How a DM predicted the pairing of two Panthers' draft picks

Troy Pride Senior Bowl

The Instagram comment came less than 10 minutes after the Panthers used their fourth-round pick on cornerback Troy Pride Jr. Saturday afternoon:

insta_pride_chinn

"You called this," safety Jeremy Chinn wrote, followed by a mind-blown emoji and "whassup teammate?"

The Panthers had drafted Chinn on Friday night, trading up to get him at the end of the second round. Fifteen hours later, they took Pride.

So what's this about Pride calling it? Well, he apparently spoke the pairing into existence.

Chinn and Pride met in January at Michael Johnson Performance in Dallas while they were training during the pre-draft process. Pride said the first thing he learned about Chinn was that he went to Southern Illinois — an FCS school Pride hadn't exactly heard of previously.

"I asked him where that was, first of all," Pride said with a laugh. "And then, we just started to chop it up."

The pair then ended up on the North squad at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. There, they began to learn about each other's games.

"Once I saw him on the field moving around, once you see a guy who's like 6-foot-3, 220, 230 and can run with anybody, can take on blocks, knock anybody out, and then is smart enough to understand the entire game of football — you just know that he's a special player," Pride said.

Chinn noted that even in the beginning stages of knowing one another, they formed a solid partnership.

"Our communication was great back at the Senior Bowl," Chinn said.

From there, the duo went back to Dallas to continue training for the Combine, though they split up once March hit and before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down training centers and pro days across America. But Chinn left the kind of impression on Pride that doesn't just go away from a distance.

With Pride back home in South Carolina and Chinn in Indiana, the cornerback slid into the safety's DMs in early April to start putting out a prediction into the universe.

"The crazy thing is, he DM'd me and he said, "Hey, let's go to the same team,'" Chinn said. "I was like, 'Alright, where are we going?' He said, 'I don't know, let's just do it.'"

pride-DM_web

Pride wasn't just sending that kind of message to anyone who'd receive it.

"No, it was just me saying like, 'Hey man, I would love to play with a guy like you,'" he said. "Shoot, to play with a rangy safety like that, someone that can come down and tackle anything in the box as well as play the half-field, or play the middle of the field and take anything deep — everybody would want to play with a guy like that. That's going to make me better.

"Knowing he's over top at times, I can sit on routes and be a little sneakier, or I can understand that sometimes I've got more help than with a guy who can't necessarily do that. So really just speaking success into both of our futures — that's what I was trying to say with us playing together."

But knowing now that it happened, how does Pride explain sending that specific message to that specific person a couple of weeks ahead of the draft?

"I mean, listen — it's a God thing. I couldn't tell you," Pride said. "Maybe God knew that we should be teammates and that we could pair together well — I'm not too sure. It wasn't something that I could account for, or know, or even predict."

As Chinn, Pride, and the rest of the incoming draft class navigate the current reality of not knowing when they'll report to Charlotte, both the safety and corner feel it's comforting to have an established connection to lean on.

"That's definitely a big help just because we were able to spend those few months together, so we actually do have that relationship," Chinn said. "So it'll definitely be pretty cool and definitely will help with this whole situation going on."

"And it's an all-defensive class, so we're all going to jell together — starting with the guy I know in Chinn, and moving on to our first-round selection, Derrick Brown, and then going on and on," Pride said. "Just talking with everybody — we got on a Zoom call for the first time a couple days ago and we have a group chat — I like knowing that we're all working to be the best."

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