Mental toughness defines Foxworth

Ex-Terp is short on memory, long on talent in first year with Broncos

December 08, 2005|By BILL ORDINE | BILL ORDINE,SUN REPORTER

Denver Broncos rookie Domonique Foxworth, formerly of Randallstown and the University of Maryland, has the perfect mental makeup for a cornerback - a quick mind blessed with a touch of amnesia.

Described by Denver coach Mike Shanahan as "one of the sharpest rookies I've ever had on the team," Foxworth was in the unenviable position as the defender beaten by New York Giants receiver Amani Toomer for a late-game-winning touchdown on Oct. 23.

But a week later, Foxworth was the guy who throttled a second-half comeback by the Philadelphia Eagles when he intercepted quarterback Donovan McNabb in the end zone, a play that re-ignited the Broncos to an easy win.

"I'm sure everybody knows playing corner, you have to have a short memory," Foxworth said yesterday. "I like to say that those two games are proof positive that I didn't lose any confidence from week to week, given that the week prior I didn't have such a great game."

His interception against Philadelphia helped propel 9-3 Denver, which plays the 4-8 Ravens at Invesco Field on Sunday, to a four-game winning streak that ended last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Sunday's game gives Foxworth's friends here an opportunity to see the Broncos' third-round draft selection, who was among three cornerbacks chosen by Denver in April. The former Terp has been splitting time at right cornerback with fellow rookie Darrent Williams, has played regularly in nickel situations, and has started three games, the first time for injured Pro Bowl player Champ Bailey.

In that game against Jacksonville, Foxworth made an interception that set up a Broncos' field goal and recovered a fumble to end the Jaguars' final possession.

"It wasn't a surprise because I expect to make plays once I'm in the game," the 5-foot-11, 180-pound graduate of Western Tech said. "But it was a surprise that I got to start because it was Week 3, and the fact that they had the confidence to start me when we do have other corners on the roster meant a lot to me."

At Maryland where he graduated in 3 1/2 years with a degree in American Studies, Foxworth was known as a heady player. And it is because he handles himself like a veteran that Shanahan has felt comfortable with him.

"A lot of rookies are hesitant, they're afraid to make plays," Shanahan said. "But he's got a lot of self-confidence, he's a very smart player so he can anticipate the routes, and he can anticipate throws. Sometimes it takes a guy a couple of years to get that feeling. He came in with that innate ability right away, and it's one of the reasons he's playing so much."

Through the first three quarters of the Broncos' season, Foxworth has been extraordinarily productive for a first-year player with 53 tackles, 47 unassisted, and 13 passes broken up to go along with his two interceptions, fumble recovery and a forced fumble.

While he's been busy on the field, Foxworth has taken on the assignment of authoring a weekly diary for the Denver Post recounting his experiences as a NFL rookie. He said that he was approached recently by a publisher about compiling the collection of articles into a book after the season.

Throughout his career in college, Foxworth frequently credited his parents with supporting him at home and athletically. Since he was 8, they've never missed a game, he said. Not only has that streak continued since he has become a pro, but his parents have moved lock, stock and barrel from Randallstown to Denver.

Rather than an intrusion on his privacy, Foxworth considers it a blessing. His parents can handle the little day-to-day chores for him, he said, and he can concentrate on football.

"A lot of young players don't have anyone to talk to or spend any time with, but I have my parents here," he said. "It's just like being at home. It's nice."

Among the stories about Foxworth's home life that have leaked out is one about a paper Super Bowl ring he and his brother fashioned when Foxworth was about 7.

"I did the math and figured out what year I'd be in the NFL so I put on it Super Bowl XL, but because I didn't understand Roman numerals, I put XXXX," he said. "And I put on the back the number I wanted to be - No. 2 MVP. And now I'm No. 22 and we're coming up on Super Bowl XL."

So while it's already established that Foxworth is a precocious NFL rookie, perhaps he can prove to be prescient as well.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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