Former Alabama DBs hope to reunite with Raiders’ coach Ansley

Updated March 5, 2018 - 9:18 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie watched with pride Sunday as 21-year-old Kahlil McKenzie, a defensive tackle from Tennessee, rumbled through on-field drills at the NFL combine. He double-checked his stopwatch after his elder son’s 40-yard dash.

A special moment.

On Monday, it was Derrick Ansley’s turn.

The new Raiders secondary coach did not have a son participating in on-field drills. But he did have a family of sorts, as five Alabama defensive backs he coached for the past two years under Nick Saban all competed at Lucas Oil Stadium to conclude the league’s weeklong talent-evaluation symposium.

Versatile defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, safety Ronnie Harrison, cornerback Anthony Averett, cornerback Levi Wallace and cornerback Tony Brown all took turns Monday as former Ansley pupils.

Perhaps one could be reunited.

“I actually just saw him before I did the bench press,” Averett said Sunday of Ansley. “He was telling me, ‘Keep doing your thing. Keep working hard.’ He might be able to get me. … You never know. I might be there. I’d feel very comfortable. I’d be right at home, somebody I’m familiar with. It’d be a perfect fit, I feel.”

Said Harrison: “It’d be awesome. He and I already have that chemistry. He knows how to coach me. I know what to expect from him, so it’d be great.”

Alabama, even by its lofty standards, was well-represented at the combine.

Its secondary produced five of the 14 Crimson Tide players at the event. Ten were on defense. As Ansley makes the transition to the NFL level, so will they.

“It’s pretty special,” said Wallace, a walk-on who developed into a starter and is a potential late-round draft pick. “We were just joking that we could run 7-on-7 against some of the other teams here because we have so many DBs here. And then we realized we have our whole defense here except we’re missing an outside linebacker or a D-lineman.”

Each Alabama defensive back at the combine spoke highly of Ansley. Many praised his ability to develop his charges as people as well as players. Of the five prospects, Fitzpatrick is projected to be selected earliest, perhaps before Oakland’s assigned No. 10 overall pick.

“He’s a real hands-on coach,” Fitzpatrick said. “He would always be out there working on technique with us, just getting extra work in before and after practice. And then, just in the film room. He showed us what to do. … It’s good to see a familiar face here.”

The NFL draft will be held April 24-26. Rookie free agents can be signed afterward.

Along the way, an Alabama defensive back could reunite with Ansley.

“That’d be awesome,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’d be awesome.”

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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