Another reverse leads Revis to NFL
The move came naturally to Darrelle Revis, so he executed it on the most critical day of his career, defying conventional wisdom in favor of athleticism.
It came to Revis when training for the three-cone drill, a measuring stick for lateral quickness and change-of-direction ability. Instead of going around the cones during Pitt's Pro Day on March 16, he wowed NFL coaches and scouts in attendance by using a reverse pivot instead.
"It was just something I did, but I guess the scouts went crazy over it," Revis said. "I pulled something out of the woodwork. It's a skill. When you've got some athletic ability, you can do things like that."
That move, along with running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, solidified his standing as a first-round pick in Saturday's NFL draft. It was, however, the second-most important reverse pivot that Revis has pulled off.
The first came his senior year at Aliquippa High School, where Revis was a standout in football and basketball. He had scholarship offers in both sports and was weighing whether to be a point guard or a cornerback in college.
"My uncle said, 'I don't think basketball is in your best interests. In the NBA, you've got one or two point guards. In the NFL, you've got six or seven DBs,'" Revis recalled. "That made my mind up right there."
Revis chose to play football for Pitt - he flirted briefly with, but never pursued, the idea of walking on to the basketball team - and became a three-year starter and two-time All-Big East Conference selection at cornerback.
Now, after declaring for the NFL draft after his junior season, Revis is set to become only the fourth WPIAL product to be selected in the first round since that uncle, former Aliquippa star Sean Gilbert, was taken No. 3 overall by the Los Angeles Rams in 1992. (The others were Aliquippa cornerback Ty Law, by the New England Patriots in '95, and North Hills linebacker LaVar Arrington, by the Washington Redskins in 2000).
"When you look, percentage-wise, at his opportunities and how it projects to get drafted, the cornerback position was better for him," Gilbert said. "You don't really know the impact until they make the decision to make the commitment. For him, it turned out to be something that worked out well. Getting drafted is just the beginning."
NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. noted that Revis "proved faster during his workout than you thought he was when he played" and said the 40-yard dash time "solidified his first-round status and maybe his status at the No. 2 cornerback" behind Michigan All-American Leon Hall.
"You would have liked to have seen more big plays this past year," Kiper said. "He came up with a lot of those big plays as a sophomore."
There is an explanation for why Revis had 41 tackles, nine pass breakups and four interceptions as a sophomore and only 39 tackles, two interceptions and four pass breakups this past season: Teams refused to throw his way, even though Revis covered the wide side of the field.
"The only negative you always hear is that people didn't throw against him," said Neil Schwartz, Revis' agent. "I told him, 'You should be lucky to have that problem in the NFL. You hope offensive coordinators feel the same way.' That's the ultimate compliment, when teams don't throw your way."
True to form, Revis stayed humble about his ability even after he was overlooked for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to college football's best defensive back, and All-America teams. Ever since his high school days, Revis has used every perceived slight as a source of motivation.
"I was one of those guys that didn't go to the Nike camp; I was a three-star and that was just off me playing high school football," said Revis, who tied a PIAA finals record by scoring five touchdowns in leading the Quips to the Class AA title and was named the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's 2003 Player of the Year. "My senior year, I was mad because they said Teddy Ginn was the nation's top cornerback. I thought I was, but he had all the exposure."
Not that Revis needed any additional incentive, but he got some with the birth of his 1-year-old daughter, Deyani. After interviewing with nearly every NFL team - "You're about to give a 21-year-old $1 million," he said, "you want to get to know him" - Revis is relishing the prospect of being able to provide for his first-born child.
"To me, it's great," Revis said. "She'll probably never have to work a day in her life. Even when she was in her mother's womb, it motivated me. I knew I had to take care of responsibilities. I used to dream of going to college, going to NFL, marrying someone and have children. You don't expect it to happen as a 20-year-old, but I love my daughter and it made me more responsible."
Deyani will remember her father's NFL draft day about as much as he remembers his uncle's. A family already blessed with one NFL first-round pick will wait at the Broadhead Road home of its matriarch, Aileen Gilbert, in Aliquippa for some team to call Darrelle's name.
"It's my dream, playing football," Revis said. "I've wanted to do this my whole life. That means my hard work paid off. The NFL is a profession, and I'm ready to be a professional."