Daymond Patterson made a fast impact when he arrived on campus last year. The whispers coming out of summer workouts were about this wide receiver from Mesquite who was winning teammates over with his slick moves and work ethic.
He earned early praise from Kansas head coach Mark Mangino. He was climbing up the depth chart at wide receiver and punt returner. He opened the first week of the season as the team's starting punt return man.
Patterson started three of the first four games at receiver and things went quiet.
With an injury to Kendrick Harper the Kansas coaches were trying to find an answer to solidify their depth at cornerback. That's when Patterson entered the picture. Give credit to the Kansas coaches for knowing Patterson could handle a new position.
"He had only played maybe five games at corner ever," said his father Daymond Patterson II.
But Patterson made the switch look easy. Every week it was evident he was getting better and better. The Jayhawks had themselves a new cornerback.
The move helped the defense
Patterson committed to the Jayhawks before his senior season while attending Mesquite High in Texas. His recruiting film was highlight after highlight. Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen was the lead recruiter, jumped on him early, and helped secure his verbal commitment.
Shortly after signing day the Jayhawks announced they had hired David Beaty from Rice. Beaty was headed to Kansas knowing a lot about Patterson since he tried to recruit him at Rice.
When Patterson was making big strides during training camp his freshman year Beaty knew he had an impact player in the making. By week two he had already earned a starting spot in a group of receivers that featured a lot of quality and depth.
Then came the change. The coaches went to Patterson and asked if he would make the switch to defense. It was something Beaty didn't see coming.
"I'll be honest with you, I never thought I would lose him to corner," Beaty said. "I was pretty fired up about him. Just look at the attributes he has the speed and explosiveness. Last year in the first two games he had some really big plays for us."
The move may have surprised Beaty for a short time but in the end he was glad it happened. Most coaches don't like to lose talented players at their position. However, Beaty knew it could end up helping the team.
"The team is always changing and there are needs that have to be addressed," Beaty said. "He's one of the most athletic kids we have on the team. For him to be unselfish and help the team on defense speaks volumes to what kind of kid he is. He has a great work ethic and wants to help the team win. While I'm said we lost him at receiver I'm happy we have a guy over there our coaches have faith in and they know can help us win."
The competition was nothing new
In the first seven weeks of his career Patterson won the job as a punt returner, started at receiver, and then at cornerback. The percentage of true freshmen that can accomplish that at the BCS level is very small.
Growing up Patterson learned to compete. Playing against better athletes was not a new experience for him. Patterson's father Daymond II started up Raw Power, a football training camp. They focused on strength and conditioning and core fundamentals of football.
"We had some people ask us to start it up," Daymond II said. "I realized that a lot of the kids didn't have the money to afford other ones this gave them an outlet. We started it and worked on keeping their skills up. It really blossomed into what it is now."
There are now over 100 players that participate in Raw Power. Younger Daymond has been doing it since the seventh grade and that's where he picked up a lot of his skills. He has been competing against players like Tarrell Brown (Texas-49ers), Domonique Brooks (Colorado), Jason Benjamin (Rice), and Aaron Harris (Texas) to name a few ever since he can remember.
"We've been doing so much of the training stuff since we were young," the younger Patterson said. "I think one of the big reasons I was able to adjust up here so much was since I was young I have been training with a lot of division one athletes. So it wasn't a big jump for me in terms of speed, size, and talent level since I have worked with some of the top cornerbacks in the nation."
Still room to get better
While Patterson has cemented himself as the starting corner, his ceiling to keep getting better is high. This will be his first year to play cornerback full-time. He has finally adjusted and started to learn the details about playing on the defensive side.
Je'Ney Jackson has been impressed with his transition and wonders how good he would be if had always focused on the position.
"If he would have started off at corner for us he would be exceptional," Jackson said. "He keeps improving every day."
Since Patterson has arrived the intensity in the weight room has grown. Now he has to come up and make the tackle instead of trying to dodge them. He has changed his body since arriving a little more than a year ago.
"I've put on about 20 pounds from last season so I have put on some good weight," he said. "I've been working hard with (Chris) Dawson and put on some good size. I've gotten a little faster and stronger. I've been eating a lot and not making sure to skip meals. We've hit the weights hard and staying committed."
Playing wide receiver has helped Patterson make the fast adjustment. He had knowledge how a receiver thinks and picks up on routes. Last season he was thrown into the mix and learned on the run. But this year he's looking forward to showing what he can do after having a full season to learn the position.
"It is coming along real well," he said. "I'm ready to get out there Saturday and put my new skills to work. My technique is better and I'm faster. I'm recognizing routes and alignments better."