Cyprien is 2013 NFL Draft Rising Star
by
2/8/2013 1:30:00 PM

Miami, Fla. (FIUSports.com) - National Football League fans and followers who are tuning into the media coverage ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine are no question becoming familiar with the name Johnathan Cyprien

After a stellar Senior Bowl outing, FIU’s superstar strong safety is a surprise no more, but was never a surprise down here in Miami. He’s been a face on FIU’s football marketing materials for several seasons, a tribute usually reserved for senior plays. He’s been the go-to guy for the athletics media relations department in dealing with the press after practices or games; following wins or, most helpful, after the losses. Of course, he was chosen a team captain in 2012.

Well, next up for Cyprien, and teammate Tourek Williams, is the NFL Scouting Combine, Feb. 20-26, as the standout FIU seniors earned a coveted invitation to Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. The Combine is a showcase for top NFL prospects, and features more than 300 players who are put through a series of physical and mental tests, in addition to interviews by NFL teams.

Cyprien and Williams are the fourth and fifth Panthers to earn an invitation to NFL Scouting Combine, joining former FIU alums Antwan Barnes (2007), Chandler Williams (2007) and T.Y. Hilton (2012). The prior three were all taken in subsequent NFL Drafts following the Combine.

Cyprien’s Senior Bowl experience has many NFL Draft analysts listing him as one of the top safety prospects available. With a strong week of practice leading up to the Senior Bow, a banner game performance, and in the days since, Cyprien’s name has been abuzz all over Twitter, the internet and sports radio.

On Jan. 29, NFLDraftScout.com, a part of the CBS Sports website family, released its NFL Draft “Top 5 Risers and Fallers” and there was Cyprien’s name as one of the country’s top risers heading into the draft.

Said Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com analyst, “In a talented safety group, Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien stood out during practice with his aggressive playing style and active demeanor. He practiced at full speed and left it all out on the field, not shying away from getting physical. Whether it was a contact drill or not, Cyprien is going to meet the ball-carrier with a pop, refusing to let up. He is a smart player and scouts were impressed with his football awareness near the line of scrimmage and in the deep half of the field. With Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) and D.J. Swearinger (South Carolina) deciding to skip Mobile, Cyprien looked like the top player at his position at this year's Senior Bowl.”

Cyprien, who has been the top defensive player for FIU for the better part of three seasons, became the first Panther to suit up for the most prestigious college football all-star game.  That Senior Bowl game, featured over 100 of college football’s top 2012 seniors.

“I am the first one from FIU and hopefully I’m not the last one,” Cyprien had quoted to Andy Kent of MiamiDolphins.com prior to the Jan. 26 game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. “We have a lot of great players at Florida International University and don’t worry, they’ll be rolling in here, too. I’m going to set the bar for everyone, not just from FIU but from all of the high schools in South Florida because there’s great talent. I’m from the South but I’m playing on the North side for the Senior Bowl and it doesn’t matter. I’m going to represent.”

Participating in the Senior Bowl and being dissected on the field from the likes of prominent head coaches, coordinators, position coaches, scouts and alike was only a part of the experience. Players were interviewed daily by general managers, player personnel staffers and others who are of expertise in reading into prospects to gauge just how ready they are for the rigors of professional football.

“Be a professional,” Cyprien said to Kent. “I graduated already and I learned in college that sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Always be respectful to everyone you speak to wherever you are, on the field and off the field. Always be humble; these are things I learned in high school and college.”

Fans of all 32 NFL teams have been tweeting en masse that the four-year FIU starter must be among the draft picks for their favorite franchises. And not as a late round selection, either. Cyprien’s name is being bantered about now as a second or third round pick.

And it’s not only a Twitter social media thing -- the national and local football media have picked up on Cyprien’s prowess in the defensive backfield and his potential playing at the next level of football.

“He may have been a secret of sorts during his playing days at Florida International, but Jonathan Cyprien isn't a secret any longer. Not after his week of practice for the Senior Bowl's North team,” wrote Tommy Hicks, the Mobile Press-Register’s legendary and award-winning reporter and columnist.

Hicks also got out of Cyprien some of that humbleness that has made him a fan and media-favorite throughout his college career.

"It has meant a lot to me,'' Cyprien said of his Senior Bowl experience. “I came out here to try my best. I tried my best while I was at FIU. Being on a smaller stage compared to other schools and other conferences, it has meant a lot to be here. I think from the attention I have been getting it has been pretty positive and I believe that people have been pleased with it. I believe that as far as the draft goes and the teams, it gave me more exposure.”

“I watched him over the summer based off last year,”' Senior Bowl executive director and former NFL scout Phil Savage said in the Press-Register. “I loved his tackling, his explosiveness. He just had a football temperament that jumped off the tape. We kind of waited and let some of the other people go in and check him out. I had a friend from another team go in and check him out late in the year and I told him to just text me, thumbs up or thumbs down. He texted me, 'thumbs way up.' ”

To FIU fans, albeit elated and overjoyed for Cyprien, this is not a big surprise. Cyprien has been the man on the Modesto Maidique campus for several seasons.

In 2012, despite a 3-9 record, Cyprien and Williams, who played in the recent Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game, were the lone Panthers chosen to the All-Sun Belt Conference First Team.

The postseason recognition from the Sun Belt was the fourth in Cyprien’s collegiate career. As selected by the league’s head coaches, Cyprien was all-conference as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior at FIU. Not too many college players anywhere will be able to claim that sort of feat.

To recap, 2012 was Cyprien’s debut on the postseason All-SBC First-Team; in 2010 and 2011, he was chosen to the second-team; and as a rookie freshman picked honorable mention, prophetically signifying good things to come.

When he looks back, 2012, and certainly 2013, will certainly be memorable for the North Miami Beach resident.

Cyprien is arguably the top safety to ever play at FIU. He once again led the team in tackles with 93, including FIU highs in solo stops (54) and assisted tackles (39). He also recorded a team-high four interceptions, along with five pass breakups, 3.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble.

From a durability standpoint, NFL franchises should recognize that, not only did he start all 12 games in 2012, he started all 45 games the past three seasons (2010-12). He has started the most career games ever at the safety position at FIU, which is the third-most amount of starts at any position.

His standout senior season also led to the re-writing of several defensive records that will stand for some time. Cyprien is now the school record holder for total tackles (365) [which also rank in the top four all-time in Sun Belt Conference history], solo tackles (213) and fumbles forced (6). In addition, Cyprien ranks among the all-time best for pass breakups (second, 22), interceptions (fourth, 7), assisted tackles (fourth, 152) and fumbles recovered (fourth, 3).

Not only did the year end pretty, on-paper, for Cyprien, it started as gorgeous. Entering the 2012 campaign, he was named to the Thorpe Award preseason watch list; ironically selected to the first-ever Senior Bowl watch list; voted by league coaches and media to the 2012 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team; named as Blue Ribbon’s Sun Belt Conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year; earned unanimous preseason All-Sun Belt Conference First-Team honors from Athlon’s, Blue Ribbon, CBSSports.com, Lindy’s and Phil Steele, as well as Lindy’s No. 3 NFL talent in the Sun Belt Conference.

The NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis is now on Cyprien’s horizon, followed by FIU’s own NFL Pro Day, March 8, then the NFL Draft, held April 25-27. For Cyprien, it is no longer a question “if,” it is “who” he will be playing for when the 2013 NFL season starts next fall.

 

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