Alterraun Verner is not ashamed to admit that he’s a numbers guy.
Then again, in the case of the Tennessee Titans rookie cornerback, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When he talks about numbers, he does so in the way Faulkner might discuss words or Galileo might contemplate the stars.
Verner’s interest in statistics is very different from that of most professional athletes. For proof, look no further than the progress he has made toward earning a degree in mathematics and applied science from the University of California at Los Angeles.
“I have two more quarters to complete — not a full year, but a little less,” he said. “There’s a lot of possibilities, honestly. I took some accounting classes, going back to teach and coach is definitely an option. I can still go to medical school.”
For now, though, he plans to focus his attention on football, where — in his first training camp — the numbers clearly add up to possibilities.
With only one proven starter at cornerback on the roster (Cortland Finnegan) and two cornerback spots in a basic defense, there is room for one more.
Although there is no shortage of candidates, including veteran free agent Tye Hill and second-year players Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty, Verner’s reputation as a fast learner and the way his numbers added up in college make him as viable an option as anyone. Plus, Hill is injured an unable to state his own case early in camp.
"(Verner) is legitimately in the running," coach Jeff Fisher said. "The things that we saw from him, not only prior to the draft, but basically the two weeks of the June OTAs he was fairly impressive. He came in and made a lot of plays. He’s definitely in the mix there."
Verner was a starter for three seasons at UCLA, and he intercepted at least two passes per season all four years he played there. He finished sixth all-time in major college history with 55 passes defended (13 interceptions, 42 break-ups) and second all-time in the Pac-10 conference with 357 interception return yards.
By comparison, Finnegan, Mouton and McCourty had a combined 13 interceptions in their respective college careers.
“Clearly we have great competition at the corner spot, and whoever ends up with that job is going to be a good football player and be able to get the job done,” Fisher said.
They did not get a full look at Verner during the offseason, though.
Because UCLA operates on a quarter system and classes were still in session in May, Verner was not allowed to participate in the Titans’ organized team activities that month.
To make matters worse, he managed to get into only one class he needed during that time.
As of now, pursuit of his degree is on hold.
“I’m going to try to do it offseason, whenever the time permits [but] I’m expecting us to make the playoffs and make noise,” he said. “I’m going to try to do it as soon as possible and get it done with.
“I didn’t put all that work in in college to have nothing to show for it.”