In a wide-ranging interview, Vanderbilt Football alum Tre Herndon gives his thoughts on everything from NBA YoungBoy to his emotions on draft day.
Herndon was the only rookie free agent to make the Jaguars initial 53-man roster. He graduated from Vanderbilt in 2018 with a degree in Sociology. He finished his Vanderbilt career with 122 tackles (2.5 for loss), two interceptions, 20 pass break-ups, and one forced fumble.
Milind Mishra: What are some of the major differences between college and the NFL?
Tre Herndon: The NFL is a business. That’s the biggest difference. You could have injuries or not perform well in college, and your coaches are gonna say “Come on, come on.” If you come in as a freshman, you got four years pretty much guaranteed unless you do something crazy. In the NFL, if you don’t perform, you could be sitting at home with no job in the blink of an eye. Here, there’s a little more on your plate, and consistency is the key. You can’t let yourself relax or you could be jobless the next day.
MM: What has Coach Mason prepared you for that you’ve found valuable as you start your journey in the NFL?
TH: I learned a lot from Coach Mason. One of the biggest blessings he’s given me was putting me at the nickel position. I played outside and inside at Vandy, so I played both corner and nickel. When I got here [Jacksonville] that versatility separated me from other guys who just played one position. Coach Mason giving me that experience with two positions definitely helped me with my journey of making the team here. That was a major blessing.
MM: Do you watch film of a certain guy or try to pattern your game after someone in particular?
TH: Two guys I try to model myself after and watch their film are Buster Skrine from the New York Jets, who’s a former guy here [University of Tennessee at Chattanooga] and Casey Hayward, a Vanderbilt alum. Those are two of my favorite players because they have similar size and height and play inside and outside.
MM: Do you still follow Vanderbilt football?
TH: Oh yeah, I tune in every week man. We got guys up here from a lot of SEC schools so when we play them I talk a lot of trash in the locker room.
MM: What was draft day like?
TH: My agent and some scouts were telling me I was gonna go undrafted so I had that in my mind.
MM: Do you use it as motivation?
TH: Of course. You see guys getting drafting who you think you could compete with, who you’re better than, so when you don’t hear your name on draft day you just gotta prove yourself. I gotta prove the one team that did choose me—which was the Jaguars— that it was the right choice.
I could’ve been a drafted guy but honestly I can say I’m glad [to be undrafted]. I didn’t get drafted. If I was, I don’t know if my mindset would be the same or if I would’ve worked as hard or have the same motivation. Everything happens for a reason and I’m blessed to have gone undrafted and have a more interesting story.
MM: What was the mentality you had entering training camp?
TH: To be honest, of course I had faith in God, but my mentality [was similar] to Vanderbilt when I first got there. We had ups and downs and had to go through a lot of adversity. We didn’t have the newest pads or the newest helmets. [Making the team] was just a thing where I’ve already been in a situation where I’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity so my mindset was “work, work, work” just like I did in college. That’s what got me here.
Some people at Vandy may not know, but some of the football guys in my class called Vandy OTMU — Out The Mud University— because when we first got there we didn’t have all the flashy helmets and all the stuff the guys have now so it’s just experiencing that struggle and those hard times. I didn’t come [to Jacksonville] as a top prospect or have a lot of coaches looking out for me. I had to make my own way just like at Vandy and it was just about taking on that mindset.
MM: How is the heat and humidity of Jacksonville? How are you handling it?
TH: It’s humid but Nashville gives you a pretty good taste of [what it’s like]. It’s a little hotter here but the real difference is when it stops raining [here] it gets really humid. Other than that it’s not too much different from a Nashville summer.
MM: What do you do well and what do you think were some of the reasons you made the Jaguars?
TH: Versatility. Being able to play inside and outside and straight up being a worker. I’m a hard worker. Being a hard worker is what got me here. I’m always running on and off the field, and the coaches see that. I just emphasize the same stuff that Coach Mason said in college. I kept that same mentality and never got comfortable.
MM: What’s it like being member of that vaunted Jaguars secondary?
TH: It’s a blessing to learn from guys that have been pro-bowlers like AJ [Bouye] and Jalen [Ramsey]. They are pretty friendly guys. I get the rookie duties of getting food and stuff sometimes but they’re all good guys and we collaborate pretty well in the room.
MM: Has anyone in particular taken you under their wing or is it more of a collective thing?
TH: It’s pretty even between Jalen and AJ. Both give me the “lil’ bro” treatment. They’re both big brothers to me so if I ever need something or have a question on a certain technique I have no hesitation in going to those guys. It’s pretty cool because I know I’m getting the right information since they’ve put it on tape.
MM: Is it cool to see guys like AJ Bouye and Tashaun Gipson share that same label and position group—being undrafted defensive backs themselves?
TH: Oh yeah. I talked to those guys a lot during training camp as far as asking them ways to make the team and what they did to make the team. They were pretty helpful and I put [their advice] to work and the blessings came September 2nd.
MM: To the fans out there, who do you like to listen to before a game?
TH: I gotta go with NBA YoungBoy. He’s a young legend. He’s gonna be one of the greats in a couple of years—remember that now.