The magnifying glass on the first of the New Orleans Saints' two first-round draft picks has turned into a spotlight, and cornerback Marshon Lattimore hasn't wilted one bit.
In fact, Lattimore, the No. 11 overall pick (offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk was the Saints' second first-rounder, at No. 32) and a starter from the season opener, has thrived under the expectations and responsibilities – so much so that Thursday, he was announced as the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for October.
Lattimore had two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 16 tackles (12 solo), five passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery as the Saints (5-2) went 4-0 during the month.
"It means a lot," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and act like I don't recognize what's going on. I love getting recognition for my play, but I would enjoy getting a Super Bowl over anything. We've got to keep getting better as a team, as a unit, as a defensive back unit, making sure we come out with some wins."
New Orleans is on a five-game winning streak in which the defense has stood out, allowing just three touchdown passes, 13.2 points and 158.8 net passing yards per game, while recording 15 sacks and nine interceptions (as many interceptions as the '16 and '15 teams each had during their 16-game seasons).
Lattimore has been a prominent contributor during the run.
"It's moving fast, but I want to be great," Lattimore said. "I'm going to go out there and play for my team, do anything I can to help us win. This is a big deal for me. I've just got to keep it going.
"I've progressed a lot, just learning about the defense more and more each week, each day. A lot of people have been helping like (safeties) Vonn (Bell), Rafael Bush and just people like that, helping from the safety perspective, seeing things. I think that helped me become a better player so far."
It hasn't hurt that for a portion of his college career at Ohio State, and for his NFL career in New Orleans, that Thomas has had to match wits, techniques and physical ability against receiver Michael Thomas, the Saints' second-round pick last year who was on every All-Rookie team after setting franchise rookie records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
"I'm not surprised at all," Thomas said. "He's just reaping the benefits of hard work and staying disciplined and just doing his job, ultimately. He has really good technique and I feel he knows how to play the position real well. And he's only getting better.
"He's pretty good at doing his job and also, he likes the football. He's trying to get a pick, or put his hands on the football, or disrupt the receivers. He's a physical guy, he's a competitor. He has all the tools you want in a corner.
"Being around him for multiple years and knowing him and kind of growing up with him, he's more open. But he's just a quiet guy. He'll never let it go to his head. He always wants that top spot and he's going to keep working until he gets there."
He's on the right path. Lattimore is the first Saints rookie to be named Rookie of the Month since defensive end Darren Howard twice was honored in 2000, and the first Saints rookie to win the award since running back Reggie Bush in 2006.
"I just have to be consistent and keep it going," Lattimore said. "This is halfway through the season, we've got a lot more football to play. I just have to keep it going, get better each week."