The draft is over and Mr. Irrelevant is in the books, but Bill Cowher and Kevin Colbert's work is far from done. The Steelers have had a great deal of success in recent seasons finding free agent contributors from the ranks of the undrafted. And their first signing is already in the books.
Anthony Madison School: Alabama Pos: CB
Ht: 5-8.5 Wt: 183 40: 4.44 Year: 5Sr
Bio: Three-year starter who totaled 44 tackles and broke up six passes last year. Junior numbers included 26/4/14.
Pos: Undersized cornerback who works best facing the action. Fluid pedaling in reverse, smooth transitioning with opponents and positions himself to break up passes. Feisty, not afraid to mix it up and quickly closes to the action.
Neg: Physically beaten down by opponents and loses out in battles. Struggles when his back is to the action.
Analysis: Potentially a dime back in zone coverage or backed off the line of scrimmage, Madison offers a special-teams mentality as well.
When Alabama cornerback Anthony Madison lined up at cornerback, there was little that any opponent could to that would worry him or intimidate. He's experienced far more troubling situations -- and emerged from them triumphantly with stronger perspectives -- than any single player on a football field could create for him on any given day. And he also thrives on that one-on-one competition that is so intricately woven into the team sport of football.
"When I'm at corner and I'm on the field, man-to-man against someone, I feel I can compete against anyone." he said. "I feel like I've already been through the worst, and the worst somebody can do to me is beat me for a touchdown. So that's my mindset when I'm out there playing.
"I don't let something like that affect me on the next play. It's about attitude."
And that attitude comes from both his life experiences and a heart that seems much larger than Madison's 5-foot-9, 180-pound- frame could possibly contain. Chris Stewart at Bama Fever said, "If Anthony Madison's heart were height, he'd be about 7-foot-five."
Madison comes from a family of twelve. His mother had three sets of twins, including Anthony and his twin sister. And though it was a household filled with love and support, it was also rocked by personal tragedy over the years.
"We've had some tough times. I lost my brother," Madison explained. "He had a heart attack at age 24 in October of '92. And then my twin sister passed away in January of '93. So I lost two siblings within a four-month span. And about half a year later I lost a best friend. So I learned a lot as a kid. I learned that life is short and you can't take it for granted. I learned that at a very young age."
The losses could have created a number of different outcomes in Madison's life. But his strong personal faith and the values his family instilled in him helped him make the best out of an awful situation.
"I've had my trials, and at the time it was rough. But I pride myself in hard work and keeping the Lord first in my life," he said. "I could have lost my mind or turned to drugs, or joined a neighborhood gang. But I feel the Lord has kept me from all of that. Out of all my siblings, I'm the first one to go to college, so that's a miracle in itself."
But even Madison's road to Alabama didn't come easily. His grade point average qualified him for admission to the university, but his ACT scores were low. "I came in as a partial qualifier," he said. "I had to sit out my first year, and to gain that year of eligibility back, I had to graduate within four years. By the grace of God, I was able to earn back that extra year and have an opportunity to play during a 10-2 season. So it worked out great."
Madison was initially doubted in the classroom, but through discipline and hard work had already earned his degree before the 2005 season. Others doubted him on the football field at the cornerback position because of his 5-foot-9 height.
"My entire career at Alabama, I tried to show it's all about the size of the heart of the person and their ability," Madison said.
His life experiences have helped make Anthony Madison the player he is today. He keeps a balanced perspective on the field that some other players can't fathom. And that gives him a decided edge in the NFL Draft process as teams look at the player as a whole, not just his pure athleticism.
"There's nothing like going out there on Saturdays or Sundays and having a chance to compete against someone you haven't played against all year," he said. "And you only get to play them once. And you know what he's going to do, but you don't really know what he's going to do. And you're lined up man-to-man with him. To me, it's just a rush to go out there and compete against someone like that. I guess I look at the game a little bit differently than others to a certain degree. It's the ultimate team sport and I just love it."
And Madison's durability is another huge plus as NFL teams evaluate who they will select next weekend. A three-year starter, he had a 37-game consecutive starting streak, despite breaking his wrist a few weeks into his junior year.
"I pride myself in being out there with my teammates," he said with conviction.
Madison snared four of his five career interceptions during his junior year. But he believes he would have ended up with eight if he hadn't been battling that broken wrist.
"I dropped about four passes, but I deflected 14," he said.
After that, Madison didn't see as many passes tossed his way his senior year. "Other than the Texas Tech game, they were throwing another way or throwing very short, intermediate passes. And teams started running on us a lot. We had three seniors in the secondary and another great corner in there with us."
The scrappy corner also adds great value with his special teams play. He continued to contribute his talent to Alabama's special teams even as a starter. He has experience as a gunner on punt coverage, and has also played on the kickoff and punt return units.
"My career here has been great," he said. "I've met a lot of people, made a lot of friends. It's been amazing. I'm very blessed and I don't take anything for granted."
Madison capped off that career with an excellent Pro Day showing at Alabama. It was a day where he admittedly arrived with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
"Not to say anything bad about the people who put together the Combine, but I thought I should have been invited. So I felt I had a lot to prove and I was fortunate enough to go out there and put on a good showing.
"It was a great day. I ran well, had a fast 40. Some teams had me clocked between a 4.34 to a 4.40. I bench pressed fourteen times, had a 38 1/2 inch vertical jump, I did great in my position drills. Everything went just the way it was supposed to."
More than half a dozen teams have been showing active interest in Madison, and with good reason. With fifty games of experience, 37 consecutive starts, 140 tackles 5 interceptions and 30 passes broken up, Madison has the numbers to earn a spot in this year's draft selection process. And the good news for the team that selects him is that he has the determination and attitude to take full advantage of that opportunity.
So this summer, challenged by yet another trial in his life as he works against veterans in a pro training camp, Madison will use all that he's learned so far in life. He'll maintain his composure, his faith, and will use his work ethic and passion for the game to come out of yet another trial with a triumph, laying claim to an NFL roster spot this fall.