Rookie cornerback Jorrick Calvin takes part in a organized team activity last month.
Getting a college degree is important to Jorrick Calvin, although he understands why a cursory glance of his circumstances might say otherwise.
The cornerback, a sixth-round pick of the Cardinals in April, wasn't able to play his senior season at Troy because he was academically ineligible. It sounds bad, he knows. He insists it isn't really him.
He wants to get his degree – he said he is about a semester away from that happening – for his mother. Already, he earned a high school diploma when many in his neighborhood didn't, and didn't expect Calvin to either.
"Mom always instilled that in me, you can't make it without an education," Calvin said.
There is little question the past year or so has been quite the education for Calvin.
His issues at Troy began in the spring of 2009. His aunt died and Calvin went home for the funeral. Two days after her funeral, her husband – and Calvin's uncle – also passed away. His family in turmoil, Calvin remained home, and in the process, missed a "big assignment" in one of his classes.
By the time Calvin was into practice for the 2009 season, he had been informed his eligibility was in danger. That didn't make it any easier when the final word came down, after appeals, two days before Troy's second preseason scrimmage – Calvin would have to watch as a senior.
"As a kid you love playing," Calvin said. "When they tell you you can't play football anymore, it hurts. It's a reality check. You have to learn from the experience."
Calvin, watching his NFL dream take a major hit, could've dropped out of school. He chose not to, instead keeping up with his classes and spending as much time around the team (he couldn't practice either) as he could. He tried to stand on the sidelines at games in his street clothes, but sometimes left at halftime, unable to handle his inability to help.
Eventually, Calvin did leave school before the end of the year. But there was a reason. His daughter, Jorri, was born. It cost him class time in the short-term, but invigorated his belief in the future.
"Being told I couldn't play was a downer but my daughter lifted me up," Calvin said. "I told myself, 'You've got something to work for now.' "
The goal was a place in the NFL.
With his senior season shot, Calvin wasn't going to get an invitation to the NFL Scouting combine. He prepped for Troy's pro day, and everyone – including his agent – was simply hoping Calvin could earn a spot as an undrafted rookie.
When the Cardinals drafted Calvin in the sixth round, he was as surprised as anyone.
"I got the call from the Cardinals and they said, 'We are going to draft you,' and I was like, 'Wow,' " Calvin said. "I was shocked. My mom was shocked. Everyone was shocked, saying, 'You did it, you didn't play your whole senior year and still got drafted because of something they saw in you.
"Still to this day I'm not sure (what they saw) but I am happy as heck they saw it."
It was Calvin's punt return skills that intrigued the Cardinals, as well as a need at cornerback. Coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged during organized team activities Calvin had his ups and downs at the position, but still saw potential in Calvin's quickness.
"He's very gifted that way," Whisenhunt said. "The big test for him is when we get to training camp and have some of the one-on-one competitions."
Missing a season of football hasn't helped. Calvin isn't out of shape, but he said he isn't in football shape and acknowledged rust. He hasn't been in pads since those late summer practices just before he was officially declared done.
Eventually, he'll go back to finish college. It's important to his mother. It's important for his daughter. It's important to Calvin, too.
First, though, he'd like to find a job in the NFL – which, as it happens, doesn't require a degree.
"I have a chance now," Calvin said. "It's what I do with that chance."
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