CHARLOTTE -- In a perfect world for Jonathan Hefney, there'd have been a point this weekend when he'd hear his name called by the Buffalo Bills. Yes, the cold and snowy Bills.
But it didn't take long for his close friend, current Bills free safety Ko Simpson, to end that dream.
"Yeah, Ko pretty much told me they don't even look at little safeties," Hefney said with a laugh. "So I guess I have to cancel that one off my list."
The former Rock Hill High standout figures to be chosen sometime Sunday, between the third and sixth rounds. What he's drafted to do remains up in the air.
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Most are talking to him about being a nickel corner, covering smaller, quicker slot receivers in extra defensive back packages. A few think he can still play safety, though the chances of that dimmed when he was measured at 5-foot-7 and change at the scouting combine. Still, others like what he can offer as a return man, particularly on punts.
"Basically, whatever they want me to do, wherever, I'm ready to do it," Hefney said.
There's no question he can play.
A four-year starter at Tennessee, Hefney began as a corner, but shifted inside his second year when future NFL player Jason Allen was moved back to cornerback. He also was a consistent performer on punt returns through his tenure, spotting in on kickoffs when necessary.
His 50 starts were a UT record, as were his 322 tackles, the most by a defensive back in school history. He also added 10 interceptions.
Now, he's got to prove himself all over again, as pro scouts wonder if he has the kind of top-end recovery speed to play corner, or whether his size renders him unable to jam bigger receivers at the line. The consensus is that he'd only play safety in a pinch, since he's not a Bob Sanders-type hitter, and his size would allow him to be exploited.
Still, he's shown plenty of explosiveness, registering a 39-inch vertical leap at Tennessee's pro day, and he's run his all-important 40-yard dashes in the mid-4.4-second range.
That's why, despite the worries he's not big enough, he's still a valued commodity.
"Trust me, that third corner is a pretty valuable guy," NFL draft analyst Mike Detillier said. "Jonathan is a kid who can still be physical with the guys he'll see in the slot, and is a fluid enough athlete to be able to run with them downfield.
"Honestly, even though he hasn't played a lot of corner lately, if a team puts him in that nickel role, he should be pretty good at it."
He was always better than good at Tennessee, and drew praise from his coaches for his work ethic and leadership. He finished his degree in political science last December, leaving himself the spring to get ready for this weekend.
It also left him spinning his wheels, without spring football for the first time in what seems like forever. He's been working out, talking with Simpson and Chris Hope often about the process, mostly just waiting.
It's one more reason he's ready for this weekend to be over.
"I'm pretty confident in my abilities, I know what I can do," he said. "Once I get on the field, I'm going to give them everything I've got in all aspects of the game.
"I'm just ready to go somewhere, get into a minicamp. I'm tired of sitting around."
He'll be doing that back home this weekend. No draft party though, since he has no idea when his name will be called. Mostly, he'll be killing time, playing video games and waiting.
And when the phone does ring, he'll join the annual parade of local defensive backs in the NFL, joining current ones such as Simpson, Hope, Sheldon Brown and Johnathan Joseph, along with past secondary men Jeff Burris and Rick Sanford, through the area.
Hefney laughed when asked about the coincidence (Northwestern High's Ben Watson, the New England tight end, is the only active non-DB from the area), saying he had no theories about the concentration.
But just as the last three months when scouts wonder about his size limitations, he's at least used to answering the one question that always comes up.
"They asked me that all the time back in Knoxville," Hefney said. "I don't know what it is, I just want to be next."