STARKVILLE • College Football Hall of Famer and former Thorpe Award winner Terrell Buckley considers his pupil at Mississippi State, Cameron Dantzler, to be the best cornerback in the country.
Believe it or not, the Preseason All-American didn’t have much experience at the position prior to his arrival in Starkville. Dantzler was a high school quarterback and had only played a handful of defensive reps.
“In high school I only played DB a few times if they had a good receiver, but I had no experience at corner at all,” Dantzler said. “I’d never worked out or trained at cornerback. When I got here it was something new.
“Coach Buck just stayed on me because he saw something in me. He stayed on me hard every day and trusted me to get better.”
Buckley’s influence can be found in just about every aspect of Dantzler’s game. Both Buckley and Dantzler arrived at MSU in 2016 and went to work. Dantzler redshirted his first season and has appeared in all 27 games since, including 14-straight starts at corner.
“My first year here playing corner, I didn’t know what I was doing,” Dantzler said. “To be honest, coach Buck made me who I am today – not only as a football player but also as a man. When my dad is not here, he took that role and is like a father figure to me. Being around him is just a blessing.”
Last fall was a breakthrough year for Dantzler. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder from Hammond, Louisiana, started all 13 games and had 43 tackles, two for loss, one sack, nine pass break-ups and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He finished as a second team All-SEC selection and did not allow a touchdown all season.
“It’s a blessing to have my foot in the door but I’ve still got a chip on my shoulder,” Dantzler said. “I still feel like I’ve got a lot to prove. I watched a lot of film this summer and saw a lot of mistakes I shouldn’t have made so I’ve been getting my football IQ better as well as getting stronger, faster and smarter on the field so that I can have a breakout year.”
Dantzler made his presence known immediately this year. He picked off Louisiana’s Levi Lewis on the first play of the game last Saturday and later tallied seven tackles and a fumble recovery.
“I hope these first few games that I’ve earned respect,” Dantzler said. “Hopefully quarterbacks know not to try me but if they do, I’m going to make a play and make them pay for it.”
Dantzler’s reputation as a top cover corner was not the only thing that changed over the offseason. He also became a father three months ago when his son, Cameron Jr., was born.
“It’s changed my life a lot,” Dantzler said. “It’s changed my whole demeanor and my personality. Having a son is a blessing. He pushes me. If I’m in the weight room and want to quit on a rep, I can’t because I’ve got somebody depending on me.”