Tyrell Pearson is a diminutive cornerback that played at Mesa Junior College before playing at South Alabama. Whatever he lacks in size, he seems to make up for in his tenacity in coverage and knack for coming up with interceptions. Not only has he been able to get interceptions, but he has been able to score a few of them.
Hoping to get his shot in the NFL and do anything he can for a shot to prove himself in coverage at the next level, Pearson talked about his path to the NFL, why he believes he can make it, and the chip on his shoulder he brings with him into every game.
Pete Smith: How did you end up going to Mesa for Junior College?
Tyrell Pearson: Originally, I was supposed to went to a Division-2 school (Tusculum College in Tennessee) out of high school with a couple of my friends. We all got signed to go there to play football. I didn’t get in, so they decided to go ahead and I was stuck here, so I just wanted to go to a junior college. My mentor was looking up a couple junior colleges and he spotted Mesa. It’s a long way, Arizona, halfway across the country. He said “I think this would be a good place for you, not only to showcase your skills, but also, you know, grow up and adapt to different situations.”
I went with it and I went out there to see how it was and to be honest with you, that was probably the best decision I made, going to a junior college.
My mentor is Cory McDowell. He’s been helping me along the way with everything, just being there. You know, just basically guiding me along the whole process. I’ll never forget this this thing he always told me; accept, adapt, and adjust. Whenever you in a tough situation, accept it, adapt to it, and adjust to it.
PS: Why did you miss 5 games this season?
TP: The first game, I violated team rules and I was suspended one game. The defensive coordinator is Kevin Sherrer; he preached all year that the depth chart would change every day, depending on how you practiced and your performance, things like that. The depth chart just changed and I was third, second on the depth chart, because of my performance in practice and things like that. That’s why I didn’t get to play those last couple games.
PS: How did you feel about that, considering the way you played, especially during your junior year?
TP: It was frustrating to say the least, but there’s nothing I can really do about it other than go out there, practice hard, perform like I’ve been doing, keep going. Obey the rules and be coachable, things like that.
PS: Against Western Kentucky, you had a personal foul called on you when you made the pick six that could have won the game before coming back and made another interception that did help your team win the game. Did you lean anything from that situation?
TP: I’ve learned from it just how to control my emotions. That was a big play; a real big play. Next time I have a big time moment, big time situation, I just have to control my emotions. If you look back at the film, I wasn’t trying really trying to shuffle or anything like that. I was actually about to step out of bounds and that’s why I shuffled like that.
I really thought he was going to catch me. He had a good angle on me. That’s why I looked back to see where he was at. When I looked forward to see how close was I to the end zone, that’s what I did was shuffle to stay in bounds. I’ve learned from it; learned how to bottle my emotions in. I be looking forward to picking off more quarterbacks in the near future.
I just play with a big chip on my shoulder, man. Just coming out of high school, you know, I led the state in interceptions with 11. I didn’t get any looks from any D-1 schools or nothing. So that really, you know, got me frustrated and mad, so I went off to junior college.
And had a chip on my shoulder then because the two years I was at junior college, I was a two-time All-American. My sophomore year, you know, I led the conference in interceptions with 8 and third in the nation with junior college and still wasn’t getting any Division-1 offers. So that made a bigger chip on my shoulder. I told myself, the next time I make a play, I want people to remember me and know who I am. I just play with emotion, man. I love it!
PS: How much does your size play into that mindset? The idea that you have to prove yourself on every play?
TP: Yes, I have to. When I try to make a tackle, I try to throw the whole 160lbs at them. It’s really something I can’t control with my size or my height or anything. You know, if you’re a GM or a scout and you really know football, you understand size doesn’t matter. As long as you see, you know, the person has a big heart, the willingness to make big plays, make big tackles, big third down stops, and the ability to make big plays. That’s what I feel like I can do to contribute.
PS: What’s your mindset when the ball is in the air?
TP: Go get it, man. See ball, get ball. That’s what one of my cornerbacks coach, Chevis Jackson, he always told us. You see the ball, go get it. So that’s my mindset; see ball, get ball.
PS: You mentioned that Nickell Roby is one of your favorite players. What’s the story with that?
TP: Yes, him and Brent Grimes. Brent Grimes, you know, he went to a small school; Shippensburg. He was very underrated. He’s an incredible athlete, man. He made big plays. He just grinds to get to where he at now; just made big plays to where he at now.
The same thing with Nickell Roby, man. He went to USC. He was an excellent, excellent cover guy. You know, played nickel and the outside; just an exceptional athlete. But people held his height against him. Watching his film this year in the NFL, you could tell he had a big chip shoulder on his shoulder.
PS: Is there a game at South Alabama that you point at and go that’s Tyrell Pearson. That’s the guy that teams are getting?
TP: I would probably say there are a couple games. The Mississippi State game my junior year. That was probably one of my best games. The Western Kentucky game was probably one of my best games. And also, the North Texas game from last year, man. I just showed incredible athletic ability, studying film, being ferocious when I get to the ball and just making plays for my team on big downs as far as third down.
PS: You guys have played a varied schedule. Who is the best player you saw in your career at South Alabama?
TP: My two years there; probably the receiver from Troy University, Eric Thomas. He’s a big, big guy. Strong, very strong hands. It’s fun going against him whenever I get the chance to; just competing with him. I’d probably say him the two years I was there. And also my teammates this past year that helped me, with bigger receivers. Danny Woodson, the transfer from Alabama and Shaverez Smith. They helped me a lot.
PS: With your size, are you more comfortable playing smaller receivers or do you like going against bigger, maybe slower receivers?
TP: To be honest, it doesn’t matter. Whatever a coach wants me to do. If he wants me to go out and play the 6’4”, 6’5” receiver every play, I will. If he wants me to go in the slot and play the smaller, quicker guy, I will. I can do both.
PS: With your loquacious style on the field, next year you get put on Calvin Johnson, are you going to be talking to him the entire game or waiting to see how it goes?
TP: I’m not gonna change my game for anybody. Calvin Johnson is probably one of the best receivers in this game right now, but I’m not gonna change my game for anybody. I’m gonna be myself, go out there, talk a little stuff, get up under his skin, and if it doesn’t work, then I’ll calm down and focus on my work.
PS: What ultimately do you think a team is ultimately getting from Tyrell Pearson?
TP: For one, you’re getting a smart player. You’re getting a player that is willing to do anything for his teammates; do anything to better the team. You’re getting a playmaker for sure. You’re getting someone that is going to work every day, to better the team on Sundays.
- Good luck to Tyrell Pearson as he keeps working toward his NFL dream. He is doing everything in his power to earn a shot to prove himself and is relenteless in his pursuit despite a lack of height and size. Here is my breakdown of Tyrell and what I believe he offers an NFL team.