Talk, Talk Jayhawk
The rest of the nation might be at a loss for words to explain Kansas' first 9-0 start in 99 years, but not do-it-all cornerstone Aqib Talib, who'll tell you all day long that he saw a big year coming
Posted: Tuesday November 6, 2007 1:28PM; Updated: Tuesday November 6, 2007 1:28PM
Aqib talib would like to talk to you. It doesn't matter who you are -- a fellow defensive back in need of a confidence boost, an opposing receiver who has been put on notice that receptions will be in short supply against him, or perhaps a complete stranger curious about the pronunciation of his name. (It rhymes: ah-KEEB tah-LEEB.) It doesn't even matter if you can't talk back, like his four-month-old daughter, Kiara. Talib, Kansas' junior cornerback-wideout-chatterbox, craves conversation, even when it's one-sided, as much as he does oxygen, which he expends a great deal of when he gets on a verbal roll. "I've got to talk," he says.
"Got to. No matter what I'm doing, I'm talking while I do it. It keeps me alive, keeps my blood flowing. That's just me, it's who I am. I'm a talker."
He is also one of the finest defensive backs in the country, a shutdown corner who can't shut up. Talib has three interceptions -- one of which he returned 100 yards for a touchdown against Florida International -- and that total would almost certainly be higher if opponents, after a 2006 season in which Talib picked off six passes and broke up 22 others, weren't so judicious about throwing in his direction. He has proven so adept at getting his hands on the ball that Kansas coach Mark Mangino occasionally sends him out to do it on offense, often with spectacular results. Talib's only reception last year went for a 42-yard touchdown, and he has averaged 22.8 yards per reception and scored four times on his eight catches this season. "He would be one of the top receivers in the country if we used him there all the time," says Mangino.
His versatility is reminiscent of other cornerbacks who dabbled in pass catching, including Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson and Talib's idol, Deion Sanders, whom he admires for his skills, both in coverage and in conversation. It's no coincidence that Talib's patter is a sort of Prime Time-lite with a hint of Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour movies. "He was the best at what he did, and he didn't mind letting people know about it," Talib says of Sanders. "He backed up everything he said, and you have to respect that. I'm still hoping one day he'll hear about me and maybe give me some tips. That would be the best, if Prime Time called me up some time." The cellphone charges on that sure-to-be marathon chat would be mind-boggling.
Although he isn't picky about topics of discussion, Talib is especially happy to hold forth on the once lowly Jayhawks' rise to No. 4 in the BCS standings and their unbeaten record, which improved to 9-0 with a 76-39 humiliation of Nebraska last Saturday. Kansas hasn't been undefeated this late in the season in 99 years, and the last time the Jayhawks won as many as nine games was in 1995. Talib, a lightly recruited prospect who landed in Lawrence because he saw an opportunity to play early on, predicted during the preseason that his team would match that nine-win total this year, but it turns out he was aiming a bit low. "I was just throwing a number out there to let people know this wasn't the same old Kansas," he says. "What we're doing doesn't surprise me."