Morris came from Florida Atlantic University, where he rushed for more than 1,600 yards, and helped his team to the NFC East title. Hilton, meanwhile, came from Florida International University and in addition to recording more than 800 receiving yards, established himself as a dangerous return man.
This year, a former college opponent of Morris’s and a teammate of Hilton’s believes he too can become an overnight star in the NFL despite not hailing from a major football program.
Florida International safety Johnathan Cyprien reported this weekend for the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis determined to prove to NFL teams that he is the best player at his position and worthy of an early-round pick.
On Monday, Cyprien and his fellow defensive backs will go through interviews with teams, and on Tuesday they have on-field workouts. Cyprien believes he can do well in both high-pressure situations and prove his worth.
“I think I’m the number one because I can bring a lot and contribute to a team winning games, and making plays when called, leadership,” said Cyprien, who in four seasons at FIU recorded 213 tackles and six interceptions. “I can come in and say it all I want, but at the end of the day, when I have my opportunity, I want to shine in all that I do. … I’m just trying to showcase my athletic ability, do exactly what God has blessed me to. It’s the same as if I’m doing the 40 or if I’m on the field doing drills.”
The 6-foot, 217-pound Cyprien began turning heads at the Senior Bowl, where, after a solid week of practice, he excelled in the game while playing for the North squad. Because of that strong showing, as well as his body of work at FIU, Cyprien arrived in Indianapolis as a player projected to go in the second round.
But the North Miami Beach native isn’t focusing on those predictions.
“I’m just trying to keep my head down, keep my head straight,” Cyprien said. “I know it’s a long process until April. And really, the projections right now, are really just projections.”
An early-round selection would represent a dramatic climb for a player, who coming out of high school only received offers from Florida International and Western Michigan.
But Cyprien, who is on track to become the eighth FIU player to make it to the NFL, is described by some scouts as the best safety the school has produced. He possesses the versatility to play both strong and free safety, and at times, he was used to cover receivers in the slot, which also appeals to NFL teams. Because of his versatility, strong work ethic and high IQ – in addition to shining in football, Cyprien finished his degree in Hospitality Management in 3 1/2 years – Cyprien is ranked by analysts such as Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper as a top-5 safety. Analysts and NFL officials agree that Cyprien could start from Day 1 for whatever team selects him.
With players such as Hilton and Morris going before him, and a strong showings of his own against players from bigger schools at the Senior Bowl, Cyprien seems to have satisfied NFL teams about his transition to the pros..
“Teams are aware that I did come from Florida International,” Cyprien said. “But I think there’s a lot of talent in the Sun Belt conference, and not just from Florida International, but the entire conference. So, since I’ve been here, I haven’t gotten too many questions about competition.”
Giving a scouting report on himself, Cyprien said, “My biggest strengths is leadership, and communication and tackling, being physical. Things I need to work on: I want to get better on all those things all the time.”
Follow Mike Jones on Twitter.