Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie takes an interception to the house for Tennessee State. He also was an Ohio Valley Conference champion sprinter, long-jumper and high-jumper. (Photo courtesy of TSU Athletics)

SUPER BOWL COUNTDOWN | 39: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie laments close call in Super Bowl XLIII

Counting down the weekdays to Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 in Houston, we look back at the 50 greatest Super Bowl competitors from the ASN family of schools as calculated one year ago. Today: 39.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has had two opportunities to win a Super Bowl ring. One fell inches — or to be more specific, toes — short. In the other, he and his team barely stood a chance.

One of the NFL’s better cornerbacks, he has had a well-traveled career. A first-round draft choice out of Tennessee State in 2008, he began his career with the Arizona Cardinals. He has also played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos and currently with the New York Giants.

Rodgers-Cromartie was a rookie cornerback with the Cardinals’ team that lost to Pittsburgh 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Fla. He was within spitting distance of wide receiver Santonio Holmes, whose toe-dragging catch from Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline of the end zone was the winning touchdown.

Five years later, Rodgers-Cromartie and his mates in Denver seemed stuck in neutral as the Seattle Seahawks overwhelmed the Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Both results were disappointing, but the loss to Pittsburgh was more painful. He told the New York Post’s Steve Serby in Nov. 2014 the fact that they came so close against the Steelers was harder to take than a blowout loss.

“Not to the point where it beats me up,” Rodgers-Cromartie said in an ESPN story before Super Bowl XLVIII, “but just to the point that we were that close to getting a ring. I do tend to think about it a lot. Any time the Super Bowl comes back around, they tend to show that play to this day. You sit there, look at it and think, ‘I was almost there.’ You can’t dwell on it. (That was) the main thing I learned from that game.”

Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t get where he is by dwelling on the negative. Lightly recruited after a prep career in which he attended several high schools in Florida, he received only one scholarship offer — to Tennessee State, where his father knew one of the coaches.

Rodgers-Cromartie began to fill out physically — he is 6-2 and 208 pounds — and quickly established himself as a superb athlete with good cover skills. He also was an Ohio Valley Conference champion sprinter, long-jumper and high-jumper, competing part-time with the track team. He impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Combine, where he clocked a 4.29-second 40-yard dash. The Cardinals drafted him with the 16th pick.

“I always had to go through every obstacle,” he told the New York Post. “Coming out of high school, I was told I was too small, didn’t have no scholarships. Even coming out of a small school college, told I don’t play competition enough to be in the NFL … just that doubt people have. It’s like every hurdle they put in front of me, I’m just jumping, jumping, jumping.”

Rodgers-Cromartie recorded five tackles and two passes defended in the Super Bowl versus Pittsburgh. He had one tackle against Seattle, though much of the action was on the other side of the field. The Seahawks scored on offense, defense and special teams and led 36-0 before the Broncos scored.

“We’ve got to give credit to Seattle, you could tell they wanted it way more than us,” he told the Denver Post after the game. “They were not going to take a loss. They definitely came out and punched us around.”

Dave Fairbank is a freelance writer based in Kill Devil Hills, N.C.

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