Orange Bowl Could Be Last Game As A Jayhawk For All-American DB Talib

Kansas' Aqib Talib is one of those cornerbacks who set hearts aflutter in the NFL

Dec. 15, 2007

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Tall, fast, quick and intuitive, Kansas' Aqib Talib is one of those cornerbacks who set hearts aflutter in the National Football League.

If he comes out next year, the junior All-American is certain to be near the top of every scout's list. But his plans, just like the Jayhawks' strategy for attacking Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, are a closely guarded secret.

Asked repeatedly Thursday if the Orange Bowl against No. 5 Virginia Tech (11-2) on Jan. 3 will be his last game with the eighth-ranked Jayhawks (11-1), Talib dodged and weaved just as he did when returning an interception 100 yards for a touchdown.

"If it is, it is. I'm sure we'll talk about that later," said the 6-2, 205-pound Texas native. "I'm sure we'll have a different press conference about that later. Right now, I'm looking at it like it's the Orange Bowl. It's an important game. It's a chance to make a name for ourselves."

One thing he is certain of is that he wants to go into the NFL as a defensive back, not a wide receiver. But scouts will probably weigh both options for the do-everything athlete who has anchored the secondary throughout the greatest season in Jayhawks history while moonlighting as a consistent scoring threat on those deep routes quarterback Todd Reesing loves to throw.

"Since I was little, since I first caught a football, playing in the NFL has been my lifelong dream," he said. "I'm sure my future will be as a defensive back.

"But for right now, I'm just kind of trying to block it out and not worry about it. After the game, after the season, me and coach (Mark) Mangino will talk about it. Me and my family will talk about it. Then we'll make a decision from there."

The Orange Bowl will be the first major bowl for Kansas since the 1969 Orange Bowl. A big reason they got there is Talib, who had interceptions in three straight games at one point.

In the first half of the season, he also caught eight passes for 182 yards and four touchdowns. While playing primarily as a shut-down cornerback, he scored touchdowns in five straight games on four receptions and a school-record 100-yard interception return against Florida International.



"That was my best play as a Jayhawk," he says with a big smile.

As Kansas reeled off 11 straight victories, another school record, recognition poured in from around the nation. Talib and left tackle Anthony Collins became the first position players at Kansas selected to first-team All-America by The Associated Press since 1973.

But Talib does not look at this season as his best.

"I didn't really think I had that good a season. ..." he said. "It's a surprise to me. I'm honored. If they want to give it to me, I'll take it."

As a sophomore, he had 22 passes broken up, led the nation with 2.80 passes defended per game and topped the Big 12 with six interceptions. This year, while the defense as a whole improved to one of the best in the nation, its star cornerback dropped to four picks and broke up 13 passes.

"I think I gave up three touchdowns, or four touchdowns this year," he said. "My sophomore year, I think I gave up one. As far as me stopping them from scoring, it was a lot better my sophomore year. As a total defense, we played a lot better this year. I got helped out a lot."

The drop-off occurred in the second half of the season when he was nagged by an injury.

But the nature of the problem and whether he'll be back to 100 percent for the Orange Bowl will have to be another secret.

"Coach Mangino doesn't like us talking about injuries," he said. "So we don't."