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Offseason | 2024

Cowboys' Carson explains 'Seat Belt' nickname, more


FRISCO, Texas — It's all quickly sinking in for rookie cornerback Caelen Carson, who got the nod as the Dallas Cowboys’ fifth-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. In only a matter of two weeks, he's gone from the surrealism of the moment to taking the field for practice at team headquarters during rookie minicamp — eager to get to work.

Carson, known at Wake Forest as "Seat Belt", explained the origin story behind the nickname.

"It was my freshman year in college — I started as a true freshman — my teammate and roommate told me, 'Damn, you're always locking somebody up. You're like a seat belt,'" he explained. "It stuck with me from there."

That said, he doesn't want to turn that moniker into any NFL merchandise quite yet.

"I did, back in college, he added. "Coming soon, but I've gotta earn my way first — earn my stripes."

It's Carson's ability to lock down opposing receivers that led him to the Cowboys' front door, and former Pro Bowl cornerback turned Cowboys' defensive backs coach and assistant head coach Al Harris wasted no time in getting Carson acclimated to the expectations in Dallas.

After all, the rookie corner is joining a group headlined by two history-making First-team All-Pro players in Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland, along with the gritty takeaway talent of Jourdan Lewis.

"Already, I can tell [Harris] is a great coach," said Carson. "I've already learned a lot in only 3 days. I can see how they do stuff here and why they catch a lot of interceptions. I understand why they make plays."

Don't bank on him revealing the magic, though.

"It's a secret," he said. "It's the secret sauce. I can't tell you that."

Whatever it is, though, Diggs and Bland have it; and Carson wants it.

"I'm looking for those guys to take me under their wing," he said of veterans joining rookies as early as next week. "[Trevon and I] have those Maryland connections. There's something there. I'm just ready to learn from them and see the way they do things."

Primarily an outside corner, Carson does have the ability to slide inside to nickel corner when asked, and that's due in large part to his physicality; and the fact he doesn't overthink the differences between the two.

Much like Bland, who broke out as a nickel corner in Year 1 before becoming a record-setting defensive back on the outside in Year 2, or the times when Lewis was asked to take reps on the boundary, Carson can as well; and he wouldn't think twice about it.

A former wide receiver turned cornerback (sound familiar, Diggs?) his athleticism allows such flexibility.

"The teams that were looking at me in the draft, they wanted versatility, and I think I showed that I can play inside or outside," Carson said. "[They're not really different positions], because you're covering somebody, regardless. And when you're in zone, you're in zone, regardless. There's not too much of a difference [to me].

"It doesn't really matter to me. … I can cover anywhere, so I feel comfortable."

That comfort extends to his willingness, or rather his hunger, to hit receivers.

"Yeah, I think you're not a corner, or whatever you are, if you don't tackle," said the 22-year-old upstart. "It makes you a complete player."

That it does.

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