NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Jalen Ramsey turned heads as a defensive back at Florida State, but he needed some finishing touches to be ready for the NFL Combine.
Lamont Ramsey knew exactly what his son needed, but he didn't want anyone treating him with kid gloves. He met a nine-year pro he thought would be perfect for the job.
"And I told him, 'Hey, we're not babying Jalen, and we don't want anyone who is going to baby him,''' Ramsey told the seasoned veteran, also a defensive back. "And he said, 'You don't have to worry about that with me.' He's just like me. He's an in-your-face guy who doesn't cut any corners.'"
The player: Bernard Pollard, who played two seasons at safety with the Titans after playing previously with the Ravens, Texans and Chiefs. Pollard won a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens, and earned a reputation in the league for being a no-nonsense, hard-nosed player.
Pollard worked with Jalen Ramsey for over six weeks in Nashville at Ramsey Performance Training, where he worked with the former Brentwood Academy star on position specific drills, and also spent time with him in the classroom. The two spent three days a week with one another – one hour each time on the field, and another hour "on the board" each session.
Pollard came away impressed.
"This was the first time I've ever been hired to train someone for the combine, so it was a blessing. And I got in (Jalen's) ear,'' Pollard said. "I think you know what kind of person I am, what kind of player I am. I got out there and backpedaled with him, ran with him, talked trash to him. I want to pull the best out of him.
"Jalen has a chance to be a top-five draft pick and I told him, 'I've seen No.1 overall picks bust and I've seen a lot of first round picks bust.' I constantly stayed in his ear and tried to motivate him. I just want him to be the best player he can be. And I truly believe the team that gets him is going to get a really good player who's ready to play."
Pollard was proud on Monday as he watched the two-time All-America performer at Florida State run a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis while also recording a 41.5-inch vertical leap and a broad jump of 11'3'', which were both the top measurements among all defensive backs. Ramsey is among the players the Titans are expected to consider with the first overall pick of the NFL Draft.
"I was yelling at the TV as I watched him,'' Pollard said. "He is naturally gifted, with God-given talent. He can run, and he can jump. He can do it all. He has a really good chance of being a really good player in this league if he works his butt off and I told him that."
Lamont Ramsey, a 21-year veteran of the Nashville Fire Department, has been training athletes for years.
His training team has been working with Jalen, a Smyrna native, since he was very young. But Lamont Ramsey said he wanted to bring in people to "clean up the little things." A mutual friend put him in contact with Pollard, who said he'd like to play in 2016 himself after sitting out the 2015 season. Pollard played with the Titans in 2013 and 2014, a season that was cut short because of an Achilles injury.
Pollard worked with Ramsey on football-specific drills, and Willie Smith, 1984 Olympic gold medalist in the 4X400 relay, worked with Jalen Ramsey three hours a week on speed training.
Lamont Ramsey said he met Pollard, and the two hit it off. Bernard Pollard and Jalen Ramsey began working with one another in early January and continued to do so until a week before the combine.
"They went over every drill, and cleaned up some of the things he might've been doing wrong, like rocking back in the stance, just the little things,'' Lamont Ramsey said. "And who better than a guy who has played in a Super Bowl, been on the back end of a defense? He can tell you how it's going to be in the meetings. The knowledge he can give is important. I was real happy with how it went."
Pollard said he came away thinking Jalen Ramsey is capable of playing a number of positions in the NFL.
He liked everything about him. Pollard said Ramsey reminds him of players like Antonio Cromartie, a 10-year pro who has played in four Pro Bowls, and Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, a first round pick in 2011.
Ramsey was the first Florida State cornerback to start as a freshman since Deion Sanders in 1985. He started all 13 games at cornerback in 2015, while also returning kickoffs. He finished the season with 52 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, one fumble recovery and a team-high 10 pass break-ups.
"It was a lot of fun for me because I was able to take what I learned, and teach him, and he was able to soak in what I was teaching him. I know what coaches want, and I was teaching him concepts, different defenses, adjustments. He is a long guy, so I know what teams will try to do against him. I was blown away with how big he is a man,'' Pollard said of Ramsey.
"I see him as a corner. If a team drafts him in the top five, or sooner, he is going to be a good corner. But he is going to be good regardless of where he plays. He is going to blossom in this league."