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NFL Draft

Paulson Adebo: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • April 8, 2021
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In today’s NFL, teams are looking for complete corners who have the size and physicality to match up with bigger receivers, but also the fluidity and quickness to handle smaller targets. Stanford’s Paulson Adebo checks all of these boxes. A ball-hawk throughout his time as a Cardinal, Adebo recorded eight interceptions in 22 career games.

Adebo recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about how he’s been training for the NFL draft at EXOS since October, his ability to get his hands on the football and create turnovers, what it’s like to play for head coach David Shaw and secondary coach Duane Akina, the challenges of balancing school and football at such a prestigious academic institution, and why he’s ready to make the jump to the next level.

JM: You’ve been preparing for this process by training with Brent Callaway at EXOS and DB coach Clay Mack who trained guys like Jamal Adams and Marshon Lattimore before they entered the league. How’s that process going for you so far?

PA: It’s going great. I’ve been training out there since October. Pretty much as soon as I opted out, I went back to Texas where I’m from. We’re training 30 minutes outside of Dallas right now. It was an easy move for me to make. I’ve been out here just focusing on football since October. 

It’s been a wonderful process for me. I’ve been getting the best coaching and training for several months now. I feel like I got a head start on the process and I’m in an amazing place right now. Brent and Clay both do excellent work. They’re preparing me for the next level.

JM: Which areas of your game do you think have taken the biggest steps forward while working under coaches Callaway and Mack?

PA: My technique has definitely improved a lot. I’m staying smooth with my pedal. I’m operating so much more efficiently in this area. I’m getting out of my breaks quicker and easier. 

Working with a guy like Clay Mack, he’s an extreme technician in this area. We’re just doing it over and over again until it’s perfect. He always makes sure that it looks right. Working with both of those guys is really fine-tuning my technique.

JM: You had eight interceptions in 22 career games at Stanford. That’s a lot of ball production. What do you think it is about your game that allows you to get your hands on the ball so often?

PA: I played a lot of wide receiver in high school. I’m a natural when it comes to catching the football. I played both receiver and cornerback all throughout high school. Growing up, receiver was a very natural position for me. I feel very comfortable in my ability to go up and compete when the ball’s in the air. I’m a natural when it comes to making those plays.

JM: You’ve been training out there at EXOS since October, as you said. Stanford’s 2020 season was surrounded by a ton of uncertainty and was actually canceled at one point. That’s when you decided to opt out. But a competitor like you, I imagine you’re itching to put the pads on and get back to football.

PA: Yeah, I really am. We all know that training comes close to football, but there’s nothing like the real thing. Not being able to play this past year, watching other guys play the game, it was tough for me. I just had to stay focused and control what I can control. I kept my head down and stayed working. Mentally, I knew my opportunity would come.

JM: You’ve done all the right things to become a better football player throughout this time. Another thing that jumps out at me about your game is that you play the position with such great athleticism. Your hips are always in sync with the rest of your body in coverage. How did you develop this area of your game?

PA: Some of that goes back to me playing multiple sports as a kid. Whether I was running track, playing basketball or football, I was constantly challenging myself to move laterally, horizontally, and every which way you can imagine. A combination of my natural athleticism with the way that I trained and molded my body growing up, it allowed me to work on my change of direction and things of that nature.

JM: You played for one of the best coaching staffs in all of college football, in my opinion. Head coach David Shaw is a terrific coach and his resume speaks for itself. You also had the great Duane Akina as a position coach. I don’t have enough time to round off all the names of the NFL players that he’s coached at the collegiate level. What were some of your biggest takeaways from learning under those guys?

PA: To have coach Shaw as my head coach, his calm demeanor goes such a long way. He’s such a relaxed person and coach. He remains calm in every single situation.  

With coach Akina, you said it. He’s coached guys like Earl Thomas, Kenny Vaccaro, Michael Huff, Quandre Diggs, and so on. He’s seen what it takes to play in the NFL at a high level and he understands how to develop talent. He took me under his wing and taught me the game from a conceptual standpoint. He’s part of the reason why I understand routes, splits, and offensive tendencies at the level that I do. He comes from a different perspective. A lot of people forget that he played quarterback in college so he understands that side of the game. He coaches the game with an offensive mindset. He knows what the offense is trying to do to us. All of those things coupled with his experience and the NFL superstars that he’s helped develop, it was a tremendous experience for me to be coached by him.

JM: When I’m interviewing whichever DB that comes out of Stanford next year and I ask them a similar question, I want to hear Paulson Adebo on the list of stud NFL cornerbacks that played under coach Akina.

PA: That’s what I like to hear (laughs). You can add my name to the list. I’m ready.

JM: What did Stanford run on defense and what were your responsibilities like?

PA: We ran a 3-4 defense. We played a lot of man coverage. We did so many different things, though. We did some two-man stuff, we did some quarter-quarter-half. It really gave me an opportunity to challenge myself mentally because we did so many different things.

A lot of guys only get to play a few different types of coverage but that wasn’t the case at Stanford. It was a challenging defense to play in but I’m better because of it. I played in a bunch of different positions and there were a bunch of different responsibilities that came with it. We played some tight-third, some trail technique, or man under. Stanford really challenges you to hone in on all different facets of the game.

JM: It shows on tape. How did you balance football with the academic demands of a prestigious institution like Stanford? They don’t let you slack off from an educational standpoint.

PA: It was definitely tough, especially coming in as a freshman. You’re in a new place with new people. Football is already tough as it is. Throw in the academic side of things and it can be incredibly challenging. It definitely took some time to get used to things.

All throughout my career, I had to find a way to manage my time and be productive both as a football player and as a student in the classroom. You would slip up at times. It’s a constant battle to find that perfect balance. I always put my best foot forward in both areas.

JM: If you could pick the brain of any NFL defensive back, who would it be and why?

PA: That would be Patrick Peterson for me. He’s just an all-time pro. His overall athletic ability coupled with his ability to play the ball when it’s in the air, he just has some of the best ball skills I’ve ever seen. What he’s been able to do over the course of his NFL career is truly amazing. He’s definitely somebody that I would love to learn from.

JM: That’s a great choice. The process of this NFL draft is looking very different right now. You’ll be meeting with teams virtually as opposed to flying all over the country and meeting with teams in person. How is the virtual process going for you so far?

PA: I’ve taken a couple of calls with different scouts. We’re just discussing the basics right now [editor’s note: the interview was completed on 2/19]. They’re asking me questions about where I come from. They’re just trying to get to know who I am as a person right now. As we move forward, we’ll start to get deeper into the conversations and start to really talk about football. They’re just feeling me out right now.

JM: That makes sense. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Paulson. In closing, what kind of impact is Paulson Adebo going to make at the next level?

PA: You’re getting a competitor. I’m somebody that can make a bunch of plays on the ball. I’m not afraid to come downhill and take on a pulling guard. I can impact the game in so many different ways.

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