After a transfer from Cabrillo College, Dwight Lowery worked his way into the San Jose State starting lineup and intercepted a pass four plays into his Division I-A career.
“That was a great moment, your first Division I college game, going against a Pac-10 team at their place,” Lowery said of his pick of University Washington QB Isaiah Stanback in Seattle on September 2, 2006. “To get an interception that game, I mean, we lost the game, but I think that game set the tone for us for the whole season.”
Lowery, a CB who was selected by the Jets in the fourth round of last weekend’s draft, has a knack for turning the ball over. He had 13 interceptions for his junior college club and kept that pace steady with the Spartans, grabbing another 13 in two years of action.
“He has good ball skills," said Jets head coach Eric Mangini. "There is a time when you can find the ball and knock it down, and there is a time when you can find the ball and translate that into an interception.
“Kerry [Rhodes] has the ball skills where he can translate him finding the ball into interceptions, Ty Law has that and Otis Smith had that. It’s a different level than just being able to locate it and knock it down. Dwight has that as well — the ability to find the football and then capitalize on the opportunity.”
The 5’11”, 201-pound Lowery not only has a good feel for the game but he also emphasizes preparation.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a key [to intercepting the ball] — there are a combination of things.” he said. “It’s a little bit of instincts, a lot of studying and just knowing and understanding the game and putting yourself into position to make the play. When you are in the position, it’s really do you come down with the football or not.”
No matter how successful a corner he’ll be on the next level (and the Jets have an opening), Lowery knows there will be times when he loses a one-on-one battle. But he is not afraid to contest and his confidence won't waver.
“You can’t play the position soft, you can’t play the position tight. You have to be real loose, real relaxed and real confident in yourself,” he says. “At the same time if you do put yourself in a position to get beat, you have to forget about it real quick. There are times — it doesn’t matter who you are — that you’re going to get beat, but how you respond to that is going to define you as a player.”
The Jets like Lowery’s versatility. In addition to returning punts at SJSU, he played safety at Cabrillo before moving to LCB with the Spartans.
“That's something we've talked about as well, the ability to play both corner and safety,” Mangini said. “That’s something I have always liked, to be able to put that third guy in. If they are going to a three-receiver set, he can cover down and play man-to-man or he can stay in zone coverage and still be able to do all the things we ask a normal free safety to do.”
After collecting nine interceptions during the 2006 season and earning All-America honors, Lowery contemplated leaving SJSU early and entering the ’07 draft. But he decided to return for his senior year and registering four interceptions, seven PDs and 44 tackles. He also was the team’s primary punt returner, averaging 14.4 yards on 19 attempts.
Despite becoming San Jose State’s first All-American in consecutive seasons, Lowery went from one of Mel Kiper Jr.’s top 25 prospects to a fourth-round selection in just one year. Lowery, who said he became a better player in ’07 and wasn’t challenged nearly as much, was timed at 4.54 seconds in the 40 at the combine.
He didn’t watch the draft, choosing to stay occupied upstairs while his family viewed it downstairs. A few years back when Lowery left for San Jose State, the determined youngster wrote a note to his mother, Tracy Rivers, instructing her to “get ready for the 2008 draft.”
Now a professional, Lowery will soon be in better financial position to provide for his family, which includes his 9-year-old sister, Aujanae, who was born with a congenital heart condition.
“Her heart condition is well. Obviously it has to be monitored from time to time, but the good thing about this is, worst-case scenario, if something like that were to happen where she needs emergency surgery or something of that nature, being in a position financially to take care of her. That’s what I’m really happy for.”
Lowery has a special relationship with both his mother and Aujanae. While his mother cared for the elderly during his childhood, Lowery was there with his baby sister.
“My mom had to work a lot when I was around 10, 11, 12 years old. Whenever my mother needed someone to be there for my sister, it was always me. I wanted to do it and was the only person who really could,” he said. “I took care of her a lot as she was growing up. She’s more than just my sister — she’s a friend and I kind of look at her as a daughter almost. It’s a real great relationship we have.”
This weekend brought Lowery to the East Coast for the first time. He looks at home on the field and sure didn’t appear fazed by the media attention. The thing you know about Lowery is he’s going to put himself in the right position and he usually takes advantage of the situation.
“You want to come in and play hard and do what got you here. Don’t change anything that got you to this point,” he said. “ You take the coaching and you do the best that you can but as a person you can’t really change who you are.”