Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary had the opportunity to finish his collegiate career while kicking off his professional career in the city where it all began -- Mobile, Alabama. McCreary joined the Pick Six podcast and reflected on that experience. 

"It was just great ending off my collegiate career in Alabama. I didn't notice that I finished it off at South Alabama, the first college I had committed to," he shared. "It was just great that whole week playing in the Senior Bowl, playing in the game that I grew up watching as a kid and finally being invited to it and playing in it. The whole experience was just great."

The experience had been set in motion a year earlier when McCreary elected to forego the 2021 NFL Draft and return to The Plains for his final season.

"That was one of the harder decisions that I have ever had to make, was I going to leave or come back. Knowing that I was able to get drafted, it took a little weight on me. I wanted to come back for two main reasons, that was to get my education and graduate and the second one was to improve my draft stock. I feel like coming back was a smart decision and I did great with both of the plans."

The Alabama native was afforded the opportunity to learn under head coaches Guz Malzahn and Bryan Harsin. The latter exposed him to more zone coverage after previously being a man coverage heavy cornerback under Malzahn. 

"It was great. I was happy that the coaching staff had changed. At first I really was not happy but later on, when I went back it was great because I was just a man corner.  When coach [Derek] Mason came and coach Harsin came, they came with different schemes and everything. I felt like that made me better overall as a cornerback, playing off-man, playing zone, just football IQ and learning more about the game. I feel like they have improved me overall as a cornerback."

McCreary, who feels he is the best man coverage cornerback in the draft, was tested on a weekly basis by some of the best in the SEC. It was a matchup with LSU's Ja'Marr Chase in 2019 that aided his confidence.

"That was when I felt like I belonged in college going against him. The last matchup that I went against was John Metchie. I would say that is one of the most intense matchups that I have ever been in."

In a game against Alabama, the cornerback recorded four pass deflections in what amounted to one of his best games as a collegiate athlete.

"I go against highly-regarded receivers in each game, every game. I had the same mindset, it was just like playing any other receiver. Jameson was my main target but I knew I had to go against John Metchie too. I had a gameplan and technique for how I was going to play against both of them. I just felt like going against them helped me improve a lot as a player going to the next level."

McCreary explained how he approaches challenges of all size and speed.   

"That's one thing that I love so much about the SEC is that you get to play against all different types of wide receivers. I went against short, quick guys. Tall, big guys. An example, [Arkansas'] Treylon Burks, that is a big overall guy that runs with speed. Coming from Jameson Williams with speed. [Penn State's] Jahan Dotson has great hands and can jump up and get the ball with Ja'Marr Chase. Going against all of those guys, I learned that l I couldn't play them all the same. I had to play with difference techniques and stuff. I feel like they just made me smarter for the game and figuring out their weaknesses and learning the play before it happened. Going against those great guys, Even when I had bad plays, I feel like I can look back and figure out where I messed up at. That just makes me want to study more and become even better as a player and that will help me for the next level.

When watching McCreary, the athletic gifts are evident but there are also intangibles that define every successful corner.

"The difference between a good and great cornerback is all about football IQ and being a smart student of the game, recognizing a play before it happens by looking at the receiver's alignment. There are a lot of cornerbacks that are quick and fast but being mentally smart about the game, that separates cornerbacks a lot," he explained.

"I feel like with me, I am good with that. My last coaching staff, they helped me out a lot with knowing the play before it happened and that's the reason I say I was so great in that Alabama game because I recognized plays before it happened. I am really good with change of direction so that's why I played a little nickel some time too. I feel like that is the difference between a good and a great cornerback...I just feel like having that mindset of just playing the next play knowing that I am going to get called on and just communicating, having that same energy the whole time even when I make a bad play. Even when I make a good plays, don't get too high and think the next play is going to be easy, just stay level-headed and stuff," he finished.

McCreary has been training with Team Exos in Pensacola, Florida. As a senior, he registered 49 tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery, two interceptions and one touchdown. 

He is most often mentioned as one of the draft's top cornerbacks alongside LSU's Derek Stingley Jr., Cincinnati's Ahmad Gardner, Clemson's Andrew Booth Jr., Florida's Kaiir Elam and Washington's Kyler Gordon, Trent McDuffie.