Noah Igbinoghene

Auburn corner Noah Igbinoghene adjusts his chinstrap during the Tigers' game against Purdue on Dec. 28 in Nashville, Tenn. (Emily Enfinger/For the O-A News)

Anyone who’s watched Noah Igbinoghene out on the football field has seen his speed.

Anyone who has heard that both his parents are Olympic track athletes will know just where he got that quickness from.

But after all the kickoff returns for touchdowns and the blazing 40-yard dashes, his most impressive feat yet might be how fast he switched from a freshman wide receiver to first-round NFL cornerback.

He might have done that in record time.

“The fact that he only played two years of corner and then got drafted in the first round is really unbelievable,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn summed it up on Friday.

Igbinoghene was picked No. 30 overall by the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night late in the first round of the all-remote NFL Draft, cashing in on a gamble after leaving school early as a junior — and completing an impressive trajectory for the rising talent who was recruited to Auburn to play receiver and a short collegiate career later is suddenly a coveted NFL prospect.

His teammate Derrick Brown was picked No. 7 overall by the Carolina Panthers earlier in the night, giving Auburn two first-round draft picks for the first time since 2014, before the draft rolled on with the second and third rounds on Friday night.

“It was really a special night,” Malzahn said Friday afternoon on a Zoom call with reporters.

Igbinoghene would say the same, seen Thursday night overcome by emotion in the moment he got picked on video released by the Dolphins on social media.

“Crime loves you, man. Crime’s my man,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said to Igbinoghene on the phone, speaking of Auburn defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff — who takes his nickname from ‘McGruff the Crime Dog.’

“You had a great year,” Grier went on, as family jumped all around Igbinoghene in his home on the other end of the line. “We love your play style and we think you’re a great fit for us, so we’re happy to make you a Miami Dolphin, man.”

In the same way, Malzahn during his recap of the first round credited McGriff for preparing Igbinoghene for the next level, along with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, while also pointing to Igbinoghene’s press play style that he pairs with his athletic ability. Malzahn figures that impressed plenty of scouts and has him ready for the next level.

Yes, Igbinoghene flashes plenty of ability with his legs that may have been helped by his parent’s genes, but the most impressive of his switch from offense to defense may well have come between his ears.

“He played a backup role as an offensive player his freshman year and I think he would have been an offensive player, too. We had a need and he just wanted to play,” Malzahn said, going back to the beginning. “I really feel like the fact that he was an offensive player really helped him on the defensive side of the football by understanding how offenses think, splits, down and distance, situations. I know he really helped some of the other defensive players with that.

“The fact that, our scheme, we play so much press and bump-and-run man, it gives NFL teams a true evaluation of what the next level looks like with the press man that they play,” he added.

Igbinoghene contributed mostly on kick returns as a freshman in 2017 before moving to defense and becoming a standout at cornerback in 2018 and 2019, while also competing for Auburn’s track team. He returned 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 before the triple jumper took that leap of faith toward the next level.

Online sports contract tracker Spotrac projects that being the No. 30 overall pick will net Igbinoghene a contract worth at least $11.2 million.

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