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SEC lessons stay with Chiefs DB Neiko Thorpe

Posted Jul 2, 2012

Thorpe got plenty of practice against NFL-caliber receivers as a cornerback at Auburn

#38 Neiko Thorpe — Defensive Back — Auburn

Pre-KC:

Thorpe played in 51 games for the Tigers over four years, including the 2010 National Championship Game against Oregon.  He compiled 279 career tackles, seven interceptions, 35 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. Thorpe has one career fumble recovery, which came after he blocked a field goal in 2009 against Kentucky. He returned that blocked field goal 69 yards for a touchdown.

Must-See Stat:

Thorpe was thrown into a starter’s role faster than most college corners. He appeared in 11 games during his freshman season, and in his first start, notched his first career interception. From his sophomore year on, Thorpe was a member of Auburn’s first-team defense. He started 40 total games in his college career.

Chiefs Nation Should Know:

Neiko Thorpe did everything right.

He stayed stride-for-stride with Chiefs receiver Jonathan Baldwin, redirecting his route with a little shove. When quarterback Matt Cassel threw Baldwin’s way, Thorpe turned his head to locate the ball. He even used the back of the end zone to his advantage and limited the space his cover had to make a catch.

It didn’t matter. After an acrobatic one-handed grab and perfect toe-drag in the back corner of the end zone, the ball still ended up in Baldwin’s hands for a score.

Baldwin’s catch was meaningless on the offseason scoreboard, but prominent in Thorpe’s mind as he tries to make Kansas City’s roster. The rookie could only pull from what he learned in college before moving on to the next play.

“You have to have a short memory in the SEC,” said Thorpe, who signed with the Chiefs after playing four years at Auburn. “If you don’t, they’ll eat you up.”

Thorpe took his lumps during his first season as a Tiger, too. But he improved following Auburn’s five-win 2008 season, and in 2010, Thorpe led a secondary that shut five opponents out in the fourth quarter.

Those opponents included Georgia and Alabama—two programs that boasted NFL-ready receivers. Thorpe was charged with shutting them down.

“Man, (current Cincinnati Bengals wideout) A.J. Green was tough at Georgia,” said Thorpe. “Just his combination of size and speed. (Current Falcons receiver) Julio Jones too—those guys were tough to cover.”

Thorpe stayed with Green, Jones, and other receivers as Auburn went undefeated in the SEC—a rare feat.  And Thorpe blanketed Oregon’s receivers as Auburn won the 2010 National Championship Game.

His big-game experience couldn’t keep Baldwin out of the end zone during that minicamp practice, but Thorpe wasn’t discouraged. He said he improved during his career at Auburn, and at the next level he plans to improve again.

“Nothing is perfect (at this level),” Thorpe said. “You just learn from the guy lining up against you and get better.”

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