Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
1. Adoree Jackson, CB, USC (NCAA) — Defense was actually the least impressive of Jackson’s multi-faceted feats in USC’s 45-27 win over Notre Dame on Saturday.
Jackson had two tackles and two pass breakups against the Irish. He also had a 52-yard touchdown catch while playing offense, a 55-yard punt return touchdown, and a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown.
The junior cornerback and track star will either be a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, or he’ll be a preseason pick to contend for the 2017 Heisman Trophy. And don’t be surprised if he also competes in the 2020 U.S. Olympic trials as a long jumper.
2. Forrest Hightower, DB, Ottawa (CFL) — Hightower had two of the REDBLACKS’ three interceptions against Calgary Stampeders QB and reigning Canadian league MVP Bo Levi Mitchell in Ottawa’s 39-33 overtime victory for the Grey Cup championship on Sunday.
In his second year in the CFL out of San Jose State, Hightower had a total of two interceptions in his pro career before he collected two picks in the biggest game of his career so far.
3. Sojourn Shelton, CB, Wisconsin (NCAA) — In his final home game at Camp Randall Stadium, Shelton snagged two interceptions and helped the Badgers’ defense pitch a second-half shutout in a 31-17 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
4. Alterraun Verner, CB, Buccaneers (NFL) — One of the most touching images of this NFL season was that of Verner’s teammates surrounding him as he lay on the ground and appeared to be sobbing following his interception against the Seahawks on Sunday, then helping him up and embracing him in a show of support.
Verner’s father, Robert, passed away unexpectedly the morning after Thanksgiving while visiting Alterraun in Tampa. Two days later, the veteran cornerback suited up for the Bucs and helped them shut down Seattle’s offense in a 14-5 upset victory.
Late in the first half, Seattle was starting to put together one of their few decent drives of the day and moving within scoring range when Verner stepped in front of a Russell Wilson pass and returned his INT 16 yards before being brought down.
5. Tedric Thompson, SS, Colorado (NCAA) — Whether or not the Buffaloes win the Pac-12 championship game against Washington this week, fans of the program should be happy knowing that the rebuilding process is complete.
Four years ago, Colorado went 1-11, beginning a stretch of four straight last-place finishes in the Pac-12 South division. This season, the Buffs are 10-2, ranked in the Top-10 nationally, and have an outside shot at making the national championship playoff with a win over the Huskies.
In Colorado’s 27-22 win over Utah on Saturday, which clinched the division title and earned the Buffs a spot in the conference title game, Thompson was the defensive difference-maker. The senior safety, who had gone 2-25 in the Pac-12 in his career before this season, had two interceptions and four pass breakups to go with four tackles and one tackle for loss.
6. Darius Slay, CB, Lions (NFL) — The Lions are becoming known for their crunch-time heroics, while Slay is becoming known as the league’s most clutch defensive playmaker.
In the Lions’ 16-13 win over the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day, which gave Detroit sole possession of first place in the NFC North, Slay’s interception with 30 seconds to go set up the game-winning field goal.
It was the second time this season that “Big Play Slay” made good on his nickname to set up a game-winning kick. Against the Eagles last month, Slay forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter to put Detroit in position to take the lead, then got an interception on Philadelphia’s next possession to seal the victory.