Every NFL team has been busy scouring the country for diamond-in-the-rough prospects over the last few months ahead of this year’s draft, and former Appalachian State cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles was among their best finds.
Jean-Charles is one of the most productive defensive backs in all of college football with 27 passes defended over his last 26 games. He spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about how he gets his hands on the football so often, his favorite aspect of playing the position, and why a team should use one of its draft picks on him.
JM: You recorded 27 passes defended over your last 26 games, including an FBS-best 17 as a senior. What is it about your game that allows you to get your hands on the ball so frequently?
SJC: I play the game with a lot of anticipation. I watch and study a ton of film. I love breaking down my opponents on tape. I believe in the value of repetition. That’s how I spend my offseasons. You have to find ways to win the offseason. That’s the stuff that translates to a game.
My DB coaches have always encouraged me to finish the play strong. I finish by fighting through the catch point. I finish by getting receivers on the ground. I always try to finish with violence. That’s how I play the game. Whenever I get a chance to make a play on the ball, I have to make it. I gotta make sure of it. It’s as simple as that. I play as a defensive back, so separating the receiver from the ball is my job. I try to do that to the best of my ability.
JM: You’ve been doing a great job over the past few years. How do you look back on your time at Appalachian State?
SJC: Being from South Florida, going up to Boone, North Carolina, was definitely an experience (laughs). At first, it was a huge culture shock for me. I had never been in an actual town like Boone before. I had never been around an environment like that.
It was also my first time seeing snow (laughs). It was a big culture shock at first. I had to do some adjusting. I met a lot of great people over the years. Boone taught me how to open up to people. I got used to talking to different kinds of people. I learned about people’s cultures and things of that nature. I taught people about my own culture. It was a great experience. I went to school up in the mountains where it’s cold and snowy for half of the year. I had never experienced all four seasons like that. I appreciate everybody that I met at App State.
JM: It sounds like you had a great time up there. I love how well you detail your experience beyond the realm of just football. Your Pro Day was recent. What was that like?
SJC: My Pro Day went well. My goal was to run anything in the 4.4’s which I was able to do. I saw a lot of the projections. A lot of people expected me to run a slow time or whatever. I ran faster than most people thought I would. I had that in the back of my mind the entire time I was training. I trained in my hometown of South Florida with Pete Bommarito of Bommarito Performance Systems. Pete is amazing at what he does. His whole predraft program is excellent. He understands how to focus on the recovery aspect as well. It really stood out to me compared to all of the other facilities.
I’m thrilled with how my Pro Day went. I was locked in the entire day. We didn’t have a very large group. We had a good amount of NFL scouts in attendance. I weighed in at 184 pounds. It may be seen as a little light to some people. I was able to put up 19 reps on the bench press. I kinda proved my play strength there. I was throwing weight around for my size. People didn’t expect me to be able to lift like that. I jumped a 35-inch vertical. I had a 10-foot-4 in the broad jump which was another solid result for me. I had a good day overall. I felt fluid during my drills. I wanted to showcase what I can do.
JM: I thought you had a terrific day. What’s your favorite aspect of playing the cornerback position?
SJC: It’s tough to pick just one aspect of it. I love it so much (laughs). For me, I really just enjoy embracing the challenges that come with playing the position. We play one of the most unique positions in all of sports. We’re one of the few positions that has to move backwards more than we move forward. We have to make plays while anticipating what a group of people are going to do. We’re not only going up against a receiver. We’re going up against an offensive coordinator, a quarterback, and so on. We’re squaring off with an entire group of people that knows what their next move is. They have a play in mind and they’re trying to execute it. It’s my job to move backwards and react to the play.
The cornerback position truly embraces the concept of competition like no other. That’s what I love about playing corner. The game is on us. You can have a great game, but if you don’t finish it strongly, nobody remembers (laughs). Nobody cares how great of a game you had if you give up a big play at the end. You gotta show up for all four quarters. We can’t take plays off. It’s too obvious. That would allow the offense to make a big play. We can’t get away with none of that nonsense. I love the challenge, man. It’s a fun position. I love playing against the offense.
JM: That’s an excellent answer. When I turn the tape on, I see a cornerback that plays the game with high-level instincts. You mentioned your ability to anticipate earlier. How did you develop that area of your game?
SJC: When you prepare properly, it allows you to play with an extra layer of confidence. That’s how I feel. I can only speak for myself. I take my preparation very seriously. That’s how I watch film. I love analyzing the offense. I take that portion of the game very seriously. I use the resources available to me to the best of my ability. I had a lot of great opportunities in South Florida where I’m from. I spent last offseason around a ton of professional players. I worked out with some veterans. These guys have been there. They taught me how to really break down film. They taught me what to look for. I know what I’m looking at.
I have to give a shout-out to my last DB coach. He’s with the Indianapolis Colts now. Coach James Rowe is a terrific coach. He really taught me how to watch film. He taught me the whole book really. He taught me how to analyze things. It allowed me to go out there and make plays. It allowed me to play fast. I played with a lot of confidence. In the back of my mind, I always had a good idea of how offenses wanted to attack us. I felt like I knew what was coming. That allows me to play with anticipation. It allows me to be violent at the catch point. I went out there and made plays.
JM: That’s exactly what you did. You’ve spent the last few months meeting with NFL teams virtually via Zoom. How’s that process going for you, and which teams have you met with?
SJC: I’ve spoken with quite a few teams over the past few months. Some of them have been on Zoom, others have called my phone. I’ve exchanged text messages with a few teams. I spoke with the Jets, Colts, Titans, Ravens, and Chargers. A bunch of teams showed up to my Pro Day as well. I’ve been communicating with quite a few teams. This predraft process has been all over the place. I’m just taking it day by day.
JM: It’s definitely been a unique draft process. Appalachian State always seems to send players to the NFL. Darrynton Evans was an exciting running back that got drafted in the third round last year. That won’t stop people from labeling you a “small-school prospect.” How do you typically respond to that?
SJC: I try to just ignore that. I don’t dive deeply into it. In my opinion, talent is talent. You can’t hide effort and heart. I have all three of those things in bunches. Coming from App State, we’re all blue-collar guys. We’re all underrecruited. We’re all underdogs at the end of the day. It’s been that way since we came outta high school. That’s why a lot of us ended up at App State. None of us had a bunch of offers. We had to lay our heads down and really put in the work to get where we wanted to go.
That works for outside of football too. That’s how we live our lives every day. I don’t really care if I get labeled a small-school guy. I’m not afraid to compete against anybody. I can only speak for myself. God has blessed me. I played some of my best games when we played the big schools. I showed up against the best receivers and the heavier competition. That’s when I played my best football. Being labeled a small-school guy is something I don’t pay any attention to. I try to break the chain. You can’t box me in. I’m gonna break that label. App State is a small school but we beat a bunch of Power Five schools. We’re playing four hard quarters against the top schools. You’ve seen it year in, year out.
JM: That’s the right way to answer that question. I’ve really appreciated your time today. This has been fantastic. In closing, what kind of player is Shemar Jean-Charles gonna be at the next level?
SJC: I’m more action than words. You’re gonna see. I like to let my actions speak for me. To answer your question, I can guarantee you that I’m going to be a hard-working person. I’ve always carried myself like a pro both on and off the field. I’m willing to play all over the field. You can move me around and take advantage of my skill-set. I just love to play football at the end of the day.
A lot of guys say this, but a lot of guys take their foot off the pedal when they reach the NFL. They feel like they’ve made it already. That’s not me. Coming from where I come from, my situation, and going to school where I did, we don’t take football for granted. Whether it’s practice or game day, it doesn’t matter, I’m ready to give it my all.
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