The path was there for Desmond Trufant, should he choose to follow it.
Star at defensive back for Wilson High in Tacoma, Wash. Do the same thing at Washington State University before striding on to the stage at the NFL draft as a top pick.
That was the way his brother Marcus did it, after all. Marcus was an All-American at Washington State and was an NFL Pro Bowl selection with the Seahawks when Desmond was a high school sophomore.
Desmond starred at Woodrow High, too. He frequently visited Marcus at Washington State’s Pullman campus and for a long time figured he would follow Marcus there.
“But when it was time, I wanted to make my own decision and become my own man so I chose Washington,” Desmond said.
It was the first major indication that Desmond wasn’t just going to be Marcus and Isaiah Trufant’s little brother — Desmond said his decision to play cornerback was “a little bit” influenced by his brothers but, more than that, “I just love locking people down.”
It was fine with Marcus Trufant, 32, that his little brother decided to play for his alma mater’s in-state rival.
“He chose to stay on the west side (of the state) and do his own thing and clear his own path,” Marcus said. “I thought that was good. He wanted to make a name for himself and not be riding anybody’s coattails. I think that showed heart.”
Now Desmond’s path is merging with Marcus’ again. The Falcons selected Desmond with the No. 22 overall pick in the draft on Thursday, 10 years and one day after the Seahawks drafted Marcus with the No. 11 overall pick.
Once Desmond makes his Falcons debut, all three of Lloyd and Constance Trufant’s sons will have played in the NFL. Isaiah, 30, played 23 games for the Jets over the past three seasons. Marcus is a free agent but hopes to play his 11th season in 2013.
According to Pro Football Hall of Fame records, 25 trios of brothers have played in the NFL and eight of those sets of brothers were in the league at the same time.
“Having two younger brothers in the league at the same time as me, it’s something you dream about as kids,” Marcus Trufant said. “You never really know it could happen and for it to be coming to life, it’s crazy.”
Desmond Trufant was just 8 years old when Marcus left home to play for Washington State. Two years later, Isaiah went to Eastern Washington. Both brothers were starting their professional careers before Desmond was out of high school.
Desmond said his brothers are “a big influence on me” in spite of the age gap. He said having big brothers who were successful football players has been a bonus, not a burden.
“I’ve been watching them since I was a young kid,” Desmond said. “They’ve had success all through high school and college and the NFL. I’ve been watching them, taking notes and studying them. We’re a tight group. Nothing will separate us.”
Desmond saw his brothers take different routes to the NFL.
Marcus Trufant was the second defensive back selected in the 2003 draft. He starred for Seattle from his rookie season until moving to a reserve role the past two seasons.
After not being selected in the 2006 draft, Isaiah played in the Arena Football League and the United Football League. He made his pro debut in the final game of the 2010 season for the Jets and then was cut and signed twice more before sticking with the Jets.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Desmond already has a good understanding of “what it takes to be a consummate pro” and attributes that to his family background.
“He’s been coming to my games for a long time so he’s used to being around the atmosphere,” Marcus Trufant said. “It’s all about working on your craft at all times, on and off the field. It’s about carrying yourself like a pro. It’s not high school or college anymore.”
When Keith Heyward joined Washington’s staff as a defensive backs coach last year, he said Desmond Trufant’s physical ability and intelligence were apparent. But he said Trufant was playing “too timid and hesitant” and so he encouraged him to play more freely.
Before last season, Desmond Trufant was projected to be selected in the middle rounds of the draft. He moved up draft boards after a senior season in which he was a team captain and earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors.
Heyward said Trufant diligently studies finer points of playing cornerback, work habits he believes were forged in part by watching his brothers play football.
“I think he embraces that bloodline of all of them being at the same position and playing in league, but at the same time he’s going to be his own man,” Heyward said. “He takes a lot of pride and definitely doesn’t want to just be known as the little brother.”