Ahkello Witherspoon could have been in medical school this fall. Instead, he's having a career year with the Los Angeles Rams at age 28.
After playing his rookie contract out in San Francisco, Witherspoon signed with Seattle, only to be traded to Pittsburgh for 2021 and an injury-plagued 2022 campaign. He played just four contests for the Steelers last season before landing on injured reserve.
His football future was very much in doubt after being released in May.
"I was extremely concerned, and I have no problem saying it – just coming off the injury that I had last year, a pretty bad hamstring," the Sacramento native told us on a Thanksgiving edition of Rams Revealed. "That was very stressful, just wondering if I could ever run again at the clip that I had. Would I have an opportunity to play the game I love?"
L.A. was in the market for a lengthy, veteran corner to complement their youthful secondary. The Rams saw Witherspoon as a low risk, high reward signing going into training camp. Despite suffering a hand injury right at the outset of practice in Irvine, the former Colorado Buff emerged as a starter. Now Witherspoon leads the Rams in takeaways with two interceptions and a fumble recovery at the midway point.
In fact, those two picks represent the plays he's most proud of as a professional.
"I think the one on (Bengals receiver Tyler) Boyd is my best play as a pro," Witherspoon said of his Week 3 takeaway on Monday Night Football.
"And the toe-tap (in the end zone against the Eagles) was my favorite. Just because there was so much preparation into that play, as well as history of giving up a go-ball to (Philadelphia receiver A.J.) Brown last year. So I was coming in knowing exactly how they were going to attack me, how I was going to set it up, and then try to get the pick. For that to all come together was very rewarding."
The Rams are coming off a home win over the Seattle Seahawks to climb to 4-6, and in that victory, the corner across the field from Witherspoon collected his first interception. The latest chapter in Derion Kendrick's tumultuous 2023 was a return to the starting lineup and what head coach Sean McVay called his best game yet.
Having been through the trials and tribulations of life as a cornerback in the NFL, Witherspoon's mentorship has proven to be a valuable resource in riding out those peaks and valleys.
"That's what I'm able to give him is just my learning experience," Witherspoon said of Kendrick. "And just letting him know that there's a way to endure these types of times, and it's by being committed and working hard and never doubting yourself, questioning yourself. And he has that naturally, but it's just good to be reminded."
Next up for the Rams, the 2-9 Arizona Cardinals, Sunday in Glendale. As we anticipate Week 12 and celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, we invite you to get to know Witherspoon even better on Rams Revealed. We discuss his family roots in Los Angeles and Inglewood, why the Rams were a good fit for his unconventional approach, his not-so-hidden musical gifts, and of course, set a meal plan for this week's feast.
The show is available each week throughout the season on YouTube, as well as your preferred podcast provider.