It takes a unique individual to be able to handle the pressure of being a starting cornerback in the NFL. You have to be confident in your abilities, but not cocky. You have to be disciplined. And you have to have a short memory, because there will be times you are going to get beat, and you have to line up on the next play with nothing but confidence.
Cortez Allen appears to be cut out to handle the job. His days at The Citadel prepared him not just physically, but also mentally to attack any challenge that comes his way, and that is a good thing. Allen is a favorite to take over the starting left cornerback spot vacated when Keenan Lewis signed with the New Orleans Saints this offseason. It's a job that he has always wanted, and a job he isn't afraid to tackle.
"I feel ready," said Allen. "Anybody who plays the game of football has dreams of one day being a starter. At least they should have those kinds of aspirations. Since day one this is what I wanted. If that is not your mindset, to compete at that high of a level, then you are in the wrong sport. Athletics is not your thing.
"Everyone should have that aspiration to one day be a starter. That is my goal. That is what I work for, to compete with the best."
Allen started three of the last four games in 2012 when Ike Taylor was injured, and quickly put up some impressive numbers. In the final two games he caused five turnovers -- two interceptions and three forced fumbles.
"I prepare every day like I am going to be a starter," said Allen. "You never know, especially with the position I play and the nature of the game. Any given moment you could be thrown in there. You have to prepare like that, like last year when I started you have to be ready."
Starting a full NFL season, when every week you will be facing the best receivers in the game, could have any young player a little on edge. It doesn't rattle Allen.
"It's an exciting challenge to be thrust into the starting position," said Allen. "It's something you work for. It's here.
"There isn't pressure. It's a game I love. Being able to do this is fun. I just have to keep doing what I do. I have to work hard and give my all to this team and my teammates. Everything else will handle itself."