Southward Brings Versatility, Toughness to Defensive Backs

The plan was to add toughness in this year’s draft. In the words of general manager Thomas Dimitroff: the Falcons were looking for players with “grit”. One way to prove your grit is by never missing a game and that’s a claim Falcons third-round draft pick Dezmen Southward can make.

During his five years at Wisconsin (redshirted as a freshman), Southward played in 54 games, a school record, and started 30 of them, including 28 straight over his final two seasons. For the 6-foot-2, 210-pound defensive back, it’s nothing special, just how you’re supposed to play the game.

“Part of being a football player in general is being tough,” Southward said Friday night. “Everybody’s going to play with some nicks and bruises. Things are going to hurt, but I pride myself on being out there every single day, every single snap with my team. That’s something I truly plan on continuing at the next level. It’s something you have to do if you want to be a good player. Good players don’t play half the game, they play every snap they can possibly play.”

Southward is listed as a safety, but he spent plenty of time playing cornerback as well. He served as Wisconsin’s third cornerback during his senior season and played both positions during his week of practice at the Senior Bowl with the Falcons.

“I did it about 80-85 percent of the game,” Southward said. “It’s something I’m glad to add to my repertoire. I understand I have to continue to get better at that, but it shows my versatility.”

Southward ended his career with 152 tackles, four fumbles, two interceptions and 11 passes broken up.