Within days of returning from Georgia’s bowl victory over Nebraska, Sanders Commings headed to Arizona to prepare his body for his future.
The former Georgia cornerback from Westside High is projected by most analysts to be around the 20th best cornerback in the NFL Draft, perhaps going as high as the third through fifth rounds.
“I have my hopes and want to be an early pick,” he said. “But I’m just looking forward to a team drafting me and taking a chance on me.”
To fulfill that dream, Commings has had more work to do to since helping Georgia to back-to-back Southeastern Conference East championships. Resting on the laurels of the Bulldogs’ star-laden defense that boasted Commings among eight draft prospects was not enough.
To that end, Commings joined Georgia teammate Alec Ogletree at Athletes’ Performance as part of its combine and pro day program – intense power, strength, speed and agility training that helped prepare the top three picks in last year’s NFL Draft as well as former Georgia superstars Matthew Stafford and A.J. Green.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Commings. “I’ve been fortunate to get an opportunity to train at one of the best pre-combine facilities. It’s been great.”
The program was geared differently than what players routinely go through in college.
“During the season instead of training you’re doing more practice and football-related stuff preparing for a team,” Commings said. “It’s more mental, training your brain and studying film. Off-season and pre-combine is more specific getting your body ready.”
The effort paid off for Commings. At the NFL Scouting Combine two weeks ago in Indianapolis, Commings surprised the observers with his speed, ranking seventh among cornerbacks on hand. Quickness was considered one of his weaknesses before the combine.
“The teams didn’t expect me to run as fast as I did,” he said. “My estimated 40 time was a 4.55 and I ended up running a 4.41. It helped my draft situation.”
In the interviews with every NFL team, Commings had the chance to address any character concerns stemming from his 2012 arrest for a public altercation with his girlfriend and show off his true self.
“Everybody afterwards said I did a great job in the interviews and that my football knowledge was one of the best among the DBs there,” he said. “I felt pretty good about what I did at the combines.”
At 6-feet and 216 pounds with 32-inch arms, Commings has the size and strength coveted to cover the ever-growing crop of over-sized receivers. But his versatility at playing both corner and safety for Georgia could pay off on Draft Day.
“Some teams are looking at me as a hybrid safety and corner; some teams are strictly corner and some teams are strictly safety,” Commings said. “I think being able to play both positions will definitely help me.”
The former three-sport star at Westside hopes to become the latest defensive back success story from Richmond County. The last two Super Bowls have featured Augusta DBs – safety Deon Grant of Josey (Giants) and corner Carlos Rogers of Butler (49ers).
Commings doesn’t think that local success in the defensive backfield is just a coincidence.
“I think Augusta is an area that has a lot of good athletes and a lot of the guys you see like Carlos Rogers and Deon Grant, in high school they played offense and defense,” he said. “When you play both sides of the ball like that, it elevates your game and gives you the ball skills to be successful as a defensive back. That’s a plus in causing turnovers. I think that helps out Augusta guys. Most schools aren’t that big like Atlanta schools that may have thousands of kids in high school and you’ll play just one side of the ball.
At Westside, I played quarterback, receiver, running back, safety, corner. I think that only benefitted me. And playing centerfield (in baseball), just being out there practicing tracking the ball helped me out a lot.”
He’ll return to Athens on Tuesday to get ready for Georgia’s scheduled Pro Day with scouts on Thursday and remain in Georgia through the draft. He has more individual team workouts scheduled as well as some visits to NFL facilities in the final month until the NFL Draft April 25-27.
By all accounts, the draft should be chock full of Georgia defenders. Three Bulldogs – linebackers Jarvis Jones and Ogletree and tackle John Jenkins – are considered first-round picks. Commings and Burke County’s Cornelius Washington (linebacker) are projected for the middle rounds along with Kwame Geathers, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams.
Commings doesn’t think he’ll get lost behind his talented teammates.
“One thing I think that helps is coming from an SEC school with a lot of talent and playing against the best talent,” he said. “As far as an individual, teams are just evaluating me and not the talent around me.
“We had a lot of good players come through Georgia, and guys I looked up to and had a chance to play with like Asher Allen, Rashad Jones and Brandon Boykin, guys who’ve gone to NFL and had an impact on NFL teams. And being able to come in with guys like Rambo and Shawn Williams, we were able to elevate each other’s games to the next level.”
Now Commings hopes everything he’s work on the last couple months will officially take him there.