Cornerback Dante Barnes was one of 182 cornerbacks to enter his name in the 2011 NFL draft, though his name was never called. The Virignia Beach, Va., native served a short stint in the Arena Football League and a briefer one in the United Football League.
And then last Friday, “early in the morning, at like 9 a.m. the phone rang,” Barnes said. The Washington Redskins were on the line.
“I talked to a couple teams, but nobody pulled that trigger and Washington pulled that trigger and I’m here man,” said Barnes, who played at Norfolk State. “This is every kid’s dream. The UFL is a great league, but everybody works to get [to the NFL]. It worked out.”
Listed at 6-foot-1, the 194-pound Barnes is tied for tallest among the Redskins cornerbacks. Third-year veteran Kevin Barnes (no relation) also is 6-1.
Dante Barnes finished his senior season at NSU with two interceptions, seven pass deflections and five breakups in addition to his 31 tackles. He played in three games last season for the AFL’s Utah Blaze, tallying 18 ½ tackles and one forced fumble.
But even his transition from college to the AFL couldn’t prepare him for the adjustments he has had to make since Day 1 at Redskins Park, where he’s worked on staying low in coverage in order to break at the same speed as the wide receiver he is covering.
“When I first got out here, I’m not going to lie, it was fast. Everybody was moving,” Barnes said. “It’s not like that in college….You don’t have to play great technique to be successful. But here, everybody is technical, everybody is fast, you have to be on top of your game.”
Barnes believes he has caught up to the NFL speed over the last week and has improved his technique as he fights for a roster spot. His goal is to become a starter in the league.
“I’m not standing around here just trying to wait. I’m trying to get in here and eat,” Barnes said. “The wolf has got to eat. The sheep, they get ate. I’m trying to be that wolf.”