TCU’s Jeff Gladney hopes to bring some prime-time swagger to the NFL

Texas Christian cornerback Jeff Gladney, top, knocks away a pass intended for Texas Tech's Dylan Cantrell during a game in 2017.
Texas Christian cornerback Jeff Gladney, top, knocks away a pass intended for Texas Tech’s Dylan Cantrell in 2017.
(John Weast / Getty Images)

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

Jeff Gladney’s father used to call him “Little Prime,” a playful twist on the nickname “Prime Time” that has long been held by famed cornerback Deion Sanders.

It fits for someone who possesses Hall of Fame-level swagger on the eve of his ascent from Texas Christian to the NFL.


Consider Gladney’s mentality when he was asked at the NFL combine about being in press coverage: “You’ve just got to line up across a dude, the dude across from you, just know you’re going to beat him every play.”

Or his thoughts on why he’s the top cornerback in the NFL draft: “I’m too competitive. I don’t want nobody to beat me. I feel like I’m the best at everything.”

Or his ability to cover tall receivers despite standing only 5 feet 10 and 191 pounds: “I play bigger than my size. Most receivers don’t know that. They think they’re going to come out there and bully me, but that doesn’t go down.”

Ready for a different kind of NFL mock draft? Football experts join Times NFL writer Sam Farmer to predict the first round of the 2020 draft.

April 15, 2020

Gladney won most battles during his time with the Horned Frogs, the fifth-year senior totaling 146 tackles, five interceptions and 43 passes defended while starting 42 of 52 games after a redshirt season.

His final college season was his best, Gladney becoming a first-team All-Big 12 Conference selection while leading the conference with 14 pass breakups. According to Pro Football Focus, he forced more incompletions on third-down plays (19) than any other cornerback in the 2020 draft class.


But his 6-3 wingspan and 37 ½-inch vertical leap may not be able be able to compensate for the small stature that stands as the biggest reason he’s widely projected to be selected in the second or third round.

True to his self-assured ways, Gladney said whoever takes him will be getting a steal.

“I feel like I’m the biggest sleeper,” Gladney said. “They talk about my size a lot, but everyone knows I’m a speed demon and physical.”

Playing in a TCU defense that Gladney said was more complex than most of its counterparts at the college level has also made him a cerebral prospect. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t intentionally have memory lapses to sharpen his focus on the next play.

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the 2020 NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

April 17, 2020

“I call it amnesia,” Gladney said. “You’ve [got] to forget that play before you, so even if it was a good play, you’ve got to forget it.”

Gladney’s bragging isn’t confined to speaking with reporters; when he lines up across from a receiver known to chatter, he’ll make his own noise.

“If he’s a talker, I’ll talk a little bit, try to get into his head,” Gladney said. “If not, I’ll just stick to myself, just play.”

Gladney said he likes to maximize a receiver’s weakness, getting aggressive with those who hate contact and laying off others who don’t mind a fight at the line of scrimmage. It’s all part of being a cornerback who likes to be in the middle of every play and every conversation.

“I don’t play like most corners,” Gladney said. “I like to stick my nose in everything.”