FOXBORO, Mass. — When Alfonzo Dennard showed up at Gillette Stadium for the
Patriots game on Sunday, he had no idea that his childhood dreams would finally
come true. The timing was so short that the rookie cornerback didn't even have
time to tell his family.
"I really didn't know," a seemingly pleased
Dennard said after the game. "I came in today and they were just like
'you're dressing up.' I was like 'alright.'"
While the news of making his NFL debut was undeniably
exciting, the challenge that awaited he and the Patriots on Sunday had him just
"I felt a little shaky going out there, I was thinking
too much basically," Dennard said with a boyish smirk after the win.
The rookie cornerback made his professional debut for the
Patriots against arguably the best quarterback of all-time — debatable, of
course — Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Dennard admitted that the nerves of facing Manning started
to get the best of him as he took the field for the first time, but he didn't
let any of that show in his place.
"I know [Manning] is a great quarterback, so I was kind
of nervous at first," Dennard candidly admitted. "But I did pretty
good I think."
Not great, but good is pretty accurate. Dennard, who found
his way into the rotation with fellow defensive backs Sterling Moore and Ras-I
Dowling, finally had the opportunity to showcase the skills that the Patriots
found so desirable back in April. And he did.
Dennard recorded a pass breakup on his first series on the
field, disrupting a toss from Manning to Demaryius Thomas and interrupting a
connection that ultimately manhandled the Patriots secondary to the tune of
nine catches and 188 yards. But where other Patriots struggled, Dennard found
comfort and he exuded it throughout.
"It felt pretty good. I mean going up against Peyton
Manning, like I said, I know he's a great quarterback and I just had a lot of
comfort from Devin [McCourty] and Kyle [Arrington]," Dennard said.
"All of them said just go out there and play my game and everything will
come to you."
The game definitely came, and quick. And while it wasn't the
most sterling performance, head coach Bill Belichick was pleased with how
Dennard seized the opportunity.
"I think there are a couple other things that weren't
so hot, but he did show up and make plays, so that was good," Belichick
said of the debut. "We had a lot of guys contribute, but it was good to
see Alfonzo out here. Good to see."
Now, with his initial appearance finally out of the way,
Dennard is focused on building on this opportunity.
"The coaches told me to just go out there and compete
at practice and we'll see from there," Dennard added. "I participated
like they wanted me to … that's what I like to do so, I just go out there and
There's no knowing when that next opportunity will be. But
with the butterflies finally gone, Dennard will definitely be ready.
Photo via Twitter/@PolloAnonimo