Los Angeles Chargers rookie DB Derwin James: ‘It’s time to put on the pads. I’m ready to go.’
But what happens when he plays his bestie Jalen Ramsey?
A month before commissioner Roger Goodell called his name on the opening night of 2018 NFL draft, Derwin James already had lofty praise to live up to. When cameras were rolling at Florida State University’s pro day on March 20, Jacksonville Jaguars All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey delivered the ultimate co-sign of his former college teammate. “Top player in the draft this year,” Ramsey told the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. “Should go No. 1 overall, but you know how things go in the draft. You never know … top five, top 10, top 15.”
In their final mock drafts, ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both projected James to be taken by Tampa Bay with the seventh pick. But the first 15 NFL teams to draft, including the Buccaneers included, passed on the 6-foot-1 ¾-inch, 215-pound freak-of-athlete safety. That was until No. 17, when James fell into the laps of the Los Angeles Chargers. Despite dropping on the draft board, James is still oozing with confidence and swag. The Undefeated recently caught up with Los Angeles’ newly minted defensive back about his brand partnership with New Era Cap, his relationship with Ramsey and why he changes his hairstyle so much.
How does it feel to finally be in the NFL?
It’s been an emotional roller coaster, but I’m excited. I’m happy that I got the opportunity to finally live out my dream.
Heading into the draft, what team did you think would take you?
Tampa or San Francisco. After it went past them, I said, ‘OK, maybe I could be going to Green Bay.’ After Green Bay traded back, I thought, ‘I’m going to the Chargers.’
Was it nerve-wracking, waiting?
It was crazy. I obviously thought I’d go earlier, but once I put on that New Era hat, that Chargers hat, it was an amazing feeling.
You partnered with New Era ahead of the draft. Have you always been a hat guy?
Growing up, I was a fitted hat guy. Then they came out with the snapbacks, so I converted. But I loveddddd fitteds because my head was so big as a kid. It would look weird sometimes when my mom would put other caps on me. We couldn’t ever find the right one to fit my head.
The draft cap is a big part of the experience — where will you keep yours?
My hat and my jersey, both of those I’m hanging on my wall. They’re gonna be in a case. Nobody can get to them.
How did you choose your draft outfit?
My favorite colors are red and black. And I went to Florida State, where our color is garnet. So I thought I’d do something along the garnet and red line. I wanted to be a little flashy. I talked to my suit man and said, ‘Gimme something nice.’
You grew up in Florida, went to Florida State and will now be playing in Los Angeles — but what’s the coldest place you’ve ever been?
When I was in Green Bay on my visit, it was like 3 degrees. I was like, ‘Oh, s—!’ They told me it was a nice day — that sometimes it’s below zero. Say what!
Do you have any game-day traditions or superstitions?
I’ve got my wristbands that I’ve been wearing since high school, and then I got some in college that I have to have on every game. But, for the most part, I just go with the flow.
You always post your ever-changing hairstyles on social media — how do you pick them?
I get a lot of feedback from my teammates on that. They say I have more hairstyles than women do. But I just like being different, being my own self. I don’t really try to copy anybody or be anybody that I’m not. Being diverse and versatile is just the person I am.
Who’s the most famous person following you on social media?
Probably OBJ [Odell Beckham Jr.].
Take us back to the first time you met Jalen Ramsey, and how has your relationship with him grown over the years?
I met him when I was in high school. I’d already committed to Florida State in 2012, and I think he was just getting there. I built a relationship with him on visits, and he told me he … was going to take me under his wing. And then when I got there, he stuck to his word. Our relationship grew over the years, and he’s like my brother.
Where were you when you heard Jalen call you the best player in this year’s draft, and how did it make you feel?
I was out in Cali training. When he said that, I wasn’t really surprised, but that was a big compliment coming from a guy like him.
Your dream corps of defensive backs, who would they be?
My dream scenario would be me, Casey Hayward, Jalen Ramsey, Landon Collins and Earl Thomas. Nobody could complete a pass.
Which quarterbacks are you most looking forward to facing this season?
S—, I wanna face all of them. I mean, I haven’t seen a quarterback damn near since October, November. The suit and tie, all of that is out the way. It’s time to put on the pads. I’m ready to go.
You wore No. 3 at FSU. Why No. 33 in Los Angeles?
Three is my favorite number, so I was thinking for the Chargers, I was just gonna supercharge it! Add another 3. Now it’s 33, so you get Derwin James 2.0. Supercharged.
What’s your favorite tattoo?
My Florida State tattoo … it’s on my left shoulder. I got it in 10th grade, and it’s the most meaningful tattoo I have, besides my mom’s name.
Outside of football, who is your favorite athlete?
Have you ever met him?
A couple times. He’s a great guy. The media tries to judge him, but he’s really down-to-earth. He’s a winner, he’s a competitor, and he comes from the struggle. One of my favorite people.
In the next five years, what can we expect from Derwin James?
I’m not gonna come in and promise no Super Bowls, but you’ll see a guy that’s gonna work his butt off. I just feel like I’m in a great situation and a great system around a lot of great coaches. The team was already great before I got here. I’m just tryna come in, do my job, and hopefully we pull out some ballgames together.
Any message to the teams that passed on you?
See you soon.