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Nate Robinson fully believes he could have been an elite NFL cornerback

Oct 21, 2013, 4:34 PM EDT

Nate Robinson AP

It’s part of the legend of Nate Robinson — he was a two-sport star in high school in Seattle, a very good defensive corner on the football team as well as a hoops standout. He went on to the University of Washington and played one year as a cornerback there before deciding to focus full time on basketball.

He’s entering his ninth NBA season now, so we can officially call that a smart decision. If you don’t think so, you can ask the $24 million he will have earned by the end of his two-year contract in Denver. He’s a fan favorite (not quite the same with his coaches) because he’s a fearless gunner who can create his own shot — and at 5’9” that’s fun to watch.

Still, Robinson is convinced he would have been a great NFL cornerback. I mean great. Here are the words of the man himself from the Believe the Hype NBA podcast (transcribed by Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie).

If I was in the NFL, I’d probably be at least, like, the first or second DB in the NFL. One, two or three, I’d say, because [Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback] Darrelle] Revis is pretty solid, [Arizona Cardinals corner] Patrick Peterson is pretty solid and you got my man Sherman holding it down. It’d be a tough position, but the level that I was playing football at at the time, I was — you know, it was fun for me and it came pretty easy. […] And I only gave it a year in college, so for me, it’d be pretty scary to think about, you know, my future in football. If I really gave it my all, and stopped focusing on basketball, and gave everything I had on football, I’d probably be one of the best corners the NFL has ever seen.

Nate Robinson’s fearlessness knows no limits.

I’d say a 5’9” corner lasting long in the world of long, lanky NFL wideouts would be a stretch, but then the same is true of 5’9” guards in the NBA. His athleticism and aggressive style helps him overcome a lot.

But the length of the average NFL career is not nine years, and not many guys make $24 mil at it. So I’m going to stick with this being the right call.

  1. circuscivics - Oct 21, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    “I’d say a 5’9” corner lasting long in the world of long, lanky NFL wideouts would be a stretch, but then the same is true of 5’9” guards in the NBA.”

    Kurt. Stick to the sport that you cover. The average height of NFL cornerbacks is a little under 5’11” according to Profootballfocus. Therefore, Robinson is not too far off. I can think of several top level sub 6ft corners that had long productive careers right off the bat. Darrell Green, listed at 5’8″ Revis, listed at 5’11”, Lito Sheppard, Courtland Finnegan, Sheldon Brown… I think we can acknowledge that it takes more than height to be a good NFL corner, but I doubt it would be Robinson’s physical limitations that would hold him back.

  2. mp4philly - Oct 21, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    He’s probably right. There are two-three guys on each nba roster that could make an nfl team.

    • detectivejimmymcnulty - Oct 21, 2013 at 5:35 PM

      He may well have made it as a CB in the NFL, but to say he’d be 1,2, or 3 is a very long stretch. He’d be more of a nickel CB with his height.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 21, 2013 at 6:17 PM

        What makes you a good nickel corner – or nickel appropriate – has nothing to do with height.

      • detectivejimmymcnulty - Oct 21, 2013 at 6:45 PM

        I think you missed my point. Nate said he would be the first, second, or third best CB in the league, but because of his height, 5’9 might be generous, he probably wouldn’t be an outside CB and would probably be limited into a nickel CB role. That doesn’t mean he’d be a bad player, but he wouldn’t be one of the top CBs.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:00 PM

        5’9 isn’t generous. I’ve stood next to him a few times and I think he might be a little closer to 5’10 actually (at least with his shoes on). I think he likes people to think he’s shorter than he really is – makes his hops seem more miraculous (if that’s possible).

      • asimonetti88 - Oct 22, 2013 at 1:53 AM

        “5’9 isn’t generous. I’ve stood next to him a few times and I think he might be a little closer to 5’10 actually”

        You haven’t stood next to him before then. I lived in Seattle for a few years, and he used to play at the community center where I lived along with guys like Luke Ridnour, Rashard Lewis and Vin Baker (lol). He is not 5’10”. He is probably not far off from 5’9″ but there is no way he is taller than that. On a similar note, Vin Baker is A LOT more than his listed weight.

      • tcclark - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:55 AM

        What guy wants you to think he’s SHORTER than he actually is…

  3. antistratfordian - Oct 21, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    I have no doubt about him being at least a decent corner. He probably should’ve went to the NFL – his height is less of an issue there as a cornerback. A “tall” receiver in the NFL is only 6’4 or 6’5. That’s not tall in the NBA.

    Being 5’9 as a corner is not too much of an issue. Darrell Green is 5’8 and played forever. Bob Sanders was a 5’8 Defensive Player of the Year SAFETY – imagine that. Great DBs like Ty Law and Ed Reed and Revis are only 5’10 or 5’11.

    • crik911 - Oct 21, 2013 at 6:12 PM

      Great point, Nate can defend taller people in the nba (Average height is about 6’6 ) while in the NFL the biggest recievers are this height. His speed and quickness surely would help and his explosive jump wouldn’t hurt either!

      All that being said, the NFL Field is alot bigger than a basketball court, Maybe he’s a defensive Wes Welker, or maybe he Jimmy Graham owns him? Who knows really….

  4. thomaskouns - Oct 21, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    He could be right but every professional athlete thinks they could cross-over. Jordan though the same thing about baseball and he never hit over .197 in the low minors.. Makes for great articles but easier said than done.

  5. rodge1 - Oct 21, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    He still could be

  6. eagles512 - Oct 21, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    Agreed-nickel corner.

  7. obmig - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    I was thinking a bigger Darren Sproles or even a Steve Smith type wideout.

  8. ebrownwareagle - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    But he is right… People forget he has a 40+ inch VERT!

  9. steelers33 - Oct 21, 2013 at 10:28 PM

    He certainly would have the required athleticism to be an elite CB, same with LeBron and TE. He’s probably more 5’10 then 5’9, which would be fine size for an NFL CB with his ability. Dude in his day had insane quickness, explosiveness, and vert which would all translate well to cornerback. But a big part of being a good football player is cerebral as well, and being good with your technique.

  10. eagles512 - Oct 21, 2013 at 10:55 PM

    But a cornerback plays defense.

  11. ibreathefootball - Oct 22, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    I watch alot of NFL, and alot of NBA. And I remember Nate’s story in college, but no way in hell would he be an elite NFL cornerback. I could see him making a roster off of his sheer quickness. But better than the best? No way. Prove it to me.

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