Darqueze Dennard goes to Bengals

Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back last season.

Brian Spurlock/Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Darqueze Dennard has come a long way since being a two-star recruit out of Dry Branch, Georgia.

The Michigan State cornerback who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Dennard is the first Spartans defensive back to be chosen in the first round since the Green Bay Packers selected Herb Adderley with the 12th pick in 1961.

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Dennard is also MSU’s first defensive player taken in the first round since the San Francisco 49ers took linebacker Julian Peterson in 2000, and the first Spartan taken in the opening round since the Detroit Lions took Charles Rogers with the second pick in 2003.

Before the draft, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "We want a guy, No. 1, that we can count on. That’s the hardest part of the evaluation, a guy we can count on."

According to Geoff Hobson of bengals.com, Lewis said Dennard was in the top 10 on their draft board.

"He has a good feel for the game," Lewis told Hobson. "I’m impressed with how he carries himself. He makes us better."

Lewis said that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and defensive backs coach Vance Joseph saw Dennard at his campus workout and compared him to veteran cornerback Leon Hall, ironically from Michigan.

On a conference call with Cincinnati reporters, Dennard said of the comparison, "He’s very consistent. I like it."

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio released a statement after the pick was announced.

"The first thing the Cincinnati organization can expect from Darqueze Dennard is a very professional attitude in his general lifestyle and preparation," Dantonio said. "He brings the right attitude and effort to work every day. He’s a recent graduate of Michigan State. Darqueze had a 3.66 grade-point average this semester, and that’s just another indicator of his work ethic. He continues to strive for excellence.

"Darqueze has tremendous ball skills, and he’s extremely quick. Most people don’t know that he had a hamstring injury going into the NFL Combine and he still ran a respectable 40. With that injury behind him, he’€™ll run as fast as anyone on the football field. In addition, he’s a great tackler. During his college career, Darqueze played every position in the secondary: star, safety, boundary corner and field corner.

"He has ‘it.’ Darqueze possesses all of those intangibles that allow him to gain ground and constantly improve as a player. He’€™s an extremely humble young man, and he’s going to be an asset in the Greater Cincinnati community."

Unlike many players expected to be chosen in the first round, Dennard elected to spend the draft with his family in Georgia rather than go to New York.

"It was a sigh of relief in the room, really," Dennard told Cincinnati reporters. "My family and friends were getting a little anxious."

Now it’s the AFC North teams who are getting anxious as the "No Fly Zone" Dennard and his teammates brought to MSU has landed in Cincinnati.