Player Interviews

Chargers Show Interest in Small-School Safety


The draft is always unpredictable, but we know a couple things about Chargers GM Tom Telesco: 1) he drafts for need more than value; and 2) he does not shy away from small-school prospects.

With those considerations in mind, one has to believe San Diego’s talks with William & Mary safety DeAndre Houston-Carson at last month’s Senior Bowl were more significant than some of the other meetings that took place in Mobile, Ala.

Houston-Carson was a four-year starter for the Tribe, spending his first three seasons at cornerback before making the move to free safety as a senior. He made the switch in sensational fashion, finishing the 2015 season with 109 tackles and four interceptions.

“It was just depth chart issues,” Houston-Carson said of the position change. “We had a lot of corners who had substantial playing time and proved they could play, but we didn’t have as many safeties. They decided to move me back so we could get the most athletes on the field at one time.”

The move also helped land Houston-Carson (6’0”, 197 lbs.) squarely on San Diego’s radar. The Chargers have a glaring need at free safety with 10-year veteran Eric Weddle preparing to leave the team in free agency. It’s a void DHC would gladly fill.

He may not be an All Pro like Weddle, but he is developing some All Pro tendencies after his recent film study.

“At William & Mary we had a lot of film and I was watching Darrelle Revis a lot,” Houston-Carson said. “I just really respect him and think he’s an awesome player, awesome guy. The past year or two, we had a lot of the Seahawks film and I was really watching Earl Thomas. That actually made the transition to safety a little bit easier. Just watching the way he ran to the ball, the effort he plays with and the angles he took, and really, if I see it done then I can emulate it.”

Houston-Carson looked like a future All Pro during his senior season. He delivered a slew of game-changing plays, including a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Looking at his film, it’s almost impossible to believe it was his first year playing safety.

“At William & Mary the safeties and corners meet in the same meeting room every day,” he said. “I was a fifth-year senior, so for four years I had been hearing all the safety stuff. I pretty much knew how to play the position, I just never had to physically do it. That was a real blessing and it made it easier to transition into safety. I feel comfortable at safety.”

That’s refreshing to hear, because more corner-safety tweeners prefer to play on the outside. For one thing, there aren’t as many violent collisions at cornerback. For another, cornerbacks get paid better than safeties.

For Houston-Carson, that latter fact means little.

“Honestly, and I really mean this, I would play this game even if I didn’t get paid any money, because of the friendships I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned from this game,” he said. “The money thing, and I really mean this from the bottom of my heart, it’s whatever to me. As long as I get an opportunity to play the game and help a team strive to win a Super Bowl, that’s all I could ask for.”

His selflessness extends beyond the negotiating table. It is visible on the field, too, especially when it comes to special teams.

Most star players play little or no special teams. But not only was DHC heavily involved in the game’s third phase, contributing during each of his four seasons, but he was dominant. He blocked nine kicks during his career and worked as the gunner on the coverage units.

“As far as thinking about next year and being a rookie and playing special teams, I do think at the very least I want to be a contributor,” he said. “Even if I’m not getting the reps at safety or corner, I really pride myself on being that type of guy who sacrifices himself and his body for the team.”

Houston-Carson says all the right things, so you have to imagine his talks with Chargers scouts during Senior Bowl week only helped his cause. He was just as impressive during his time on the field in Mobile. He was a little apprehensive early in the week, cautious about making too many mistakes, but he quickly pushed through that and got back to playing free like he did at William & Mary.

As far as using the Senior Bowl to prove he could produce against top-level competition, DHC wiped out that notion like a receiver coming over the middle.

“At the end of the day, I just want to prove to myself that I can play with all my heart and with great technique every time I step out onto the field,” he said. “I’m really not trying to focus at all on what anyone else is saying about me. I think the competition is really between me and myself. I always have a voice in my head telling me, ‘You can do more, you can go harder, you can push yourself harder.’ I plan on continuing to battle that. If I continue to do that, I will be successful against any competition.”

There’s a good chance that “competition” will turn out to be Derek Carr, Alex Smith and Brock Osweiler. If Houston-Carson is available on the third day of the draft, it is more likely than not he’ll end up wearing lightning bolts.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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