JACKSONVILLE – Safety Andre Cisco has flown below the radar since the Jaguars selected him from Syracuse in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Maybe it's the knee injury he sustained last season, which dropped him from the No. 1 safety in the draft class to a third-round pick. Or perhaps it's the presence of fellow rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his college teammate, Travis Etienne Jr., who helped Clemson dominate the college football world for most of the last few years. Maybe it's just that everything is so new and different in Jacksonville in 2021 that there is too much to keep track of. Whatever the reason, Cisco feels good in Jacksonville and appreciates his opportunity. He's not flying under the radar after an excellent week of practice last week – and with the preseason approaching, he's excited to prove himself worthy of being in the NFL. Here is senior correspondent Brian Sexton's recent conversation with Cisco:
Question: Do you have a sense of the situation you've landed in to begin your professional football career? There's a new head coach making the jump to the NFL after a Hall of Fame career in college, a quarterback who might be the best to come along in a generation. Can you feel the excitement level?
Answer: It's special. When you have a leader like [Head] Coach Urban [Meyer], you get gems every day. He's always looking to educate guys no matter what it's about. He helps you develop as a man and not just as a football player. I also can appreciate the chance to come in with guys like Travis and Trevor. I played against them in the ACC – and [cornerback] Tyson [Campbell], [defensive tackle] Jay [Tufele] and [edge defender] Jordan [Smith] … we all trained together in Los Angeles. So I had a rookie class that I was already familiar with, so it just feels like Jacksonville and the Jaguars were just meant to be for me.
Q: You're from New York, but played high school football at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. How did you end up at IMG and does it feel somewhat like a homecoming for you?
A: My mom was actually looking to get me out of the house for a week after my sophomore year and sent me to a football camp – and the coaches at IMG were working with the camp. I guess they liked what they saw and asked me to come down. It was a good decision. It led me to Syracuse and now I'm back in Florida and I'm really excited to be in Jacksonville. It's a beautiful place and I actually played a high school game here and we toured the Jaguars stadium, so it wasn't my first time in the locker room. It's cool being back in Florida and I'm very familiar with the weather and the area.
Q: You were the No. 1 safety in college football and many NFL Draft experts had you in the first round before the knee injury last season. What was that moment like and how did it help you get here?
A: It was heartbreaking and I felt like all the time and effort I put into taking care of my body and getting better at my craft was taken away in a split second. It was tough at first and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I made the decision after a lot of time and talking to a lot of people that it was time to move on to the next level and I'm glad I did. I learned a lot about myself this last year. A lot of people helped. My mom and Andre Odom, who is my agent … we have a really close relationship and he was in my ear telling me to keep working hard and how it would pay off but honestly I had to become my own best friend and remind myself of the player I was and who I was capable of becoming. Entering an NFL locker room isn't easy, you have to have your mind right and one of the reasons I've had some early success is because I listened and trusted myself.
Q: How has the transition from college football in Western New York to professional football in northeast Florida been?
A: I have been super-impressed from the first day how guys practice in the NFL. Honestly, I didn't expect the attention to detail to be as important as it is here. It taught me that practice in Jacksonville and the NFL is very, very important. Not that it isn't important in college but it's different. I love the competitive environment. It brings out the best in me. I don't like half-speed stuff. I like going full speed and so I like winners and losers day, because you put anyone in that environment, and it will make you better.
Q: Give me five words that describe Andre Cisco the person and Andre Cisco the football player.
A: Driven. Passionate about everything I do. Versatile on the field but also in life. I'm also confident and I like people and so I'm an outgoing guy.