Darius Slay set a personal goal to be the fastest defensive back at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
His time of 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash clipped Alabama’s Dee Milliner for the top time in Indianapolis.
On Friday, Slay slowed down just long enough to catch up with our Chris Boyle and talk about the upcoming draft.
Chris Boyle: Talk about what the days and weeks leading up to the draft have been like for you – where you have been, what you’ve been doing, etc.
Darius Slay: It’s been a great experience. I’ve been on 15 visits in the last three weeks, and like 10 different climates. Right now, the draft’s coming up. I’m just trying to stay in shape and get better.
Boyle: With 15 visits, what does it feel like to have that many teams interested in your abilities?
Slay: It feels good. I feel like a lot of people know about my game and the way that I play. I feel like I can fit into their program.
Boyle: Who are some of the teams you’ve worked out with that have given you the best feeling about being drafted?
Slay: I only worked out for two teams, but I did a lot of visits. I worked out for the Eagles and Atlanta.
Boyle: Your twitter handle features your nickname, ‘Big Play Slay.’ How did you end up with that nickname, and who gave it to you?
Slay: My defensive coordinator, Coach [Geoff] Collins, gave me that nickname. He gave me that name because I was making a lot of big plays during spring ball. I’ve carried it a long way and made a good image – making the big plays I’m supposed to make.
Boyle: Having a nickname like that in the NFL could get you targeted as a rookie. How do you respond to the pressure?
Slay: I’m going to try to come in and earn some respect and make the plays I’m trying to make, be competitive, be more aggressive. I’m ready to compete. I’m ready to get to that level and do my job.
Boyle: Jim Rome had Desmond Trufant on his radio show the other day and said, ‘Cornerbacks are a different breed.’ What makes you guys so different, and what drew you to play corner?
Slay: I like the competition — the one-on-one, the you-against-that-man. My thing is that you’ve got to have a lot of swag to play corner. You can’t just be an uptight corner. You’ve got to have the swag and be a competitor. It carries you a long way during the process.
Boyle: Describe your own level of swag, if you could.
Slay: I’ll be out there basically saying, ‘I’m feeling myself. I feel like I’m the man right now. I feel like I’m ready to compete and showcase my talents to these thousands of fans.’ It gives me a little upside and makes me feel good about myself.
Boyle: You played across the field from another player who should be drafted early this coming weekend in Jonathan Banks. How have you pushed each other, and what are the similarities and differences in your respective games?
Slay: We’ve been really good together. He knows the game real [well]. He’s a smart player. He’s been playing in that spot since he was a freshman. He makes great plays.
The difference is that I’m faster, but he’s taller than me. I feel like I’m a little more athletic, but Banks is an athletic kid himself. Ain’t too much difference between us. We got the same mindset in competing. We want to win. I think that’s what drove us the most.
Boyle: In some ways, Banks earned a lot of attention early in the season during your undefeated start. How were you able to make your own mark given all the hype he had been getting?
Slay: I already knew the fact that a lot of people knew about Banks. He had a good year before in his junior. My goal was to just make the plays that I was supposed to make. I think a lot of eyes opened up because everyone came to see Banks, but when they saw me they said, ‘Oh man, this other kid on the other side, Darius Slay, he’s just like Banks.’ I just have the mindset to go out there and compete and win.
Boyle: You started out in community college for two years. What was that experience like, and how did it prepare you in growing up and getting ready for big-time college football?
Slay: The program was real intense. It helped me a lot with the learning of the game. When I got to Mississippi State, it helped with that process of learning the playbook, learning formations. My junior college helped a lot, but when I got here, my game stepped up and elevated much more.
Boyle: For the casual fan that may not have seen a lot of tape on you, talk about your strengths and weaknesses.
Slay: I think I’m one of the best athletes in the SEC. My size, ain’t too many people have been blessed with – about 6-foot, 190-something pounds as a DB. There ain’t too many kids who are blessed like that, so I took advantage of that.
I think one of my weaknesses is that I don’t do a lot of backpedaling. I could be a little bit better in my technique.
Boyle: At Mississippi State, your team got off to a great start this season, winning your first seven games before a 38-7 loss at Alabama. From there, you lost five of six including the Gator Bowl against Northwestern. Did that loss simply become more than just one loss?
Slay: I feel like when you look at it we were having one of the best seasons in years. The loss to Alabama kind of broke a lot of things down, but not most of them. We had a young team, so the young guys were real upset. But, the older guys tried to keep looking forward.
It still turned out to be a good season. We went to a bowl game, so we enjoyed our season.
Boyle: How would you assess your overall experience at Mississippi State?
Slay: Oh man, it was great. Playing with Johnthan Banks this year, and some of the best players that ever came through [Mississippi State]. It’s been a blessing, so I’m going to take advantage of enjoying the time.
Boyle: Interesting fact – this is the second year in a row I’ve spoken to the fastest defensive back at the NFL Scouting Combine (UCF’s Josh Robinson in 2012). So what does it mean to be the fastest man at your position?
Slay: It took a lot of training during the process. I went to my training facility in Tampa and was getting better every day. My goal was to be the fastest one there. That’s what I was pushing for.
Boyle: How has it paid off, and what were your feelings when you crossed the line?
Slay: I felt great. It was like all of the training had paid off. It opened a lot of eyes from the scouts. A lot of folks were wondering how fast I’d run. I wanted to show them that I was one of the fastest guys out there, and hopefully my stock goes up.
Boyle: What kind of things interest you off the field?
Slay: Away from football, I help the young kids. I got a lot of young brothers who are football players. I like to have training camps and a lot of other stuff for my community [in Georgia]. My community helped me when I was coming up, so I’d like to do the same for them.
Boyle: When you get drafted and earn your first paycheck, what’s the first thing you’re looking to buy?
Slay: I’m looking to find me a house to live in – somewhere to stay, that’s the first thing I’m doing.
After this weekend, Slay will finally have a permanent NFL home.
You can follow Chris Boyle on Twitter at @BOYLE31.