Don’t know much about Cody Latimer? You should learn. Quickly. The Indiana wide receiver is starting to separate himself from what is hailed as an excellent class of wideouts in the 2014 NFL draft and could be taken as high as the late first round despite not winning a lot of games the past three seasons with the Hoosiers — only a 10-26 mark since Latimer joined the program.
But he declared early for the draft after a standout junior season, one in which he caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns, with five 100-yard games and a three-touchdown performance against Illinois. He’s had pretty impressive production the past two seasons especially, despite a revolving door at quarterback since head coach Kevin Wilson took over the program.
Latimer opened eyes at his pro day with some terrific numbers despite undergoing foot surgery in January and now has a slew of meetings lined up with the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions, among other teams. He took time out of his schedule to talk to Shutdown Corner about growing up playing basketball in Dayton, Ohio, taking pride in his blocking ability, a tough matchup with Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard and bowling being his other true love.
SDC: First things first … you’re from Dayton originally, right? OK, so how weird was it for your hometown college to get to the Elite 8 and the "basketball school" you attended was left out completely?
CL: Well, I was happy for them. I know a couple of those guys from back home. I was a basketball player growing up, and a lot of those guys and I competed against each other. They're really good players. I really wasn’t upset that [Indiana wasn’t in it]. I just tried to be happy for [Dayton]. I cheered them on the whole way.
SDC: What did you think of the pictures in the street of people partying when they beat Stanford?
CL: Oh, man. I just said, ‘Wow.’ I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
SDC: OK, let’s work backwards on football a bit here. You just had your pro day, and by all accounts you killed it. You had foot surgery in January, so when did you know you were ready to let it rip at the pro day?
CL: I actually was pretty confident heading into it. I talked to a lot of people, talked to my agent, and I felt like I was going to be ready. I didn’t want to rush it, but I had taken my time after surgery and my foot was feeling good. I was in great shape and I was training and running on it before that and I felt good enough to give it a go.
SDC: You were clocked with great 40-yard dash times, in the low 4.4s to the high 4.3s. But I heard you stumbled out of the blocks the first attempt. True story?
CL: Yeah, it was my first one, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ I was just a little rusty. I kind of put too much pressure on my foot, so I had to adjust.
SDC: How did the surgery come about?
CL: I never had any problem with the foot during the season. It was just random. I was two weeks into training and doing the ‘L’ drills [aka 3-cone drills] and as I was finishing through one, I just heard something pop. I felt like I sprained an ankle or something. There was a little swelling but not too bad. I went to the doctor and I found out I had to go get it [operated on].
SDC: When did you first feel that you were ready to come out for the draft? When did you make that decision in your mind?
CL: It was something I wasn’t trying to focus on during the season. I was trying to help us win. I wanted us to get to a championship, to a bowl game. I knew that time would come eventually. We did not have the last season I hoped we would, but I was trying to do what I could do.
Coach [Kevin] Wilson was in my ear about it a little bit about it, just waiting to hear what I was going to do. But he said he supported me, and things like that. So I waited until the right moment to decide, which was after the season.
SDC: And by coming out, you’re going to miss out on those new IU helmets.
CL: [laughs] I thought they were kind of nice! I said, ‘What are we trying to change to Oregon or something?’ But they look great. It’s going to be nice to watch my boys out there playing in them.
SDC: You played with five quarterbacks in three years. How tough was the adjustment to so many different styles and passes?
CL: I mean, I don’t … I don’t feel like it did. I don’t feel like it affected my production that much. It kind of affects the rhythm of the quarterback and the offense. But I don’t think it affected us as receivers. At the end of the day, my job as a receiver is to run my routes, and if there’s a play to be made, go up and catch the ball. The low balls, go get them. Pretty much, you’re on your own island as a receiver. You have to make the play when called on; that’s what receivers are there for.
SDC: Your run blocking shows up on tape. How did you develop and take pride that part of your game?
CL: That’s something that Coach [Kevin] Johns and our strength coach [Mark Hill] put an emphasis on. We’re a big receiver group, and we’re strong. If we had small corners [opposite us], we felt like we’re not going to let them stop us when we come after them.
It was mostly pride, though. We did a lot of things. We knew that [blocking] would help us be more successful, and that was one of our main focuses: be aggressive.
SDC: A lot of people left the program your first year. There seemed to be some people bristling at Coach Wilson’s style and things like that. You could have left, too. What made you stay with the team?
CL: I was always going to stay there. I wasn’t as heavily recruited. I didn’t want to leave the team just to have to find another [school], lose a year of eligibility, things like that. I was happy.
The coaching staff, I mean, that happens. You have to do for yourself what you need to do. Guys do different things for different reasons. I did a good job of adjusting to [the coaching]. I am a people person. I never had a problem, always knew what was going on.
I felt like Indiana was the place for me. That’s why I committed there. I stuck with it.
SDC: You got thrust into a role early on because others left. Did that help your development?
CL: It kind of did, but at the end of the day you have to produce. That’s what it’s about. You’re working hard at practice, making plays, and that’s what gets you noticed. It was a great coaching staff I was under. I got the opportunity and just went from there. You get the chance, yes, but nothing was handed to us. Every day we had to fight for our spot.
SDC: If you had only one game tape to show scouts as who you are in 60 minutes as a football player, which one would it be and why?
CL: Oh, man, that’s a tough one. [pause] I think I would go with the Iowa game in 2012.
SDC: Was that sort of your welcome-to-the-big-stage game? You had seven catches, 113 yards and three scores that day. That was sort of your first big game against a Big Ten opponent.
CL: Yeah, for me the different was making big plays down the stretch. It was an up-and-down game, and I had three touchdowns and the game-winning touchdown. It was a big win for us. I think it was our first or second Big Ten win, our second if I remember. It was one of a couple that we did have, and it was important to get it. And it happened at home, too.
SDC: You faced some NFL-caliber defensive backs the past two seasons, including two guys — Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Ohio State’s Bradley Roby — who could go in Round 1. Who do you think was the best you went up against?
CL: My three years in college, we didn’t really get pressed that much with our offense, so a lot of people zoned us. Dennard of Michigan State is fast. He’s a fast cornerback. He’s supposed to be one of the top cornerbacks in the draft this year, so I made a lot of good plays down the stretch against him. That was a good game, so I’ll say him.
SDC: Do you ever get into jawing with DBs? Ever try to get in their heads with a little talk?
CL: [laughs] No, I am a lead-by-example guy. I don’t do any talking. I don’t have any time to waste talking. I am trying to make plays, but I am physical with them so they can see what I am capable of. If that doesn’t send the message, I don’t know what else can. Anybody can talk. Not everybody can make plays.
SDC: How scared were you when you heard about your teammate Isaac Griffith’s accident?
CL: It was a scary thing. It was a shock. We all just said, ‘Wow.’ It’s somebody you played with, and him coming in — he’s younger — he probably saw me as a mentor. So it was a shock. I was scared, and I was just hoping he was OK. I just prayed for him and hoped for the best. I am glad he’s doing better now.
SDC: OK, ready for a couple of quick, fun ones?
SDC: Best movie you have seen in the last year?
CL: I think it’s called “Non-Stop.” The one with the plane?
SDC: Ah, yes. I have not seen it.
CL: That was a good one.
SDC: Facebook, Instagram or Twitter — which do you like best?
CL: Instagram. I put my everyday life up there, just pictures, what I am up to. I have family I don’t see all the time, and they can keep up with what I am doing.
SDC: Worst fashion trend you see on campus?
CL: [laughs] Man, that’s harsh. I don’t ever see anything too bad. Everyone has their own style, their own brand.
SDC: Favorite workout music?
CL: Rap gets me most pumped up, gets me ready to go. Lil Wayne, things like that.
SDC: What video game are you unstoppable at?
CL: I have to go with Madden.
SDC: Do you have a favorite team you usually play with?
CL: I usually go with the Eagles.
SDC: Chip Kelly is going to read this, you know.
CL: [laughs] That’d be great.
SDC: Best place to eat in Bloomington?
CL: My favorite spot … I actually have two. I go back and forth every week between the two. La Charreada and Casa Brava. They are Mexican restaurants.
SDC: Fast food place you can’t drive by without stopping at?
CL: Taco Bell. [laughs]
SDC: I am sensing a theme here.
CL: I love Mexican food!
SDC: What kind of car do you drive?
CL: I have a Dodge Challenger.
SDC: How many miles?
CL: I think around 73,000.
SDC: Not bad. Other than football or basketball, what’s your best sport?
CL: Ah! I am going to have to go with bowling.
SDC: What’s your high score?
CL: I rolled a 200-something. I try to go at least once a week.
SDC: Place you want to visit most?
CL: I have never actually thought about that, to tell you the truth. I am visiting all these teams coming up, so I’ll get to go to a few I want to. I want to go to California and New York more. I am from a small city, so everywhere else seems big.
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