- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard is on the rise.
The seventh-round draft choice from Nebraska didn't play in the first four games of the regular season, but he has logged 78 of a possible 156 snaps over the past two games. Dennard (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) was initially used as a nickelback before replacing starter Kyle Arrington on the third series this past Sunday in Seattle.
Growing up in a big family in Rochelle, Ga., the now-24-year-old Dennard was a late bloomer in the game of football. He has had a quick rise, although his draft stock dropped after an off-field incident the week before the draft, and this week he shared his "football journey" with ESPNBoston.com:
When he first started playing football: "My sophomore year in high school. My twin brother started in ninth grade, but I wasn't as big on it until I was a sophomore. I liked to play dodgeball."
First positions: "Running back my sophomore year. After that, I got moved to cornerback and receiver."
Favorite players and teams growing up: "Playing wide receiver, I was a big Steve Smith fan. With teams, I had a couple of them. I was the type of person who would jump bandwagon to bandwagon with whoever was winning -- Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, New England. My friends didn't like that."
Top memories of Wilcox County High School: "Playing with my twin brother [Lorenzo]. He was the quarterback, and I was the receiver. My high school wasn't that big. We had like 80 people in our graduating class and close to 40-50 players on our team. It was really small; it's a town of 1,400 people. I'm the first person from my school to leave and go to the NFL and play D-I football."
A play that stands out with his brother: "It was a quarterback/wide receiver pass. He was at quarterback, he threw it to me, and I was at receiver in the slot. Then he rolled out and I threw it back to him for a touchdown. That was a good memory -- Dennard to Dennard."
Enrolling at University of Nebraska: "I had committed to North Carolina, but the secondary coach from North Carolina [Marvin Sanders] went to Nebraska. We had a good relationship -- we still talk to this day -- and I had trust in him. He told me that if nothing worked out at North Carolina, I had a home at Nebraska. I just went with him. I also had an offer from Alabama, UAB and Clemson."
Top memories at Nebraska: "There are a lot of them. I'd have to say my first interception -- against Idaho. I just jumped a slant and did a front flip with it. It was pretty exciting."
Being selected in the seventh round by the Patriots after an off-field incident affected his stock: "I was just happy to be on a team. It's very exciting to be a Patriot. This is a great organization. It feels great to be here."
Role models in his life: "I'd say my older brother [Andrew]. He's big on kids around the community, and he helped everyone. He kept my mind on the right track and made sure I pushed myself to make it higher and higher -- don't stop until I make it where I want to go. He's a special guy."
Being part of a big family: "I have 10 brothers, and it's good. For Christmas time, it was very good when we were younger. They gave me and my twin brother everything. We were the youngest."
What he loves about football: "Team chemistry and how everyone comes together to compete and have fun."
Best moments/toughest moments in football: "When we get a win, I'm happy. The toughest thing is financially. I have so many brothers and sisters, siblings, that I have to hold off. I can't help them like I want to. I'm trying to stay focused on the field. Whenever I get to that point, that's when I can help them."
Summing up his football journey: "It's taught me how to be a very humble guy. My sophomore year of high school, I wasn't that big. I didn't get much recognition. I feel like I never gave up because I had that mentality that I wanted to go higher in life to help my family."