Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Onterio McCalebb isn’t just trying to make the jump from college to the NFL in his rookie season. The former Auburn Tiger is also in the middle of a position switch after playing his entire collegiate career as a running back, and in order to speed up his adjustment to the defensive backfield, he’s seeking the guidance of one of the greatest Bengal defenders of all-time.
Former Bengals cornerback Riley played his entire career for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1969-1983 as he recorded 65 interceptions, which was the fourth most in Pro Football history at the time of his retirement.
Between now and the July 25 start of training camp, McCalebb will be frantically preparing to play a position he’s not played since high school, and Riley will meet with McCaleb to help him learn to play the position at the highest level:
Riley is planning to teach McCalebb the finer points of cornerback, a venture that has had a rocky start after the Bengals signed him following the draft. But no surprise there since the last time the 5-10, 171-pound McCalebb played corner was at Hargrave.
It’s a longshot all the way and now after six weeks of being a fish out of water, he’s looking for anything to get back his sea legs.
“(Riley) was an All Pro at it. I know he can teach me how to be comfortable in backpedaling and technique,” says McCalebb, a pass-catching, productive back at Auburn. “I know the route concepts. I’m quick enough. I can get past the DB. It was easy on offense, now it’s reversed. It’s hard when you’ve been an offensive guy to run backward and he’s running forward. (Riley can help) how to play against the routes.
McCaleb knows it will be a tough transition to make in his rookie year, but he’s ready for the challenge:
I love playing offense. That’s my specialty. (But) I’m going to work my tail off to do whatever I can to make the team. I just want to go out there and help us win on the defensive side of the ball. Just go out there and help us win. If the team wins, everybody has one goal here and Coach (Marvin) Lewis talks about it every day. Every time we have a team meeting, our one goal is to win the Super Bowl.
Whether or not McCaleb is able to make it onto the 53-man roster this year is still very much in doubt, but his efforts to better himself and have the best chance to earn one of those final spots is very admirable.