Antwaun Molden: Breaking the Mold

Antwaun Molden (Eastern Kentucky)

Heading into the 2008 off-season, the cornerback position was a major issue of concern for the Houston Texans. Find out how this recently signed rookie might easy Texan fears.

With Dunta Robinson expected to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, the Texans had to take decisive steps to ensure that the secondary wouldn't sink the 2008 season. Right away the Texans secured the services of defensive mastermind Ray Rhodes. Then Rhodes and the defensive coaching staff lobbied for the Texans to sign the speedy free agent cornerback Jacques Reeves. With the secondary starting to take shape, the Texans knew they had to add an impact player through the draft. Enter the little known, but highly regarded cornerback from Eastern Kentucky University, Antwaun Molden.

Molden began his collegiate career at the University of Toledo. There, he was relegated to scout team because of the controversial proposition rule 48 that disallowed his scholarship eligibility. Without a scholarship or a real shot of getting on the field, Antwaun Molden was forced to transfer schools. His coach and mentor, Robert Andrews pulled some strings with his alma mater, Division 1-AA Eastern Kentucky University. At EKU Antwaun finally received the scholarship and the playing time he had longed for.

Antwaun played behind starters Tremayne Perkins and Derrick Huff in 2005 and 2006 respectively. In his senior year (2007), he got his shot to be a starter and he didn't disappoint. A leader on defense, Antwaun helped the EKU Colonels go 8-0 during the regular season and win the Ohio Valley Conference Championship. Despite playing with a cast on his left hand for seven weeks of the season, Antwaun amassed 70 tackles and two interceptions. His ability to play through pain at a high level speaks volumes about his tenacity and grit, but Antwaun feels he could have done more.

"It hindered me a lot from being physical. I think that's one of my strengths. I had to rely on my finesse and instincts more. Given the circumstances, I think I played real well."

Despite his heroic efforts, he was greatly overshadowed by another cornerback coming out of the Division 1-AA Ohio Valley Conference – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. There is no doubting Rodgers-Cromartie's athletic ability, but Antwaun Molden doesn't shy away from telling people who he feels he was the better of the two. ‘‘The film doesn't lie, Cromartie is a great athlete, but if you watch the film you can determine who's the better athlete. I can't say that myself because I'm basically biased because I think it's me.''

Both Molden and Rodgers-Cromartie were standouts at the NFL Combine. Molden was a 'top performer' in six different categories, the most of any corner back. As impressive as Molden's combine numbers were, he has a legit reason to think he could have done even better:

"I expected better of myself," he said. "I was sick that day and I had a temperature of 100 [degrees]. I had a high standard and I fell short, but it was a great performance to the scouts."

His numbers don't lie. He is a hard working athlete who seems to never settle. Antwaun has a work ethic that is almost uncommon in today's athletes.

"I always worked hard during and after practice," he said. "I was the guy who went out at 12 o'clock at night and ran steps in the stadium when everyone else was partying."

He is confident, if not a little cocky, but make no mistake, he is built on a solid foundation of character and commitment. It's easy to see why the Texans were targeting this kid from the beginning. Check out what Texans GM Rick Smith had to say in an interview with Texans TV's Brooke Bentley.

"We were sweating it there because going from the first round all the way to the third round to our pick – we were just really fortunate he was there. What he is, he's a big corner. He's like 6-foot and a half and he weighs close to 200 pounds. He's got the size you're looking for and he also has the speed. He's a 4.4 40-guy. What we did personally was we had Jon Hoke, our secondary coach – we sent him out there to work him out. He came back with really high remarks on this kid with his work ethic, his athletic ability where he's got the feet and the hips, which are the things you need to do to play the position. And with that and watching the film on him, we were really excited. We think he's got a big upside."

So far, so good for the young man out of EKU. His play in offseaon practices prompted head coach Gary Kubiak to make the following observation: "Molden is ahead of where Fred (Bennett) was at this time last year." Fred Bennett was a defensive standout in his rookie season, leading the team in interceptions.

Antwaun Molden is a player with size, speed, skill, who possesses a tremendous work ethic. He's proven that he can play through pain and lead his team to victory. Through hard work and dedication, Molden has fashioned himself into one of the most intriguing players of the 2008 NFL draft class.

Unlike many of the other cookie cutter cornerbacks who all seem to fit the mold of a safe pick (big program, big numbers), Antwaun Molden is one of the few who got drafted on pure potential; the potential to refine his skills, the potential to use his work ethic to his advantage, and the potential to use his athletic ability and contribute on game day. It's that potential that has the Texans faithful brimming with hope as the team begins to rebuild an injury riddled secondary and forge ahead with aspirations of making the playoffs.

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