Before Jared Allen retired, the former Carolina Panthers defensive end Jared Allen kept a book in which he recorded all the quarterbacks he’d sacked.
Ex-N.C. State and current Oakland Raiders cornerback David Amerson doesn’t go as far as writing down the names of the quarterbacks he’s intercepted. But he knows who’s on the list.
“What I have is, I guess, a mental book. I think as a (defensive back), you never forget your interceptions or anytime you make big plays in a game,” Amerson said. “I can pretty much call out every pick or whoever I’ve picked off.”
Amerson must have impressive recall.
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Amerson racked up 13 interceptions as a sophomore at N.C. State, the second-highest single-season total in NCAA history.
Amerson, a second-round pick by Washington in 2013, doesn’t have as many picks as a pro, with eight in four seasons. But the list includes Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Marcus Mariota and Alex Smith, whom Amerson victimized for his second career pick-6 in Week 17 last season.
One quarterback who’s missing from Amerson’s mental book is Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Amerson will get his first crack at last season’s league MVP when the Panthers visit Oakland on Sunday.
“That would be something good to add to the resume. He’s a great player, MVP of the league last year,” Amerson said. “That would definitely be nice to get him under my belt if I could pick him off.”
Amerson grew up in Greensboro but was never much of a Panthers fan. He rooted for individual players, such as wide receiver Terrell Owens.
But Amerson showed up on the Panthers’ radar – and every other team’s – after his monster season for the Wolfpack in 2011.
Amerson capped the breakout year with a two-interception game against Louisville in the Belk Bowl, including a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown that was the difference in the Wolfpack’s 31-24 victory.
The Panthers worked Amerson out, but his draft stock slipped a bit when he gave up several long touchdowns as a junior. Amerson wound up being the seventh cornerback drafted when former Washington coach and head personnel man Mike Shanahan took him with the 51st overall pick.
Amerson started 23 games his first two seasons, but was waived after Week 2 in 2015.
Amerson said he saw the writing on the wall after Jay Gruden replaced Shanahan as Washington’s coach before the 2014 season.
“I just had a few bad games my second year and that left a bad taste with the coaches or whatever the case may be,” Amerson said this week in a conference call with Charlotte reporters.
“They kind of brought in some of their guys that they were riding with. It kind of put me on the backburners so I kind of saw things coming into my third year. It wasn’t meant for me to be there anymore and it happens like that sometimes in this league.”
The Raiders claimed Amerson off waivers and the former Greensboro Dudley standout thrived in his new home. Amerson started 12 of 14 games last season, grabbed a career-high four interceptions and set a Raiders record with 26 pass breakups.
Oakland rewarded Amerson in July with a four-year, $38 million contract extension, with $17.5 million guaranteed.
“I knew I had ability. I knew I had talent. I knew what I had to offer,” Amerson said. “To get a chance to go somewhere where they’re accepting me – to go and show what I can do, prove what I can do with a brand-new start – it was perfect for me.”
Oakland coach Jack Del Rio says Amerson’s length (he’s 6-1 and 205 pounds) and coverage skills allow the Raiders to play him on either side of the formation. He can also can line up against slot receivers if needed.
“We were fortunate to get him last year off of waivers when things didn’t quite work out there in Washington,” Del Rio said. “He’s come in and really from Day 1 he’s been a great asset for us. He’s got the ability to cover and the flexibility to play in, out, right or left. We really like the ways he’s fit in and adjusted himself here.”
Part of that adjustment was becoming more dedicated to film study and technique refinement after relying on his natural athleticism at N.C. State. The interceptions don’t come as easily on Sundays.
“In college it was more just talent-based, out there just playing ball and being a ballhawk,” he said. “Getting to the league, it’s a big step and you have to make that adjustment and understand how to make plays in this league.”
With each play, Amerson devotes another page to his mental book – one he hopes to add to Sunday against his home-state team.