By Bill Woodward
GREENVILLE, NC October 19, 2013 - East Carolina senior safety Damon Magazu has had a nose for the football lately.
Magazu intercepted a pass for the third-straight game in Saturday’s 55-14 rout of Southern Miss. It’s about making plays when the opportunity is there, the three-year starter said.
“When the play comes to you, you just have to make it,” said Magazu, who picked off a Nick Mullens pass in the second quarter. “If you try to force plays, that is when you mess up or give up the big play.
ECU FOOTBALL TICKETS
“As long as everyone is doing their part and the play comes to you, you have to make it. It’s not just the (defensive back) making the play. It’s the defensive line putting pressure on the quarterback and the linebackers doing their job.”
It’s not totally by chance, either. Pregame preparation helps lead to being in the right spot to take advantage when the quarterback makes a mistake.
“I think it’s kind of reading body language and reading route combinations and that comes earlier in the week,” Magazu said. “The defensive coaches do a great job with that. They give us all kinds of route combinations, so if you see one thing happen, you know what’s going to happen next.
“It’s just reading that with the body lean of the receiver and reading the quarterback. If you can do all that at one time without staring at one person, it’s going to help a lot. I think (defensive coordinator) Coach (Rick) Smith has done a great job with teaching us how to do that.”
Magazu had six interceptions in his first three seasons with the Pirates. This year, he has three in the first seven games.
“Mags has made plays from high school on,” ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said of the former Charlotte Providence High School star. “Mags could play wide receiver here. He reminds me of Wes Welker because Wes could play defensive back too. They are both smart football players.”
Magazu smiled when told of the comparison to Welker, the 5-foot-9 NFL star who has been a perennial All-Pro and led the league in receptions in 2007, 2009 and 2011 despite his stature.
“Maybe it’s about stature, I guess,” said Magazu, who is 5 feet 11. “I think Welker might be a little bit better with the ball skills than me. I got tackled by the quarterback (after Saturday’s interception). I was a little bit upset about that. I got a little bit of grief from my teammates about that.
“But I’ll take that comparison any day. He is a great athlete.”
Like Welker, there is more to Magazu than the physical side of the game, McNeill said.
“People underestimate Mags, which is a mistake,” McNeill said. “It is like mistaking someone’s kindness for weakness. He has that competitive desire and understands the game. He’s smart and savvy.
“The first time (he makes an interception), it might be luck. The second time he does it, it might be luck. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth time, it’s not luck.”
For Magazu, the interceptions are fun. But the impact of the play on the game is more important than the individual achievement.
“It kind of brings the other offense down,” he said. “Interceptions, fumbles, a fourth-down stop, that is diminishing for the other offense. Any time we can do that, it’s huge.”