Washington Redskins cornerback
Years after attending rival high schools in Greensboro, N.C., the two matched up on one another on Sunday in a National Football League game. In the end, Amerson walked away with bragging rights.
Scoring a victory over his longtime competitor and friend, Amerson said the two talked prior to Sunday’s kickoff and took a moment to reflect on the fact both had reached the pinnacle of the football world.
“It definitely felt good,” Amerson said of both reaching their dream of playing in the NFL. “Before the game I told him we were going to go out there and compete just like the old days because we’ve been going at it since we were small in Greensboro and now we’re doing it on the big stage. You couldn’t ask for a better way to do it.”
What looked like a pass right into the rookie wide receiver’s breadbasket turned into a turnover, and a subsequent point-generating drive for the Redskins.
Bumping him throughout the contest, Amerson picked up on Allen’s tendencies.
“Every time he inside released I knew I was going to get one or two things,” Amerson said of his on-the-fly analysis. “Either circus route or a dig, so I played heavy on the dig and he was leaning on me so hard.
“As soon as he broke I kind of got around him and found the ball.”
A tip of the hat goes to past experience against the speedy receiver in the heart of North Carolina when the two were just high schoolers.
“In high school, Keenan was all over the place,” Amerson recalled. “Sometimes he’d be at receiver, sometimes they’d put him at quarterback [and] he’d get sweeps sometimes.
“I always knew he was a shifty guy, very hard to get your hands on clean, so I knew what I had going into this game.”
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan praised Amerson after the game, crediting his ball-hawking ability.
“David’s got a big upside,” he said of Amerson. “I think everybody saw the interception – it was exceptional.”
A classic rivalry between two fierce competitors wouldn’t be complete without a counterattack.
Late in the fourth quarter, Allen surpassed tight end Antonio Gates as Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers’ go-to.
On the next Chargers drive, Rivers hit a wide-open Allen in the corner of the end zone.
Amerson was on the coverage.
“It was a good counteraction,” the second round pick admitted. “He was playing his route aggressively almost the whole game so he gave me a double move because every time he came up to stutter he’d give me a little slant.
“I bit hard on the slant and then he double moved me and it was a good play.”
Amerson took out his frustrations on the Chargers’ final offense drive, saving a San Diego game-winning touchdown by a whisker.
The Chargers started their drive from their own 8-yard line and marched 77 yards down to the Washington 15-yard line. There, Phillip Rivers rushed for nine yards up the middle.
On 2nd-and-1 from the 6-yard line, Rivers found running back Danny Woodhead for a five-yard catch and run. All that stood between him and the end zone was David Amerson, who lunged and launched the diminutive back out, just short of the pylon.
A play originally called a touchdown on the field was reversed and the ball was placed at the 1-yard line, setting up one of the best defensive stands in recent history. The Chargers failed to convert on first- and second-and-goal, setting up a battle of wills on third down.
In the biggest “show me” moment of his nascent career, Amerson blanketed Allen on third down, forcing the Chargers to settle for a field goal.
“We’re in man-to-man so I’m thinking, ‘Whenever it happens, I can’t let this guy catch the ball, everyone has to do their job,’” Amerson said of his mindset on the goal line stand. “That’s what I’m thinking: do your job.”
While a touchdown seemed inevitable on four straight plays, Mike Shanahan credited the Herculean effort by the rookie to deny that from happening.
“[Amerson]’s effort on that goal-line play, not many people could make that tackle, or corners want to make that tackle,” he said. “Very impressive.
“The key to David will be that consistency – 60 minutes – but you did see some fantastic plays out of him and [we’re] very encouraged about his future.”
With legends of his position like Darrell Green in attendance and a familiar foe on the other side of the line of scrimmage, the confident rookie said the extra motivation assisted his drive stalling attitude.
“Playing in front of 85,000 people it definitely motivates you,” Amerson said. “That’s what you live for being an athlete, being a competitor and especially it’s at home [so] you don’t want to let them [the fans] down. So it’s all motivation, that’s the advantage of playing a home game.”
“We definitely stepped up, did what you have to do to win and I think we did that.”
When the two return to Greensboro and meet up again, Amerson acknowledged he owns the upper hand.
“I know I’m always going to be biased to myself like ‘I did this on you and I did that on you’ and he’s going to be the same way.
“But at the end of the day all that really matters is [we won]. I think I have the upper advantage.”