild Card Game. That year, he finished with 38 tackles (37 solo) five passes defensed, and two forced fumbles.

Even though Webster tried to find a comfort level in a system he said fit him about as well as a ‘size 2’, the one thing he refused to do was become discouraged. “I understood what was happening with me and I never really let it discourage me to the point where I was like, ‘What am I doing here at this level?’ I knew I could play at this level; things just had to fall into place.”

His struggles continued in 2006. That year he had a series of injuries that included a turf toe that caused him to miss four games, and a hip flexor that put him on the injured reserve after the season finale against Washington.

Fortunately, for Webster, he is a patient individual who has faith in a higher authority. “I always believed that I was going to get better,” he said. “If you do the right thing, if you do what you’re supposed to do, you’re going to get better. Everything happens for a reason and I kept fighting and praying.”

Webster’s prayers were ultimately answered when in 2007, the Giants decided to dismiss former defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, whose defensive system created the struggles not only for Webster but for many of his teammates, and bring in a relatively unknown young defensive mind plucked from the coaching tree of famed Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.

The arrival of that young defensive assistant -- Steve Spagnuolo, who is now the head coach of St. Louis -- was the beacon of light Webster had been searching for. “I was excited; I’m not going to lie. With Coach Spags, I knew the type of system he came from and it was similar to what I played in college. So I was very excited to have a chance to play again in that system.”

Apparently, Spagnuolo was equally excited to have a player of Webster’s talents on his side. “When he first got here -- before he even coached a down -- he told me that I was going to become the player I am now,” Webster said. “He saw that in me after watching film and said, ‘this is the player you are, and I’m going to help you become that player.’ He told me to keep on working like I had been doing, and to take advantage of every opportunity I go, and that it would all come together.”

Spagnuolo was right as in 2007, Webster had his coming out season, particularly toward the end of the year when the Giants suddenly caught fire en route to their amazing Super Bowl upset over the New England Patriots.

Against Buffalo on December 23, Webster picked off his first pass of the year, returning it 34 yards for his first NFL career touchdown. His play down the stretch, coupled with an abdominal injury suffered by starter Sam Madison, saw Webster move into the starting lineup for the entire four-game playoff run.

During that stretch, Webster’s accomplishments included holding former Tampa receiver Joey Galloway to one nine-yard catch in the Wild Card round; limiting former Dallas receiver Terrell Owens to four catches for 49 yards and one touchdown in the NFC Division game; and picking off Brett Favre’s last pass thrown as a member of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.

In 2008, Webster’s commitment to hard work coupled with his continued solid play resulted in a new contract extension which ensures that he’ll be around through 2013. Webster was also named as a member of head coach Tom Coughlin’s leadership council, a collection of veterans that the coach looks to for leadership in the locker room.

“I was honored to take that role,” Webster said. “I try to do the right things and what everyone asks me to do because it’s for the good of the team and the coaches have a reason for asking you to do that stuff.”

This year, thanks to the departure of veterans Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters, the 27 year old Webster is now officially the oldest of the Giants’ cornerback group (“No old man jokes yet,” he said when asked.)

“I always wanted to be a leader, and it helped me grow up and become a man. You become more cognizant of what you’re doing so you don’t let the other guys down. If the other guys see you doing everything right, they’re more likely to do what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Not only did Webster evolve as a leader in the locker room, but he also emerged as a leader in his home state of Louisiana. Webster, who said he wants to try to reach out to as many people as he can through his “Team CWeb Foundation.”

According to the foundation’s mission statement, Team CWeb’s goal is to help support non-profit organizations whose programs and initiatives are geared toward assisting youth in Southeastern Louisiana.

“I love kids,” Webster said when asked about his foundation. “I have little boy (Corey, Jr.) and two little young nephews. I’ve always wanted to work with kids. I try to support them and help them realize that it’s all about the choices you make in life that determine whether you’re going to be successful.”

It’s a lesson that has helped Webster get to where he is today.

“I think my situation made me a better person, a bigger person,” he said. “Mine is a lesson that I think everyone can learn. Things aren’t going to be handed to you. Things aren’t always as good or as bad as they seem. My personal circumstances made me look at the game and at life differently, and I feel that I’m a much better person because of what I experienced.”

Not to mention a much better player."
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