David Amerson hasn't always been a football player. In fact, he grew up preferring to make plays on the hardwood.
He played football in middle school, but as a freshman and sophomore at Greensboro (NC) Dudley High School he focused exclusively on basketball. However, the playing time wasn't there in basketball, and Dudley head football coach Steve Davis had recognized Amerson's ability as a middle-schooler.
“I pulled him to the side one morning and said, ‘Two years ago when you first came to Dudley, you told me a reason why you weren’t going to play football: what did you say?’” Davis said. “He said, ‘I felt like I wasn’t going to get any playing time.’ I said ‘Well, I’ve watched you two years on the basketball team…’ He said ‘Coach, I know what you’re saying, I’ll be out there this spring.’”
Amerson did come out that spring, and had a breakout junior season for Dudley, totaling 55 tackles and nine interceptions.
At 6-foot-3, and 180-pounds, that production led to early scholarship offers from programs such as NC State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Clemson, and Amerson quickly became one of the state's top recruits in the 2010 class.
“In middle school, I was a good football player; so I knew it was still in me,” Amerson said. “But I was surprised by the recruiting attention. It’s shocking to me. I have to really thank Coach [Steve] Davis.”
He committed to NC State during his senior season, and he spent the year rotating between cornerback and free safety for Dudley.
After enrolling at NC State in 2010, the Wolfpack put Amerson at cornerback and left him there. He made strides in fall camp, impressing the coaches with his aggressiveness in run support and cover skills.
Labeled arguably the "biggest surprise on the team" by head coach Tom O'Brien last fall, Amerson improved as the season progressed, and he started nine games at boundary cornerback. He led the team in tackles (8) in the victory over Boston College, and notched seven in the wins over Florida State and West Virginia.
Overall, he tallied 57 tackles and a forced fumble, and he was named the starter at field cornerback coming out of spring practice.
This year he has emerged into arguably State's top playmaker defensively. Through six games, Amerson has totaled 30 tackles and four pass breakups, and his six interceptions lead the ACC and rank No. 1 nationally.
According to Amerson, he is playing field cornerback with the mentality of a ball-hawking safety, and he believes the Pack's zone scheme allows him the freedom play that way.
"[Field cornerback] is kind of like safety a little bit," he said. "You have your zone and you see the routes. You pick and choose which one you're going to play.
"I think being more familiar with the scheme of the defense and reading routes has really helped me out this year. It allows me to play faster, especially in zone coverage."
Defensive coordinator Mike Archer has seen noticeable improvement from Amerson and acknowledges just how important he has been for the Wolfpack's defense this year.
"David has made some big plays for us," said Archer. "Obviously, when you have six interceptions. I don't know if that's people picking on him, but he's making a lot of plays.
"People have attacked him, he's been beat on some double moves, but the turnovers have helped us immensely. Obviously it has kept us in games and helped us win games."
Amerson's latest interception was a very important for the Wolfpack. Against Central Michigan, the Chips were driving late in the fourth quarter with a ton of momentum after recovering an onside kick. They trailed by two touchdowns, but had moved to Pack's 11-yard line. Quarterback Ryan Radcliff lofted a pass into the endzone, but Amerson dropped into his zone to pick off the pass, essentially sealing the win for the Wolfpack.
"They ran a star route," Amerson said of the play. "We went over that all week in practice. I acted like I was jumping the flat route because they had a back leak out into the flat, and then I ran back to the seven and it was thrown there. I just made a play."
"David is just a really good player," said Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien. "He's a good athlete, and he's a good instinctual football player. I think the more that he plays, you know he's only into his second year. Probably halfway through last year, we played him in the boundary rolled up. Basically he was a flat defender. Now he's close tie man-to-man defender out there on the field, even though we play mostly zone.
"But he's out there on an island and really done a nice job. He's gotten better at the double move which caught him early in the year, so he's progressing."
Amerson admits that he has another challenge this week against Virginia, a team that is coming off a huge home win over Georgia Tech. The Cavaliers are led by senior wide receiver Kris Burd, who has tallied 13 receptions for 403 yards this year.
"I know No. 18 is real good," Amerson said. "Their receivers, they get out of their cuts real good. We've definitely got to be on our feet and go out there and make plays. That's all there is to it."
Perhaps the biggest question is, will teams keep throwing at Amerson? He doesn't sound too concerned with it.
"I don't know how the offenses are going to play. I just go out and play."