OXNARD, Calif. – Finding a 24-year-old without some sort of social media in their life is a tough task these days.
Trying to ignore it can be even tougher.
That's the fine line Morris Claiborne finds himself walking these days. A young, sociable professionally athlete likes to engage with his family, friends and even fans like the rest of his peers.
But for a guy that admittedly hasn't lived up to the hype that comes with being the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL Draft, Claiborne knows he's had to block out some of the attention that comes his way – especially since it's not always with a positive spin.
"I try to block it but it's hard when we live in a world where social media rules it," Claiborne said Wednesday after the first day of training camp practice here in Oxnard. "It's hard to get away from it. You have to step away from it as much as you can. But at times, it drives me. Then again, I can't worry about what people say. I know the type of player I am. I know the type of guy I am. These people are looking on the outside in. They don't really know me."
What his harshest critics do know is that Claiborne hasn't lived to expectations that were skyrocketed the minute the Cowboys gave up a second-round pick to move up to the sixth pick in the 2012 draft.
Then again, Claiborne says it'll be near impossible for him to ever meet his own expectations.
"My expectations for myself are higher than anybody's in this world for themselves," Claiborne said. "I've never been so hungry. I've never wanted anything more than I want this right now."
And it's not just about appeasing Cowboys' fans or even coming close to his own expectations. Claiborne said he was forced to grow up last year when faced an emotional rollercoaster that took over his world in the final month of last season.
Alongside a hamstring injury that forced him out of action for six games, Claiborne then dealt with the sudden and tragic death of his father. Four days later, he welcomed his second child as his daughter was born.
"A whole lot of emotions at once. That's a lot to deal with," Claiborne said. "I had no choice but to sit down and face all my problems that was going on. Being injured and my dad dying. And then on top of that, having a kid at the same time – facing all that at one time made me a better person and a better player. I feel like I know the importance of everything, especially in life."
And that change in approach is evident, especially from the coaching staff. Head coach Jason Garrett said Claiborne's maturation isn't too different from other players his age. But he does enjoy what he's seeing so far.
"He's a talented guy, he's a very contentious guy. He wants to be a great player," Garrett said. "He understands how to focus better now than when he was a rookie. He's less of a flash type player than he was. We feel good about what he did in the spring, how his body is. He's developed physically, and I think you see it in his face, too. His demeanor looks good, his body language is good. You add that to some of the skills that we loved about him coming out of school, you start to get a player that you really like out there at a very important position."
On Thursday, Claiborne worked with the first-team unit with Brandon Carr not in California as he tends to a family health matter. But even with Carr's absence, Claiborne said he plans on having one of the starting jobs.
"Our heart goes out to Brandon and his family. I'm praying for him," Claiborne said. "He wouldn't want us to sit back right now. He would want us to get better and take every rep like it's our rep and it's a game-time rep. that's what we try to do each and every day. (Thursday) was a good start. We just have to keep it up."
Claiborne calls it a "friendly competition" between himself, Carr and Orlando Scandrick. In fact, it was Scandrick last December who told reporters how Claiborne will be a "superstar" and doesn't even know how good he can be. [embedded_ad]
Humbly, Claiborne agrees. He doesn't feel comfortable telling a reporter that he is about to have a great season. Deep down, the cornerback has a shy little smile that indicates his excitement and optimism about this upcoming season.
If it doesn't work out like he had hoped, it won't be for the lack of preparation.
"I've found myself working out as much as I've worked out. At night, I'll get up out of bed and go do abs or something," Claiborne said. "Once my surgeries healed and I started to rehab them, there wasn't a day that went by where I wasn't working out at least once, maybe two or three times. I'm just so ready to get out here and show people what I can do. I'm ready to roll."
Claiborne said he's not exactly using the past two years as motivation. But he just chalks them up as unexpected situations that he's starting to get used to. Instead of running from them, Claiborne is embracing the past.
"Everything doesn't happen how you want it to happen. You have to go through all type of walks in life," Claiborne explains. "– I'm in this position for a reason. These last two years have been the way they've been for a reason. I'm right where I'm at right here for a reason. I'm just excited about the season. Last year didn't go as planned.
"I'm really looking to redeem myself. I'm looking to have a great year. I'm not accepting anything less than a great year."