Ask about the major college programs in the state of Florida and immediately fans scream out the obvious.




To listen to them – beaming with pride and hope and promise – you would never think there are other football programs in the state, but there are. You might hear about South Florida from time to time or how Central Florida went on that improbable run last season with Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson. But what about other programs – ones like Florida International.

Say what?

Florida International may not be one of the kings of the college football castle, but they are producing some pretty good players in the past few years, most notably T.Y. Hilton and one defensive back who is turning a few heads while playing with Bortles and Johnson in Jacksonville. It is quite possible by the end of the season the entire NFL will be turning heads to watch Johnathan Cyprien lay the wood on opposing receivers.

He is impressing his own teammates, so much so, they are singing his praises in practice almost every day.

The Jaguars believe it was merely a starting point for a fast and physical defensive back who can cover receivers and athletic tight ends down the field as easily as he can support the run in the box.

"You look at him and he's the type of kid that he can be the best in the NFL," linebacker Paul Posluszny said in a Fox News story. "He has that type of talent and that type of ability and he wants to do things the right way. He wants to be great, so it's exciting to see because, for him, the sky's the limit."

Posluszny was hardly alone in his praise for Cyprien.

"He was pretty good as a rookie last year, so you start to talk about him in terms of some of the better defensive backs in the league," general manager Dave Caldwell said. "When you're 4-12, you don't get much credit. Here's a rookie safety with a hundred tackles, a sack, an interception, played pretty good and nobody even really said anything about him."

To watch Cyprien from day one and then in the final four games of the season, you see an improvement everywhere on the field. And in the lockerroom, even for man of 24 years he is mature enough to want to help his teammates become better as well as take constructive criticism from his older peers.

I tried my best, studied hard," Cyprien said. "But going into a new scheme and being a rookie, there were a lot of adjustments. I definitely had a couple of busts. I would make some plays, but I would have just as many busts. I didn't like that. Every week, my coaches and teammates helped me cut them down and cut them down."

Cyprien ended the season playing his best football. He recorded 10 tackles against Houston in early December and finished the season with six tackles and three passes defended at Indianapolis.

He showed up for the team's offseason program in great shape and hasn't missed a snap with the first-team defense.

"I'm in an upward battle with myself, trying to be the best that I can be," he said. "I'm definitely pushing myself on the field and off the field, to not just be one level better or two levels better, but to be the best as best as I can be coming up. I'm taking on that challenge."

This season, head coach Gus Bradley challenged him to be better, to make adjustments and play a more aggressive style. Cyprien challenged himself as well. If he accomplishes all that is set out in front of him, maybe the Jaguars have more than one Pro Bowl player representing them in Hawaii.

And just maybe Cyprien will keep heads turned, from every team in the league.