FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Desmond Trufant will be wearing No. 21 for the Falcons.
That’s the same number worn by another cornerback, Deion Sanders, when the future Hall of Famer played his first five seasons in Atlanta.
Trufant, a four-year starter at Washington, said it will be an honor to wear the number.
“I knew that was Deion Sanders’ number when he was here,” Trufant said. “He was a great player and I would just love to follow in a guy’s footsteps like that. It’s an honor to wear it and an honor to be here in general. It’s pretty cool. I can’t wait to put it on.”
The Falcons traded up in the first round on Thursday night to make Trufant the No. 22 pick overall.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff said the trade was based on two years of scouting Trufant.
“We’ve monitored and followed closely Desmond’s career,” Dimitroff said. “As we started getting closer and closer to being able to pull the tag off the board, we started getting a little bit more excited about the idea of having him as part of this football team.”
Dimitroff said he sees Trufant as a “full package type of player” with ideal character, skills and work ethic.
“What I mean by that is not only his on-field abilities but also his off-field abilities, the way he carries himself, his approach to the game, his seriousness about getting better all the time and working on his craft,” Dimitroff said.
The Falcons are expecting Trufant to compete for a starting job as a rookie, and he says notes he has taken from watching his brothers, Marcus and Isaiah, will help his adjustment.
“My brothers are big, a big influence on me,” Trufant said. “I’ve been watching them since I was a young kid. They’ve had success all through high school and college and the NFL. I’ve been watching them, taking notes and studying them. We’re a tight group. Nothing will separate us. It’s just big to have two influences like that. Not too many people have that.”
Trufant (6-0, 190) was timed at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash during the combine after starting 47 of 50 games at Washington. He was a team captain as a college senior, and Dimitroff used the same term when he talked about Trufant’s strong character.
“That’s very, very important for us, the idea of getting another captain in the fold here,” Dimitroff said. “I say that because there’s a lot in my mind that goes into that. This guy is going to be committed to improving all the time. We always say how important it is for a guy to be committed to his craft.
“This is a guy who truly puts effort into improving his craft like the older veterans around here, Tony Gonzalez and Matt Ryan and such. He’s a guy who comes in here from day one knowing that he’s going to work to improve all the time.”
Trufant’s brothers may be one reason he comes to the Falcons with what Dimitroff says is an unusually strong understanding of the game, including his ability to play outside and inside in the secondary.
“That’s not only from an athletic standpoint but from an understanding of the game standpoint, which is something that sometimes will hold a player back,” Dimitroff said.
The Falcons need help at cornerback after cutting Dunta Robinson and losing Brent Grimes and Christopher Owens in free agency. Trufant could earn a starting job beside veteran Asante Samuel.
Trufant said he felt comfortable with the Falcons since visiting Flowery Branch for a workout in March.
“I had a good visit here,” he said. “I had a good workout as well. I was just excited. I wanted to be here. I loved it, I loved all the people. They just had great players and great coaches. So I’m just happy to be here.
“It’s just the perfect situation so I’m looking to take advantage of it.”