Damon Arnette is closely associated with one descriptive term.
No, it’s not reach, even though that’s a buzz word used a ton since the Raiders took the Ohio State cornerback No. 19 overall in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock used it after Thursday’s first round and made it a compliment of the highest order.
“We feel like this is one of the most competitive football players in the entire draft,” Mayock said.
That word kept showing up on NFL draft profiles written by well-connected analysts. It’s a word Arnette himself wears like a badge of honor, a point of pride that defines his aggressive coverage and playing style. He’s not afraid to mix it up in run defense and get physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage.
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Arnette explained the root of his competitive drive and how it defines his game. And there’s that other word we mentioned earlier “reach” that he’ll get real sick of really fast and surely will fuel the start of his professional football career.
"Always being looked at as the underdog, always getting the short end of the stick in my athletic career,” Arnette said Thursday night in a conference call. “When you asked, 'are you surprised you're in the first round?' I'm not, certain people might be surprised. I know those people are surprised because I'm always the underdog. But I already know what time it is every time I step on the field regardless of what someone has to say about me."
He plays with that chip on his shoulder every game, every snap. That might be more important that measurables that say he was taken too high. He’s a quality scheme fit with drive to be better than people think. While reach can be viewed as a dig, few doubt his ability to play in press-man coverage the Raiders often employ in the slot and on the outside.
“I’d say I’m a physical corner, competitive corner, dog, all the above,” Arnette said. “And I feel like the Raiders, we’re going to do the same thing. We are going to go out there, run fast, hit hard, execute and that’s the type of football player I am. Bring some juice, you know what I’m saying? Celebrate your teammates and all that stuff.”