By Brad Locke/Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – During a practice last week, Deshea Townsend was working with cornerbacks on interception drills and threw a pass he wasn’t pleased with. So he dropped down and did pushups.
That’s usually something players do, not coaches. But Townsend , Mississippi State’s first-year cornerbacks coach, isn’t that far removed from his playing days. The 37-year-old retired from a 13-year NFL career after the 2010 season.
He’s young, he’s energetic, and he’s going to let his players know exactly what he expects of them.
That’s why he often beats them onto the field for practice.
“You know, lead by example, that’s one thing I do believe in,” Townsend said. “You have to lead by example; it’s not always about talking. When you go out there and lead by example, others follow. That’s the thing I believe in.”
Townsend set a high standard as a player, recording 21 interceptions and winning two Super Bowls – with the Pittsburgh Steelers – during his career. Prior to that, he starred at Alabama, earning first-team All-SEC honors.
And prior to that, he played for high school powerhouse South Panola.
Much of Townsend’s success is owed to his hunger for knowledge.
As an NFL player, he studied positions other than his own, often sitting in on meetings with the defensive linemen and linebackers.
“So if I knew what the linebackers were thinking, what the D-line was thinking, I knew how I could be a better a player,” he said. “Now it’s helping me be a better coach because I know what those guys are
That sort of approach could be beneficial to MSU’s cornerbacks. It’s a group that’s trying to reload after the losses of Johnthan Banks, Corey Broomfield and Darius Slay, who in their careers combined for 32 interceptions.
At this point in preseason camp, Townsend isn’t even worried about whether guys are playing boundary or field corner; he’s worried more with guys knowing how to play all parts of the field. He’s also not making any assumptions about who will start, although Justin Cox and Jamerson Love seem to be the favorites.
As the process of setting a rotation continues, Townsend and the players are getting to know each other better and better.
There is, naturally, a greater comfort level than there was in the spring, as both parties have gained a better knowledge of the playbook and of each other.
“I kind of know how to push their buttons, and I know their likes and dislikes and just try to keep them motivated daily,” Townsend said.
Geoff Collins, who this year was promoted to defensive coordinator, loves what he’s seen out of Townsend. Even though he only has two years’ experience on the sidelines – he was assistant defensive backs coach for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals – Collins said Townsend is “a complete coach.”
Collins added that “just seeing him from the spring to now, the confidence, and he’s got a ton of swag – I don’t know if y’all know that about Deshea – but he’s got a lot of juice, a lot of energy, and I think we’re starting to see that on the practice field.”