INDIANAPOLIS -- On Oct. 1, 2011, Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was fired up.
As it turned out, too fired up.
The No. 3 Crimson Tide was set to take on the rival, No. 12 Florida Gators. On the first play of the game, Florida redshirt sophomore receiver Andre Debose ran a fade route for a 65-yard touchdown past Kirkpatrick.
"I was just playing more aggressive, too hyped up for the game and just misread my steps," Kirkpatrick said. "(It was) the first ever (touchdown surrendered) in my life."
The second-team All-American in 2011 said that going all the way back to eighth grade when he began playing football, he had never given up a touchdown until that Florida game.
It still sticks with him a little, he said, but while the game was going on, he put it out of his head. The Tide went on to win, 38-10, en route to a BCS National Championship.
The touchdown also showed him an area he needs to improve as he heads to the NFL.
"Most of it is me being too amped up, too ready to play -- trying to make a play instead of letting the play make itself," Kirkpatrick explained. "That goes back to the Florida game -- that was the main thing that happened on that play. I was trying to make a play, I knew they were going to come that way, and pretty much just let it get away from me."
Other than the Florida game, Kirkpatrick said, "the ball really didn't float (his) way as much" in 2011.
Teams avoided the talented cornerback, and he finished the season without an interception. He did find the end zone, however, after scooping up a field goal blocked by linebacker Dont'a Hightower and returning it for a score.
But even though teams threw away from him in his final year at Alabama, Kirkpatrick said he's plenty ready for the NFL thanks to the coaching style of Nick Saban, and the fact that he battled against former teammate and current Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones every day in practice.
"It teaches you discipline," Kirkpatrick said of playing under Saban. "It teaches you how to respect other guys around you and teaches you how to be a team player. That was one of the main things I gathered from Coach Saban, and it's one of the things I'm willing to take to the next level."
"They were pretty much preparing me for where I am today."
Another top cornerback prospect at the combine is LSU's Morris Claiborne, who lost to Kirkpatrick's Tide in the BCS National Championship Game.
He and Kirkpatrick have a lot in common. Claiborne is 5-11, Kirkpatrick is 6 feet. Both played in the SEC, both named Jones as the toughest receiver they faced in college, and both play a similar style -- at least that's what Kirkpatrick thought at first.
Claiborne described himself as "more of a technician, trying to funnel guys instead of getting really physical with them every time at the line."
When Kirkpatrick heard that, he changed his tune.
"If that's the case, it's totally different," he laughed. "Because I'm very physical. That's what I want. I want that physical play."
But even if their games differ, both players' talent has them slotted as high first-round picks on defense.
It took a current Arizona Cardinal to convince Claiborne to even move to that side of the ball.
Growing up, Claiborne spent the majority of his time on offense, and enjoyed it there.
"When I got to college, I was still trying not to get on the defensive side of the ball, but Patrick (Peterson) kept on pulling at me," Claiborne said. "He was my host on my visit. So he was always, 'You've got to come play corner. You've got to come play corner.' Every day at practice, that's what he was telling me -- 'You've got to come play corner. You've got to at least come try. You're a corner. You're a corner.'"
So Claiborne tried it out for a couple days -- and to his surprise, liked it.
"I took his advice," he said. "It turned out well for me."
Now Claiborne, who credits his speed and the way he attacks the ball in the air for his success, is in a line of talented LSU cornerbacks making the transition to the NFL. Peterson came before him, and it seems Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu will follow behind him.
Claiborne said it's all about the talent that joins the Tigers, and the competitive nature the players bring with them.
"Guys have seen previous guys (have success), and they want to be the best, so it's making them work even harder," he said. "We always try to make each other better, and that means if this guy does something, you've got to come out and do it better than him. Then he's going to try to do it better than you."
That could spell good news for whichever team drafts Claiborne, as he'll try to outplay Peterson, who had a rookie season Claiborne called "unbelievable."
SPEAKING OUT FOR SAFETIES
Regarded as the top safety in this year's draft class, Alabama's Mark Barron echoed Kirkpatrick's sentiment that playing at Alabama is one of the biggest reasons he's ready for the jump to the NFL.
"That's something I knew when I first decided to go to Bama, that we had a complex defense with an NFL-type scheme," Barron said. "Going into that I already knew that it was going to prepare me for the next level. That was one of the reasons I wanted to go to Alabama. I knew that going in and I feel like that has prepared me for the next level."
Within that defense, Barron said his role was the main communicator in the secondary, and the player to provide some extra energy with big hits.
If there's a distinct Alabama-LSU flair to this story, it's no coincidence. The Tide sent nine players to the combine, and LSU has eight. The event itself seems to have a Bama-LSU tint, in Barron's eyes. And it's got him in the mood for a competition.
"We're going to compete with everyone that is here, but considering we played them in the national championship game, I'm sure they want to come out and try to do better than us and it's the same for us," he said. "We want to do better than everybody else."
Barron said he has spoken with "pretty much all of the teams," but he isn't sure where he'll be taken. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said he feels Barron will be a first-round pick, but Barron has noticed that doesn't often prove true for safeties.
"I feel like it's very hard for a safety to get in the first round," Barron said, sticking up for his position group. "If a guy is a good player, he's a good player. I don't see why position-wise if you have a better player that's a safety and you have a corner that may not be a better player – I don't see a reason why that corner should go ahead of the safety if the safety is a better player. I've seen that happen. I just don't understand it. But, that's not my position to pick players and who gets drafted where."
With the combine nearly at a close, Barron has to wait just about two months until the 2012 NFL Draft to find out if he'll be the first-rounder he hopes to be.