When discussing the Top 5 ranking of FAU’s cornerbacks, one former player suggested simply making the list a Top 10 – there are that many good choices. Three players on the list either played or still play in the NFL. The others two attended an NFL camp. And the Owls have at least three potential NFL players on their current roster.
Those considerations, plus some impressive interception and tackle totals, induced a spirited ranking of FAU cornerbacks.
While considering the best of the best at FAU, players were judged on their performance (statistics), what they meant to their team and sheer physical talent. As part of our research for this list we consulted with former players, former coaches and media members who’ve covered the Owls. Reaching the NFL is an indicator of talent, but players who played professionally weren’t necessarily placed above some who didn’t.
With that in mind, let’s get to the list.
Top 5 FAU Cornerbacks
We’re Cheating: We’d normally list the players close to achieving the Top 5 following our reasoning for the selection of the player at No. 5, but there are simply too many such players this time. We didn’t want to take away from the accomplishments of the player who landed at No. 5. Therefore, we’re listing the players in consideration for sixth through tenth in no particular order. Players like Lawrence “Flash Gordon, who picked off two passes and registered 148 tackles before launching a substantial CFL career. Raekwon Williams was on pace to be a Top 5 selection before a knee injury prematurely ended his senior season and career in 2017. Tavious Polo intercepted 11 passes – fourth most in program history – but many of those came from being in the wrong place at the right time. Current nickel Herb Miller is a big hitter who’s always near the ball. Current corners Chris Tooley and Shelton Lewis already have four career interceptions apiece and could easily jump into the Top 5 with a good season or two. Miller, Tooley and Lewis could all be NFL players in the coming years.
5. Corey Small (2004-08): Small somewhat quietly enjoyed one of the best careers of any FAU football player. Small’s 13 interceptions are second most in program history, with one of them coming off Florida’s Tim Tebow in 2007 – that year’s Heisman Trophy winner. The 32 passes he defended ranks third. He also forced three fumbles and FAU credits him with 238 career tackles. A leader on FAU’s first two bowl teams, Small earned an All-Sun Belt selection in 2008, a year after being a second-team performer. Following his college career Small played in the Texas Vs. The Nation collegiate all-star game before receiving an invitation to Washington Redskins camp.
4. Cre’von LeBlanc (2012-2015): A starter as a true freshman, LeBlanc primarily played the nickel spot during his FAU career. A lockdown cover corner who wasn’t afraid to hit, LeBlanc picked off nine passes – tied for ninth in program history – and recorded 180 tackles during his career. LeBlanc was a second-team All-Conference USA selection in 2015 and received an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game. Undrafted, LeBlanc first signed with New England as a free agent, before finding a home with Chicago. In his first two seasons as a Bear LeBlanc registered 54 tackles and picked off two passes.
3. Willie Hughley (2002-05): The top coverage man on those early FAU teams, Hughley snatched what is still a program-high 15 picks during his Owls career. He returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns – also a program high. Five of Hughley’s picks came in 2003, as the Owls raced to the FCS semifinals. Six more came the following season when FAU began its transition to the FBS level. FAU credits Hughley with 213 career tackles and, in 2005, he joined linebacker Shomari Earls as the first two FAU All-Sun Belt selections. The Cleveland Browns signed Hughley as an undrafted free agent following his senior season, but he didn’t make their regular season roster.
2. Keith Reaser (2010-2013): This is a case where the statistics don’t tell the whole story. Reaser’s interceptions and pass break-up totals might seem low, but that’s because teams simply didn’t throw his way. His coverage was that good. Reaser recorded five interceptions during a career shorten by two knee injuries. His 19 passes defended are tied for eighth in program history. Reaser also recorded 154 tackles and returned a fumble for a touchdown against WKU in 2012. A fifth-round draft choice by the San Francisco in 2014, Reaser played 2 ½ seasons with the 49ers before completing last season in Kansas City.
1. D’Joun Smith (2011-2014): Here’s another example where there’s more to a career than the stats. Smith didn’t have as many interceptions as Hughley or Small, but those stats only begin to indicate how well he played at FAU. Though he only intercepted nine passes, Smith returned two for touchdowns, including one in the 2013 upset of South Florida. Smith’s 38 passes defended are second most in FAU history. A first-team All-Conference USA selection in 2013, teams simply didn’t throw his way the following season – and he still earned second-team all-conference honors. FAU named Smith its Defensive MVP following his senior season. Indianapolis made Smith the highest drafted Owl in program history by selecting him in the third round of the 2015 draft with pick No. 65 overall. His professional career hasn’t exactly been smooth – he’s already played for the Colts, Lions and Titans – but that doesn’t diminish Smith’s contributions at FAU.
FAU Football Top 5 Position Countdown
- Running Backs
- Wide Receivers
- Tight Ends
- Interior Linemen
- Defensive Ends
- Defensive Tackles
- Middle Linebackers
- Outside Linebackers
- Special Teams