Jeff Okudah received quite the question from Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden this week at the NFL Combine.
"Hey man, are you from Planet Earth?" asked Gruden, who has 13 years of NFL head coaching experience.
Okudah was taken back by the question, which he knew was a compliment for the incredible cornerback skills he showed as a Buckeye.
"It's crazy to think about it like that," Okudah said. "He's someone that's around some great football minds. When he said that, I was just kind of like, 'You're here, man.'"
Plenty of other NFL coaches are thinking the same thing about Okudah. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, he's widely regarded as the best cornerback prospect in the upcoming draft and is projected to be off the board within the first 10 picks.
Check out behind the scenes photos of Browns coaches and executives watching combine workouts
Okudah's accolades include just about every honor a college defensive back can earn. He was placed on first-team Associated Press All-American, first-team All-Big Ten and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in the nation.
His attention to detail is astounding, and it shows in his game. He led the Buckeyes' defense — one of the best in the nation last season — with three interceptions and nine pass deflections. He also made 35 tackles and recorded two forced fumbles.
Okudah wasn't always the Buckeyes' top cornerback. He led Ohio State in pass breakups and made 34 tackles, but he still didn't start a game in 2018. He said he relied on his hands too much, and that led to pass interference calls and poor positioning technique.
So, Okudah changed his technique. He relied more on his sight and instincts for finding the football rather than just his hands to make plays.
It worked. This season, Okudah was never penalized for pass interference. He never gave up a deep ball, either.
"I just led to a lot of awkward things," Okudah said about relying too much on his hands. "Last year, I really worked on looking for the football every day. We just drilled it religiously."
In the weeks leading up the combine, Okudah said he studied the combine tape from top NFL cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and Patrick Peterson. He posted all of their combine times on a whiteboard in his apartment.
That was all just for the combine, which Okudah didn't need to showcase his skills, anyway. NFL scouts were already raving about him his senior year, and he could've skipped combine workouts to prevent potential injuries. That was the path taken by his former teammate Chase Young, who is still widely projected to be the second pick of the draft behind Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.
Even though he's a top cornerback in the draft class, Okudah wants to show that he doesn't take short cuts.
"There's risk and reward for everything," Okudah said. "It's no different than going out there and going against someone all game. You choose if you're going to get the reward, or if you're going to get the risk."
The Browns will be lucky if Okudah is still on the board with their 10th overall pick of the draft. Most mock drafts have him projected to fall between the fourth and ninth picks, but quarterback-needy teams outside the top 10 could attempt to swing a trade and leave Okudah on the board for Cleveland — who is in need of cornerback depth — in position to take him.
Any team, however, can admire Okudah's work ethic. That's what took him to the next level in his final year with the Buckeyes, and that's why most NFL scouts project him to be a star.
"No matter how old you are, guys will always respect someone that works," Okudah said. "That trait about someone is timeless."
Check out photos of players interviewing at the 2020 NFL Combine