NFL Draft Q&A: Saint Francis DB Lorenzo Jerome
We're lining up a ton of NFL Draft prospects for Q&A interviews over the next few months, and we'll start with Lorenzo Jerome, a safety from I-AA Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania. It's in Loretto, Pa., about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh -- they're the Red Flash, not to be confused with the University of Saint Francis Cougars (Indiana), or the University of Saint Francis Fighting Saints (Illinois) or St. Francis College (Brooklyn) which is the Terriers and doesn't have a football team.
Small-school prospects can help themselves a lot in showcase games, and Jerome has, getting two interceptions and MVP honors in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, earning a trip to the Senior Bowl in Mobile. He has a combine invite, is training with Tom Shaw at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando and took a minute Wednesday to talk about his draft preparations:
Q: How much did the NFLPA game help you, giving you a chance to prove yourself against guys from major colleges?
A: "It actually helped me a lot. I got accustomed to the system. The coaches were excellent and the play-calling was similar to my system in college, and all the man and zone coverage we did helped prepare me for the Senior Bowl. The people out there were amazing.
Q: Mobile was probably another challenge entirely in terms of the level of competition. How did that go for you?
A: "It did the same thing as the NFLPA game, but added a little bit more fire. You had to come prepared. You're dealing with NFL coaches. They know the system and scheme and want to see you work hard."
Q: You were rostered at 6 feet, 195 pounds at Saint Francis. What did you check in at in Mobile?
A: "In Mobile, I was 5-10, 202."
Q: Who would you say is the best player you've played with up to this point?
A: "Probably my best friend, who's now my (defensive backs) coach, Bishop Neal. He's the best player I ever played with. Physical guy, loves to hit, and me and him grinded throughout the whole process. We still talk a lot now."
Q: How often do you still have to tell people where Saint Francis is? I know there's a couple, where people can get confused.
A: "Some people say New York, but tell them PA. I answer it humbly, because a lot of people don't know where it's at."
Q: To some extent, you're helping put them on the map -- they haven't had a player in the NFL since 1952, so they have to like that back on campus.
A: "It's great. The school is loving me. My teammates are saying 'Thank you for helping us get out there and get known.' We want everybody to know that Saint Francis is no joke and nothing to play around with. There's a lot of talent in there."
Q: How do you go from Sunrise, Fla., to Pennsylvania? A lot of schools missed on you down there.
A: "I was underrated coming out of high school because I played quarterback, so nobody wanted to take a chance on me. My old linebacker coach found me at an All-Star game and they offered me. I went up there and loved the school and committed the next day."
Q: Small-school guys are so used to proving themselves, so they always seem to bring a lot of confidence into the draft process.
A: "I love being underrated. I love being someone where nobody knows about me that much. I just have to go out and show my ability, to have fun and ball out."
Q: What are the measurables you're working on most going into the combine next month?
A: "All my measurables. I need to be perfect when I get to the facility in March. Every day, I try to eat as much as I can, run as much as I can, lift as much as I can. I want to be prepared going into this thing."
Q: Is there a player in the NFL you pattern yourself after, similar skills or body type?
A: "I don't know about body type, but skill-wise, Sean Taylor, his work ethic and the way he loved the game."
Q: You played a little bit all over in the secondary in college. Where are most teams looking at you in the NFL?
A: "Free safety, strong safety. I played a lot of packages. I was an athlete in college, so I did multiple things for the university."
Q: How much does your kickoff return game help you? You returned a kick for a touchdown last year, and two in 2015.
A: "It's a steal. You get 2-for-1 with me. It's a great feeling to be able to kick return, punt return and do a lot of stuff on the field."
Q: How was the off-field aspect of Senior Bowl, with interviews with teams and scouts?
A: "It was stressful. We're tired, coming off practice, but it's still a job and an interview so it's part of the process. It was fun meeting new people and talking to new people."
Q: Strangest question you've gotten so far?
A: "Where the heck is Loretto, Pennsylvania?"
Q: So if I'm in Loretto, where's the best place to get something to eat in town?
A: "Frankie's. It's on campus, by the football field. You have to walk a little bit. I usually get mozzarella sticks and a chicken sandwich, a lettuce wrap."
Q: What sport have you played the most besides football?
A: "Basketball. I ran the point and played shooting guard at Taravella (High School).
Q: What's your favorite team besides the Red Flash, college or pro?
A: "My favorite team in college is the Buckeyes. My favorite NFL team is the New York Giants. I was born in Manhattan, moved to Florida when I was four. Florida's home, but I have family members in New York, so we go back and forth."
Q: How close are you to getting your degree at Saint Francis?
A: "I'm still in online classes. I need 12 credits to graduate. I'll graduate at the end of May in Criminal Justice."