A.J. Terrell has had aspirations of making it to the NFL since he began playing football as a kid, and last Thursday night, the former Clemson cornerback achieved a lifelong goal when he was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft with the No. 16 overall pick.
“It’s been a dream since I first put on a helmet,” Terrell said in a video interview on the Falcons’ official website. “Just grinding all those years up to this point, it’s the greatest feeling ever.”
A native of Atlanta, Terrell grew up a Falcons fan and knows he is fortunate to have been drafted by his hometown team. In fact, he is the first Clemson player selected to play for his home-state team since the Falcons selected Georgia natives Vic Beasley (Day 1) and Grady Jarrett (Day 3) in 2015.
Terrell is excited about the opportunity to suit up for the squad he pulled for growing up.
“It’s surreal. It’s rare,” Terrell said. “I’m right down the street ready to get to work. So, I’m just ready to link with everybody and hopefully get through this virus quick so I can get to work.”
Terrell helped Clemson to a 29-1 record in two years as a starter, finishing his three-year career with 107 total tackles, 20 pass breakups, six interceptions and two forced fumbles in 44 games (30 starts). The two-time All-ACC selection started all 15 games in his first year as a starter in 2018 and scored the first points of the College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama that season on a pick-six.
In the words of Terrell, what will he bring to the Falcons’ organization as one of its newest members?
“First of all, you’re going to get a team player, not selfish, a winner, somebody that played in big games and loves to win, been on the big stages,” he said. “You’re getting somebody that’s going to be a shutdown corner, somebody that loves to compete and never settles and is never satisfied.”
While he accomplished a lot with the Tigers in college, Terrell knows he hasn’t done anything in the NFL yet and will have to earn everything he gets at the next level – nothing will be given to him in the league, and that is his mindset as he looks to prove his worth as a first-round pick.
“It’s the beginning of a new journey, and I’ve still got a lot to prove,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep on grinding, keep working and just put on for the city, put on for my family, the name and my son.”
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