Donning a San Diego State jersey was a lifelong goal accomplished for Noah Tumblin. But it also represented one of the most challenging obstacles of his life.
Tumblin had two FBS offers coming out of Mira Mesa High School in San Diego, where he played quarterback. He could’ve gone to BYU, or he had the option of attending San Diego State – but the scholarship offer there was for a cornerback.
Tumblin had never played defense. He figured he could make it work, but going from the one to constantly making plays to being isolated out on defense and hardly seeing the field his first two years wasn’t an easy transition.
“Just not feeling like the confident quarterback I was at corner, that was definitely the hardest part,” Tumblin told HERO Sports. “I knew I was good enough. I just had to keep working on it.”
He proved he was more than good enough. He became an All-Mountain West second teamer in 2023 and has hopes of being picked in the NFL Draft in April.
Albert Lemon, Tumblin’s high school teammate, said he continues to be impressed, but not shocked, by the feats Tumblin has accomplished.
“From us playing youth football together to seeing him get ready for the NFL Draft,” Lemon said, “is actually crazy.”
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Noah Tumblin’s Cornerback Transition
During Tumblin’s recruiting process, San Diego State coaches told him they only had a scholarship available at cornerback. If he wanted it, he could have it. So he told himself he would make it work.
Lemon has known Tumblin since they were in elementary school and considers him one of his best friends. And after knowing him for so long, and playing alongside him when Tumblin was his quarterback, Lemon said he was taken aback when Tumblin chose to move to cornerback, even if it was for his hometown team.
But at the same time, he didn’t doubt Tumblin. Lemon noted Tumblin is one of the best basketball players he’s ever competed with, highlighting his overall athleticism.
“When he chose defense, I was a little surprised because quarterbacks, they don’t hit,” Lemon said with a laugh. “Quarterbacks don’t usually hit, but he came out and he did his thing, and he showed that he wasn’t scared. And he showed he’s an athlete. And the corner position is probably the most athletic on the field.”
Tumblin admitted to struggling early in his career, though. He redshirted in 2019 and played in seven games mostly on special teams the following season.
Tumblin said playing quarterback in high school, even when he had to learn to dissect defenses and find weaknesses, didn’t really prepare him for life as a cornerback.
“Obviously you know how defenses are running stuff, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “When you’re one-on-one press man, all of that, the defense goes out the window. Can you actually stop the person in front of you?
“I just kept sticking to it and working hard, and eventually it paid off.”
The next year, he earned a spot as a starter and totaled 32 tackles and seven pass breakups, which was top 10 in the Mountain West.
In 2022, he earned some all-conference recognition, recording 11 tackles, two pass breakups, and an interception as he started five of the 13 games he played in.
Tumblin said the most difficult aspect of the position is getting beat, giving up a reception, and not losing confidence.
“San Diego State, it’s a really blue-collar culture, and when you get there you would know they want you to not only be a really good football player but a good man off the field, too. And they also preach being tough,” Tumblin said. “And I feel like, going to the next level, toughness is a major factor. So I feel like San Diego State definitely was a good school to help prepare me for the next level.”
Tumblin eventually grew more comfortable as a defender. He implemented lessons from his coaches – use his length to his advantage, start plays lower so he has better leverage – and had a stellar campaign in 2023.
Tumblin led the Mountain West and was top 20 in the country with 14 total passes defended and 12 pass breakups. He added 36 tackles and two interceptions.
Tumblin started growing more comfortable pressing wide receivers at the line of scrimmage more often, and he said that helped him play at a higher level.
Pro scouts undoubtedly took note of that ability. And he felt his final collegiate season cemented his case for NFL teams to pick him.
“I feel like for me, I went out strong,” Tumblin said. “I feel like I showed this is what I can do.”
Noah Tumblin’s NFL Hopes
Tumblin is among HERO Sports’ top Mountain West prospects this year, and he’s been graded as highly as a sixth-round pick. He doesn’t rule out the possibility of being drafted if he tests well.
He’s been preparing since the season ended at a facility in south Florida where Tayler Hawkins, a former San Diego State star and current member of the San Francisco 49ers, has worked out at. Tumblin intends on improving his speed, working on his technique through drills and exercises he hasn’t done before, as scouts have told him that would help him the most.
Tumblin has also been watching more pro tape than ever before, focusing on one-on-one matchups and imagining himself playing cornerback against some of the league’s best. He’s also watching NFL documentaries and paying attention to what life is like for rookies.
Tumblin feels ready for this moment in part because of the critical coaching he received at San Diego State. Lemon continues to be astounded by his high school teammate’s successes and how close he is to the NFL.
But considering the athlete and competitor he is, Lemon also isn’t all that surprised.
“If he gets a chance just like he did in school,” Lemon said, “he can take it and run with it.”