You know the name, you know the face, and I'm sure a few of you have seen him up close and personal. Quarterbacks know his name and don't throw the ball in his direction. During the final four games of 2007, Oakland Raiders all star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha faced Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, David Garrard, and Phillip Rivers -- and he was thrown at just four times. That was two seasons ago, yes, but this past season he improved his game enough to earn Associated Press All-Pro honors for the third consecutive time and earn his second straight starting Pro Bowl appearance (third overall).
Mike Shanahan, the former Broncos head coach, said before a game between the Raiders and the Donkeys in 2008, "I've never met him but I'm going to shake his hand after the game because I keep on looking for him but I never get a chance to talk to him. He's one of my favorite players, even though he is with the Raiders. That shows you how much I like him."
Many others around the league call him the best cornerback in the NFL. Quarterbacks and coaches across the NFL are learning that he is a true shutdown corner against whom you'd be lucky to obtain a completion. It certainly wouldn't happen twice in a row. So now the question posed by those (like me) who have nothing better to do with their time than to compare one player to another: Who is better, Nnamdi Asomugha or Darrelle Revis?
Well,first off,I bet you've never heard New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick say, "I wanna shake Darrelle Revis' hand after this game, because he is one of my favorite players."
It is my opinion that if Revis has an island, then Nnamdi deserves a planet. Planet Asomugha: an idea first suggested by "Bobby" in an NFL.com chat with the Raiders superstar cornerback. Bobby asked Nnamdi the following question: "Is it true that when WR's come to visit Planet Asomugha, they never come back?"
I could not help myself. The question sparked a thought in my head that has yet to die. I felt immediately that I must make an impact with this "Planet Asomugha" idea and try to get it to stick because, in my mind, it was a perfect way to describe the relationship of one CB to the other. Simple mathematics, folks. Surely you remember math from high school with "proofs" such as: "If Darrelle Revis is an island, then Nnamdi Asomugha is a planet"?
In 2007, opposing quarterbacks tested Asomugha only 31 times with 10 completions the entire season (1 interception, 2008 Pro Bowl Appearance). In 2008, opposing quarterbacks tested him only 27 times with 8 completions allowed the entire season (1 interception, 2009 Pro Bowl Starter). In 2009, opposing quarterbacks tested him only 27 times and allowed 13 completions the entire season (1 interception, 2010 Pro Bowl Starter).
At first glance, his tackling stats are not all that impressive. That is until you take into consideration that this is a cornerback who, most of the time, is not tackling the guy he lined up against at the start of the play. During this... shall I say... ‘slow period' in which opponents have been scared of him, Nnamdi has earned the reputation of being a vicious hitter. If you don't believe me, watch this video:
Nnamdi is one of the hardest working and most motivated players in the league. Before people started to ignore his side of the field completely, he racked up an eight interception season in 2006. That stat was tied for third best in the league that year -- the season before Darrelle Revis was drafted. Yet despite all his recent fame and despite becoming the highest paid cornerback in the NFL, Nnamdi Asomugha remains one of the most humble guys you'll ever meet. He told NFL.com: "I take a lot of pride in my performance and preparation before games and I expect so much of myself. I think that's what allows me to play at the level that I play at and still keep a level head. I think any time that you've done the work beforehand, it allows you to be more relaxed and you don't have to talk about it. You can just let it show on the field."
He went on to say that it is a bit irritating being on the radar these days: "Of course it gets frustrating, and you definitely want more opportunities to make plays. Especially when you finish a play and you've got great position and you look back and the ball is not coming. That happens often. Hopefully I'll be able to be a little more involved this year in disrupting the offense and creating turnovers."
ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Ron "Jaws" Jaworski once said, "Nnamdi plays with great intelligence. He understands how to play the position. He may not be the most gifted physically, but Nnamdi [talks] about reading routes, how the quarterback drops, things coaches talk about a lot of times [that] players don't get. He gets the cerebral side of playing the position."
In today's sports world of athletes going to clubs and beating up strippers, NBA stars cheating on their wives and attempting to make up for it with $4 million diamond rings, and every Bengals player getting arrested for some reason or another, Asomugha is a man amongst boys. His charity work with the Asomugha Foundation and OWIN recently earned him the 2009 Byron "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year award. Asomugha distributes backpacks to the incoming freshmen each year at Narbonne High School in Los Angeles. He also outfits the football and basketball team with shoes; a mandate he wrote into an endorsement contract he signed with Nike.
This man has earned his reputation and we should refer to his territory on the football field -- and in life -- as Planet Asomugha. Maybe if Revis is feeling lucky one day, he can ask Nnamdi nicely and perhaps Nnamdi will let him move his little island to Planet Asomugha. Until that day, Nnamdi stands alone.