Jeremy Cash was an All-American strong safety at Duke and also was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 -- beating out three players selected in the first 20 picks of the first round of last month’s NFL draft.
Cash, however, had a rash of injuries starting late in the 2015 season (wrist, hamstring, groin) and continuing through the "workout season" that hurt his draft standing. Once considered a mid-round NFL draft pick, he ended up not being picked at all in the seven-round NFL draft.
Cash then had a choice of teams to try out for as an undrafted free agent. He chose the Carolina Panthers, who are attempting to make him a weakside linebacker and use him in ways that will resemble what he did at Duke.
"Ultimately, I want to make other teams wonder why they didn't draft me," Cash said after his first practice at the Panthers' rookie minicamp Friday.
At 210 pounds, Cash's most difficult assignment will be fending off 320-pound offensive linemen so he can make the sort of big plays he was known for at Duke. Cash will wear No. 57 , which he says is "on the right track" given that Thomas Davis wears No. 58 and Luke Kuechly No. 59.
I asked Cash five questions.
Q: I know you played a hybrid safety-linebacker position at Duke. When did you know that you were getting a linebacker's number and they were going to try to turn you into a full-time linebacker with Carolina?
A: I didn't know about the No.57 number until I showed up and saw it in my locker Thursday. As far as linebacker, there were talks about it. They are going to utilize me as they see fit. I bring versatility to the table -- whether it's going out and covering people or going down in the box and just hitting people.
Q: What was your playing weight at Duke and given that the Panthers want you to put on some weight and more muscle, what's a realistic NFL weight for you?
A: I was at about 207 at Duke. I'm about 210 now. I think I can probably get to 220.
Q: What was your favorite game ever when playing for Duke?
A: Georgia Tech, when we played them down in Atlanta during my redshirt junior year in 2014. We hadn't beaten them in quite some time (Duke hadn't won in Atlanta since 1994 until that 31-25 victory). It was a great feeling.
We had a weather delay in that game (for 77 minutes). I managed to go inside, take a nap, come back out revitalized and re-energized and we ultimately came out with a win. That felt amazing.
Q: You already have a degree from Duke and were a graduate student last season. What have you studied?
A: My undergrad is in psychology. My master's is in liberal studies with a concentration in political science. I just have to write my thesis for my master's degree and I'm not 100 percent sure yet of the topic. Right now my focus is on football. That's going to be in the offseason.
Q: Given that concentration in political science, what are your thoughts on the upcoming 2016 presidential election?
A: It's going to be interesting to say the least. ... My personal opinion? (Donald) Trump is going to win the presidential election, because he has a way of getting things done. It may be different than a lot of other people and the way they would do it, but he ultimately will make things happen.