GLENDALE, Ariz. — For the past five months, as the debates about who will be in the Arizona Cardinals’ rotation at right cornerback raged on, one name was often left out.
Anytime the right cornerback battle was discussed, Ronald Zamort was rarely, if ever mentioned. That’s not hyperbole. On paper, it’s been a two-man race between Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams. But when Zamort took the field at right cornerback with the first-team defense Friday as an injured Bethel watched from the sideline, the conversation about right cornerback quickly changed.
The undrafted Zamort had scaled the depth chart, leaping Williams in the process.
“[Read] whatever you want to read into it,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s playing with the first team instead of Brandon.”
To some degree, Zamort’s appearance with the first team shouldn’t be a surprise.
Cornerback Ronald Zamort, who made a play to make the team as an undrafted free agent last season, is having “a great camp,” said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. Matt York/AP
Arians said a decision whether to keep Zamort on the 53-man roster last year “went right to the wire.” Zamort was released during final cuts and returned home to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he attended Western Michigan University. The former criminal justice major got a job as a counselor at a local detention center and spent the next three months working with kids until the Cardinals called again on Dec. 20, signing him to their practice squad for the rest of the season. He was then signed to a futures contract on Jan. 3.
That led him to taking first-team reps Friday.
“It means a lot,” Zamort said. “It’s a humbling experience just to be out there competing day in and day out.”
Zamort’s ascent has been due in part to simple improvement.
“Ronnie’s having a hell of a camp,” Arians said. “He had a good camp last year, went right to the wire. He’s better outside. He was more of a nickel last year. But he’s really worked himself into the outside rotation and is really solid. He’s having a great camp.”
Zamort said he left Arizona last year with improved technique, a better knowledge of how to play against bigger receivers and more confidence.
“I put myself in better positions and learned the defense,” Zamort said.
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When Zamort returned to the desert last December, he was a better man from his experience at the detention center. He listened to their stories, which often included adversity. And they listened to his. He could tell his presence “was a blessing to them.”
“It was very humbling,” he said. “It was a great experience, just to go out there and see how kids react, see if I could drop a positive value in their life.”
As the 25-year-old Zamort continues to prepare for first-team reps as long as Bethel is out with a hyperextended knee, he’s not paying attention to the battle at right cornerback that he’s crashed.
That shouldn’t be surprising. He didn’t even know he wasn’t part of the conversation.
“I ain’t even know y’all were talking, honestly,” he said.