Justin Bethel “fortunate” to be in NFL and with Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. – Cardinals’ cornerback/special teamer Justin Bethel was at the NFL’s Super Regional Combine on Saturday. It reminded him of the not so fun time before he became a part of the NFL fraternity.

“It kind of brings back some memories, reminding me of the stressful time of the Combine, and trying to impress all the scouts and letting them know that you have the ability to play at the next level and just show them what you can do,” Bethel said.

Bethel admitted that his Pro Day and Combine weren’t the best. It rained a few days before his Pro Day and he was also dealing with a groin injury that slowed him down.

“To this day, I’m still trying to figure out how I even made it to the Combine and the East-West Shrine game. It’s definitely God blessing me,” Bethel said. “I definitely was fortunate, especially coming from a small school [Presbyterian] like I did and not having good seasons, so being able to get that opportunity to go to the big Combine and perform in front of all those guys, and coaches and scouts was definitely a blessing [and] I’m definitely fortunate.”

What really helped Bethel stand out amongst the pack was his work ethic during his time at Presbyterian. That and blocking a whole lot of kicks helped spread his name around the league.

If Bethel could impart some wisdom to any of the athletes who took part in Saturday’s Super Regional Combine, he’d tell them to keep working hard and never give up on your dreams.

“I think that’s what really helped me when I was at that school, I always tried to be the best at everything I was doing. I wanted to be the fastest guy, the strongest guy. I wanted to dominate at what I was doing, especially when we played bigger schools,” Bethel said. “When you’re playing a bigger school, you gotta be dominant at that level, because you’re playing at what they consider a lower level, so if you can’t dominate [at] the level you’re on, they don’t think you’re gonna be able to play at a higher level.”

“You gotta have that work ethic and be willing to be the best at the level you’re on,” Bethel said.

When Bethel went through the Combine, the physical part wasn’t the hardest for him; it was the actual sit-downs with the head coaches that he had problems with.

“Going in and talking to all of them and talking football and having to go to the chalkboard and draw up plays and talk about schemes,” Bethel said. “When I was coming from Presbyterian, I wasn’t really forced to learn all that stuff because I was one of the better athletes, so for me it was easy just to go out and play and make plays and move around and do whatever I needed to do.”

“When you get into the league, it’s a system and everybody has their own part and you gotta know what you’re doing [and] what other guys are doing,” Bethel said. “That was definitely the hardest thing I had to go through.”

Bethel has proven that athletes from smaller schools – like the ones that performed on Saturday – can make it to the NFL and make their mark. Bethel’s already been voted to two Pro Bowls and is feared around the league for his special teams skills.

As Bethel said earlier, he had to work a lot harder than a comparable athlete who went to a bigger school, simply because the cameras and scouts weren’t at Presbyterian as often as they would be at one of the bigger Division I schools.

“Some guys, they come from bigger schools and they’re like, ‘Well, I went here, I had a pretty good season [and] I know I’m gonna make it,’ and they get here and they lose their want to, or the fight [or] the drive they had in college to make it here, and once they get here they’re like, ‘Oh I’ve arrived,’” Bethel said.

“When I was in training camp, every week I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m about to get cut. I know it’s about to happen,’ but I was blessed to make my mark on special teams,” Bethel said. “That’s another thing, coming from a small school, you gotta play everything. I never shied away from playing special teams, I played it all four years and being a starter for all four years. I think that gave me a little extra edge going into special teams because it’s something I’ve always done.”

“I definitely think that coming from a small school, it’s something you’re gonna have to play,” Bethel said. “It just gives you that little extra edge to be willing to fight a little more.”

 

 

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