CB Dwight Lowery
This morning's Jets training camp practice was a special one for Dwight Lowery. He picked up his first pick.
"I had one before, in 1-on-1's, but this was the first one that was more 'live'," Lowery, the fourth-round rookie cornerback from San Jose State, said of his interception during 7-on-7 drills.
"It wasn't exactly 'team.' I think team has a little bit more value. But anytime you get your hands on the ball when you're playing and you're used to getting your hands on the ball, it's a relief. It lets you know you did something right and gives you more confidence."
Lowery was truly happy about his theft, but he just seemed more confident than relieved. That's because, as Jets fans know, he's no stranger to getting his hands on the ball.
Let's count them up again. He had 13 interceptions in 25 games at San Jose State — including a school-record nine his junior season, when he led Division I-A for eight weeks.
Then there were his 13 INTs in 15 games in his first two seasons at Cabrillo College. And at Soquel High School, near Santa Cruz, Calif., Lowery gobbled up 20 picks in 20 games.
That's 46 interceptions in 60 games. That's no coincidence.
"Coach Mangini was in one of our meetings one day and he said, 'Some guys just attract the ball.' I feel like I'm one of those guys," Lowery said. "I feel if you work hard and you're always around the ball, good things are going to happen. Regardless of whether it's a passing play or running play, the more you're around the ball, the more opportunities you're going to have to get the ball."
Today's early session was a good example of that for No. 34. The interception off of Kellen Clemens came in the first hour. In the second hour, Clemens tried to drop an intermediate throw into the hands of the 6'2" Brad Smith. But Lowery, giving away three inches, leaped with Smith and broke up the pass as the two tumbled to the grass field.
It's too early to say if Lowery is moving up the depth chart at right corner or in the sub packages, because there won't be an unofficial depth chart until next week, leading into the preseason opener at Cleveland. But the thoughtful Californian is creating a new home for himself.
"Being from the West Coast and coming all the way east, I think that was a big transition," he said. "As far as learning the playbook and coming out and competing here, that's something that's expected of you."
He likes his new position coach, and Jerome Henderson likes him — the two spent some minutes after his extra postpractice work going over some fine points of secondary play. As Henderson said optimistically in the Jets' 2008 Preview Book, "Dwight once led the nation in interceptions in college, so he's a guy you look to see if he can continue to take the ball the other way."
Lowery also likes the Jets and NFL way of taking care of players' needs, such as assistant strength coach Mike Jones passing out and then collecting the thick elastic bands to help the players with their stretching.
"I love it. They've got the bands here for after practice, we have a pretty good warmup before practice," Lowery said. "A lot of times in college you've got to warm up a lot by yourself. Here they try to make it easy as possible for the players — not just stretching and things of that nature but as far as the programs we have, watching film, getting help. Everything's just set up for us to be successful."
Can Lowery be successful enough to join the ranks of the Jets' "fantastic fours"? Jerricho Cotchery, Kerry Rhodes and Leon Washington are all recent fourth-round draft picks who have become core Jets contributors.
"I feel like it's all coming together," Lowery said. "I think as long as you study and stay on top of the things that you should be doing, it's going to make the whole process go more smooth and go faster for you."
And at least this morning, the ball was coming faster toward Lowery's waiting hands, just as it always has.