MOBILE, Ala. – As a youngster growing up in Nashville, JaCoby Stevens didn't wait until his father got home from work to play ball.
He got the football out, and then played quarterback and receiver.
"Being in the NFL has always been a dream for me," Stevens said. "I used to go out in the front yard and throw the football to myself. Even as a kid, I always pictured myself going to the NFL and living that dream."
Stevens, who starred at Oakland High in Murfreesboro before a stellar career at LSU, is here at the Senior Bowl, trying to do his part to make his NFL dream become a reality.
The versatile defensive back is doing his best to make a good impression in front of NFL executives and scouts.
"I want them to know that I am a football player, and I am a student of the game," Stevens said. "At the end of the day I am an athlete. It doesn't matter where you line me up or who you line me up against, I am going to put my best foot forward and I am going to compete. … I know there are questions on if I have enough athletic ability to play at the next level, and I feel like they'll be able to see me answer those questions for them."
Stevens, the nation's top safety prospect for the Class of 2017 as a five-star prospect coming out of Oakland, had a solid career at LSU, where he played in 42 games and recorded 102 tackles, 21.5 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 19 passes defensed, and four fumble recoveries.
While at LSU, he showed off his versatility – he started as safety, played receiver for a few weeks, spent a week at tight end, and also played linebacker. He then moved back to safety, where he's expected to play in the NFL.
Stevens intercepted Alabama quarterback Mac Jones during Senior Bowl practices this week.
"He's athletic, and he has gotten a little bigger since his time at LSU," Titans General Manager Jon Robinson said of Stevens. "Good speed, good quickness, covers a lot of ground. He'll hit you. He's a good football player."
Stevens was a football player in the making.
Born and raised in the Nashville neighborhood of Antioch, Stevens went to Una Elementary before eventually going to Ensworth Middle School. Stevens transferred to Oakland, where he became one of the state's top prospects while playing receiver, running back, quarterback, safety, cornerback and linebacker. Stevens racked up 61 tackles and nine interceptions as a senior at Oakland, and he added 34 receptions for 689 yard and 12 touchdowns.
Stevens played in the Titans 7-on-7 camp, and he was named Mr. Football, an award sponsored by the Titans. Former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and former Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo were among those handing out the trophies that day.
But his heroes weren't NFL players.
"My biggest hero is my dad," JaCoby Stevens said of his father, Jeremy, a track and field athlete when he was younger. "I wouldn't be where I am today without his guidance.
"My dad taught me about perseverance, grit, and just the want-to and the work ethic. He taught me that nothing is ever going to be handed to me, I am always going to have to go out there and get it."
Decked out in No.7, JaCoby Stevens has been getting it in Senior Bowl practices here this week.
During the pre-draft process, he hopes he can convince teams to make his childhood dreams a reality.
"This is the next step, the moment I have been dreaming about since I was in the front yard throwing the football to myself as a little kid," Stevens said. "As we get closer and closer, it is very exciting. I have to just keep a level head, answer all the questions NFL scouts have for me, and do my best to show them what I am all about."