Today, we catch up with 2009 American Family Insurance ALL-USA football Defensive Player of the Year Lamarcus Joyner of St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), who is a senior cornerback at Florida State. For more than 30 years, USA TODAY has recognized the nation's top high school athletes. We are digging into the archives and checking in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades.
Before Pitt played Florida State on Labor Day, Panthers receiver Devin Street observed what he thought were a few of FSU senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner's weaknesses, telling the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 'that by watching film, I think we can attack him in different ways.'
At 5-8 — maybe 5-8 1/2 — and 185 pounds, Joyner is used to opposing players sizing him up and thinking they have an advantage. He's also used to seeing a little fear in their eyes by the end of the game. Joyner led the Seminoles with nine tackles and two sacks in FSU's 41-13 victory.
"I never talk trash, but I have always had a little thing about myself," Joyner says. "I come into a game feeling like I'm the best person on the field. You have to aim to be the best. My whole thing is, you're not going to beat me. I can promise the person I'm playing is going to quit before I do."
Though he is one of the smaller players on the field, any physicist will tell you that force is mass times velocity, and while lacking in the former, Joyner brings plenty of the latter. He made the All-ACC first team as a safety last season by using his 4.42 speed in the 40-yard-dash as a weapon, making him one of the hardest hitters in the conference as well as one of the top kick returners. This season, he's playing cornerback for the first time since he was a freshman.
"I call it a business decision," Joyner says. "I feel like it gives me more of an ability to show what I can do at the next level. I get to show that I can cover guys, not just hit them."
Joyner's lack of height may be tough to overcome in the NFL. Only three cornerbacks in the league are 5-8 or shorter: Nickell Robey of the Buffalo Bills; Isaiah Trufant of the New York Jets; and Tim Jennings of the Chicago Bears.
But long odds don't discourage Joyner. He overcame a lot just to get to Florida State. He grew up as the second-youngest of five children, living with his single mother Rose in the Miami neighborhood of Liberty City, poor enough that another player once helped pay his way to play youth football.
"I am always going against the odds," Joyner says. "I am so thankful that I have all the intangibles I need. From the first snap, I have something to prove. The great thing about being an underdog is you always have motivation. I have to show guys that I am who they say I am. … The environment that me and others from my area come from, when you play football, that's easy. You want to stay away from everything else on the street as long as possible."
Though he has started in FSU's last 28 games and played in every varsity game since he was a freshman, Joyner said things really began to click for him last spring.
"I know that may sound funny, but it wasn't until this offseason camp that things clicked," Joyner says. "That's when I realized I was blessed with that 'it' factor."