Everybody’s path to the NFL Draft is unique in some way, and former Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette is no different.
Arnette had quite the storied career at Ohio State, but those stories didn’t always have fairy tale endings. There were ups and downs in his five years, but he certainly finished with a flourish and is now about to transition to this next chapter in his life as an NFL player.
Arnette was selected by the Las Vegas Raiders 19th overall in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday, surprising many, but not everyone.
Speaking on a conference call Wednesday before the draft, Ohio State defensive coordinator and secondary coach Kerry Coombs said of Arnette, “don’t be surprised how highly he’s drafted, that kid’s a player.”
He may not have received all the glory in the process like his fellow BIA (Best In America) member Jeff Okudah, who was selected No. 2 overall by the Detroit Lions, but Arnette was fantastic last year as a fifth-year senior.
And it was a fifth year that almost didn’t happen. Arnette’s intentions were to leave after the 2018 season, but he ultimately decided to return and both he and the Buckeyes were the better for it.
It wasn’t always roses and Buckeye leaves for Arnette, however.
For most of his playing career, despite being an honorable mention All Big Ten pick in 2017 and 2018, he was highly criticized for his play by fans and media and was seen by many as an ‘underachiever’ in a room with a long history of success.
“What a standard we have at Ohio State that somebody would describe Damon Arnette as an underachiever for a while, as a three year starter on a really, really good team and a really good defense,” Coombs said. “That speaks volumes about the standards that we have at Ohio State”
But in 2019, Arnette’s senior year, his play reached a whole new level and he earned Second-Team All-Big Ten accolades. He recorded 35 total tackles, eight PBU’s, one forced fumble, and a 96-yard pick six. He also matured and made changes in his personal life.
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Now a Las Vegas Raider, Arnette’s improvements both on and off the field prepared him for the next level of play, and Coombs believes his versatility will help as well.
“I think Damon Arnette is going to be a very very good pro,” he said. “And I think he’s going to have a very long career because he’s got versatility. He’s going to be able to play inside, outside.”
Every great story has good times and bad. Ups and downs are simply part of the journey. In his last year as a Buckeye, Arnette took control of his story and wrote the ending that he wanted.
“Damon Arnette is going to be a very, very good professional football player,” Coombs said. “It’s important to Damon and I think Damon has made tremendous strides. Personally, I think his work ethic has climbed off the charts, and he is a tough, competitive player, and he’s more savvy and more smart, probably than people give him credit for.”