Former Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson grew up not having a favorite NFL team, liking particular players instead of cheering for a particular organization.
Now, he’s just days away from finding out what lies ahead in his professional football future and finding out which franchise he could be drafted or signed by.
“I didn’t have a favorite team that I was a die-hard fan for,” Jamerson told B5Q on April 12, “but just the fact that my opportunity is coming, the day that I dreamed about since I was a little boy, is right at my finger tips, is surreal.
“Whether I’m going to team in Florida or a team in Texas, or California, I don’t really care, as long as I have that opportunity because I know once I have that opportunity, I’m going to prove myself regardless. If I make it to that next level, I’m going to stay there.”
Jamerson, like former teammate Leon Jacobs, switched positions multiple times in his time at Wisconsin. Starting off at wide receiver before moving to the defensive side of the ball, he played cornerback his sophomore and junior years before locking down a starting spot at safety and becoming a key contributor as a senior last season.
He started all 14 games during Wisconsin’s 13-1 campaign in 2017, registering 51 tackles, 10 pass break-ups and two interceptions—including a pick-six against Northwestern to kick off Big Ten Conference play. This for a defense that ranked as one of the best units in the nation in multiple categories, including leading the nation in pass efficiency defense (96.4) while allowing less than 14 points per game (good for third in the country).
Not to mention, he played a key role on special teams throughout his time as a Badger, even returning a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Maryland in 2015.
Now, Jamerson’s abilities as a defensive back and experience as an above average special teamer could raise his stock among NFL teams.
“A lot of teams, they’re trying to figure out where to play me at, and that’s kind of a good problem for me to have, I guess,” Jamerson said on April 12. “Being so versatile, I can really play three different positions. Different teams, they’re just trying to figure out where exactly they’d like me to play at and of course on special teams, of course I’m going to have to contribute on special teams in the NFL.
“A lot of teams, they ask every player if they’ve ever played special teams because a lot of player haven’t. They’ve been strictly offense or defense, but me having to play special teams all four years, it kind of boosted up.”
According to Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, a former 10-year NFL safety, Jamerson’s best football is still ahead of him.
“I heard lot of conversations whether he’s a corner or a safety, a lot of people on both sides of the fence would start him one or the other,” Leonhard said on Thursday. “I think as a safety, he has more value at that level because it’s a pass-oriented game. It is physicality, it is coverage ability from the safety position is extremely valuable up there. College football is more of a run game, so a little bit different deal, so I think if he’s playing safety, his best football is ahead.
“Even at corner, he’s really. really new to defense. He played as a sophomore at corner, was hurt most of his junior year and then moved to safety, so it’s not like he’s ever really been able to just focus, ‘This is who I am, this is how I get better.’ So in my opinion, it’s a no-brainer the talent that he has. It’s just getting him that experience and figuring out who’s he going to be, what’s his role going to be at that level.”
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Quite a few organizations have at least spoken to the former Wisconsin defensive back, with all the action starting with a team workout before Wisconsin’s pro day on March 14.
Jamerson confirmed with B5Q that he has worked out for the Detroit Lions, the Houston Texans and the New Orleans Saints, while meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans. On top of that, he noted he had dinner with the Los Angeles Chargers and the Seattle Seahawks.
Jamerson and two former Badger teammates—linebackers Jack Cichy and Garret Dooley— drove up to Green Bay for a visit on April 11,. The defensive back’s trip was reported as a Top 30 visit by Pro Football Weekly’s Eric Edholm and Houston Chroncile’s Aaron Wilson.
It was not the first time Jamerson, Cichy and Dooley stepped onto 1265 Lombardi Avenue, as Wisconsin practiced at Lambeau Field during the spring of 2016. Of course, the Badgers then upset LSU up in Green Bay to kickoff the season in a 16-14 win.
“I mean it was nice when we pulled up to the stadium, I was thinking about the crowd that was outside the stadium when we pulled up in our bus for our game,” Jamerson said. “When you got inside the stadium and we walked to the field, they’re redoing their field so it looks all jumbled up, but I just stood there and looked like, just remembering what we did on the field and after the game, after we won, how loud it was, the great energy that was in that stadium. It brought back some memories.”
Describing typical workouts with coaches, Jamerson mentioned the teams mix physical drills—testing a player’s feet, hips, and movement—with film study, usually lasting about 25-30 minutes for each. There was one, however, where he was with a team for four hours.
“After that meeting, it was funny,” Jamerson said, “because after that meeting, I had to go right upstairs and do a live interview on the Big Ten Network so I was trying to not look exhausted because I kind of was.”
Exhausting could be a great adjective for what Jamerson, among other NFL prospects, face during this often stressful time leading up to potentially hearing one’s name called in the draft.
Before the team meetings, workouts and visits, he participated in Wisconsin’s pro day in Madison and the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
At the Combine, Jamerson ran an official 4.4-second 40-yard dash while bench pressing 225 pounds 25 times. Then in March at Pro Day, he ran a 4.15-second 20-yard shuttle and 6.87-second three-cone drill while improving both his broad jump (123 inches from 120) and vertical jump (38 inches from 35.5) from his combine performance.
Even before those two life-changing events, he participated in the East-West Shrine Game in January down in his home state of Florida alongside fellow Wisconsin teammates in Jacobs and defensive end Alec James.
“St. Pete is nothing but two hours from my house, so I’m kind of familiar with the area down there,” Jamerson said. “That whole week of practice and prep and just being in a the hotel with those guys, it was a great experience because some of those players could be my future teammates. It was all fun. We all connected like we knew each other already, so that whole experience was great.”
Jamerson capped off the week of practice with a big game, earning defensive MVP honors after returning a fumble 68 yards for a touchdown, an accolade he described as “just icing on the cake.”
“I wasn’t expecting to win the MVP,” Jamerson said. “I didn’t even know that was like a thing, so on the sideline they came to me and was like, ‘We want to award you for the MVP award.’ I was just surprised, like I didn’t know that it was an award that was going on, so it was all exciting.”
For the impending draft weekend that’s forthcoming, Jamerson is heading back home to Ocala, Fla., where the childhood dream now can become reality. though he will return to the Badger State to finish his degree in human development and family studies, an achievement that will happen in May.
“I’m going to spend that special weekend with my family so we can all enjoy it because It’s not just about me,” Jamerson said. “It’s my last name carrying a lot of people, so I’m going to enjoy that with my family back home, then I have to come right back up to Madison because I’m still in classes so after the draft, I got to come right back to school.”