Asomugha: Driven to be great

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has been called many names.

"I get a different pronunciation at least every week," Asomugha told "E:60" at the 2011 Pro Bowl. "I think the worst one, or the funniest one I got, somebody called me, 'Oh-gooz-man.'"

The 30-year-old has also been called a shutdown corner, but not lately. NFL fans, especially in Philadelphia, want to know, "What have you done for me lately?" Many expected his shutdown success with the Eagles after he was given a five-year, $60 million contract with $25 million guaranteed. But early in his Philly career, life hasn't been full of brotherly love. Consider that the Eagles and Asomugha, currently with a 1-3 record, have seen recent headlines like these:

"Nightmare start for dream team Eagles" -- Philadelphia Daily News

"Eagles looking like an expensive mistake" -- The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Asomugha, defense struggle" -- The (Delaware) News Journal

"Asomugha admits fault while Vick just whines" --Gloucester County (N.J.) Times

"Asomugha becoming face of failing defense" -- Courier-Post (N.J.)

In Week 3 against the Giants, New York's Victor Cruz, an undrafted free agent, caught a TD pass in front of Asomugha. He also burned him for the game-winning TD.

Asomugha didn't make excuses to reporters after the game.

This summer, Asomugha explained to "E:60" his thought process regarding giving up a big play.

"Anybody can be beaten by one pass once. Are you getting beat by that same pass multiple times in the same game? That answer is no. Once, anything can happen … I could've lost my foot, or whatever, or it was a perfect play by the offense. So yeah, you can beat anyone once with it, but when you start to figure it out and you got the rhythm going? Your odds will get better each time they do it."

Asomugha, in his ninth season, first came into the National Football League in 2003 as a safety with the Oakland Raiders. It was there, he says, that he honed the skills to be an elite cornerback.

"When I first got there, these are the receivers that we had -- Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Randy Moss. These are the guys you have to go up against every day trying to learn from. In order to make that move to corner, I needed to be able to be surrounded by that kind of talent. That helped me," Asomugha said.

Asomugha was teammates with Hall of Famer Rice for two seasons and with Brown for one season in 2003.

Brown said when Asomugha first came in the league he was "as raw as they come. Being that he was a safety, he was willing to take everything I told him to heart." Brown said that when he corrected him, Asomugha listened.

"In that situation, failure wasn't an option. If you can't succeed with that, you don't appreciate the game. I took it all in the moment, and I had to do something with it," Asomugha said.

"Nnamdi often had to cover me in practice while I was in the slot. That's the most difficult position on defense to work. He was a great student of the game. Having me and Jerry there was great, but Charles [Woodson] had a lot to do with his development also," Brown said.

Numerous Pro Bowlers speak glowingly about Asomugha. The player he is most often compared to is Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. "He's a big corner, he's about six feet, three inches," Revis told "E:60." "He has long arms, can run with anybody in the league and he puts his hands on you in press coverage. I like that. I like that he's aggressive and puts his hands on you."

Asomugha held Cardinals Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to just two catches for 26 yards, and a touchdown in 2010.

"Nnamdi, when you play against him, he has a great understanding of what your ability is and how he's going to take away your strengths," Fitzgerald said. "He's so physical at the line. He understands your splits and depths of your routes and he does a great job of studying guys."

"First of all, it never hurts to be 6-2, with a wing span of a seven-footer. He works hard. When he makes a mistake he is able to put it behind him and move on," Brown said.

Just like Oakland, Philadelphia does have elite wide receivers in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin for Asomugha to battle with in practice. Some speculate that Asomugha needs time to adjust to the Eagles' zone defensive strategy and that it is not the best fit for Asomugha's strengths.

"I personally would like to see him take the best receiver on the opposing team and shut that side of the field down," Brown said.

Given that Asomugha has been a three-time first team All-Pro selection, including in 2010, it's hard to imagine he will end up a $60 million free-agent flop.

"I'll be relentless in my efforts to be great, but I'm realistic. I know I can't be perfect because I've seen it. But at the same time, nobody wants to fail, nobody wants to fail," Asomugha said.

Ben Houser is a senior producer for "E:60."