As a high school senior, I’m sure the majority of us could say if you placed a $1.35 million contract before our very eyes, we’d put the pen to paper quicker than you could blink an eye. However, that wasn’t the case for Pittsburgh Steelers second round draft choice, Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson, who was picked by MLB’s Boston Red Sox in the eighth round of the 2011 draft. As a senior at Pascagoula High School in Mississippi, Golson hit .345 with three home runs, 25 RBI’s and 16 steals. He even played in 22 games in college, but at the end of the day, he realized his dream was in football.
“It came down to what I love to do every day, and that’s football,” said Golson, according to Jeremy Fowler, an ESPN.com reporter. “Not knowing which direction I wanted to take, I relied on my football ability.”
On the gridiron, Golson played anywhere his coaches needed him, from corner to safety, linebacker, wide receiver and even some Wildcat quarterback. However, as most recruits do at that level, they tend to get by on athleticism alone, and Golson found out early on in his SEC career that wasn’t going to be the way things worked.
His crowning “welcome to SEC football” moment didn’t take long to happen, occurring early in his freshman season, as the Rebels were taking on the #1 ranked team in the country, powerhouse Alabama. The team’s one starter at corner, Marcus Temple, had suffered a broken ankle, thus Golson was inserted into the starting lineup. Granted, Golson was nervous, but little did he know he was about to be ridiculed on the Sportscenter Top 10 highlight reel, for all the WRONG reasons. Crimson Tide and Heisman Trophy-winning running back, Trent Richardson, put a few ankle-breaking moves on Golson, causing him to lose all semblance of balance, which can be seen below.
Over the course of his career, that play is still in his head, but he hasn’t allowed it to become a roadblock to the player he’s become.
It was a wake-up call for him that he needed to start working harder and putting in time behind the scenes, so he did just that, starting with proper nutrition. He began drinking nothing but water, zero alcohol whatsoever and completely shut out the fast food, instead grilling lean meats like chicken at home.
“I always knew that I could be a pretty good football player, but I just knew that I was going to have to figure it out,” he said, according to Aschoff.
Fast forward three years, and it was payback time for the bullies from Tuscaloosa, as this past season, Golson sealed the game with his tight-rope walking interception. That play was the exclamation point on his collegiate career, and showed just how far he’d made it since his freshman year.
“It was frustrating at first when you know that you can do something, but you don’t see the results that you want,” Golson said, according to Aschoff. “I had to find myself, study the position and understand what I had to do to get better.”
Get better he did, as he raked in 10 picks, was named first team All-American and went on to be selected # 56 overall by Pittsburgh in the 2015 draft. At a hair under 5-foot-9, his size is one of his biggest criticisms he faced leading up to the draft, but that didn’t stop the team from picking him. Defensive backs coach ,Carnell Lake, is ecstatic, saying Golson has “exceptional ball skills.”
“If you are 6-2 they are still going to throw at you or if you are 5-8 they are still going to throw at you,” Lake said, according to Steelers.com. “Senquez is going to have to come in and he’s going to have to prove that he can play in this league. We believe he can.”
Lake compared playing cornerback to being a streamlined sports car, and Golson is his new toy.
“It’s like a sports car,” Lake said. “You can’t just have speed. You have to be able to stop and start and get in and out with brakes. You have to have quickness. Senquez has that.”
Golson has yet to put the pen to paper for his rookie deal, but he knows things will take care of themselves. Another baseball player-turned NFL draft pick, Tampa Bay quarterback, Jameis Winston, has a clause in his contract that prohibits him from playing baseball, should he choose to do so. Golson’s deal will likely be in the $4 million-range over four years, with a $1 million signing bonus, but for him, it was obviously never about money, it was about his love of the game of football, not baseball.
“If I would have taken the money and I didn’t enjoy it, who knows where I would be,” Golson said.