Tyrek Funderburk: Path To The NFL Draft

By Simon Carroll

Did you know that 36 cornerbacks were selected in the draft last year? The most of any position group, it indicates how teams value the position, and the endless search for defensive backs who can contain the explosive receivers found throughout the NFL. That usually begins with being able to keep up – and in that regard, Tyreek Funderburk will not be found wanting. The speedy App State corner sits down with Simon Carroll to talk about his path to the NFL Draft:

A Need For Speed

For the past six years, and in two locations, Tyrek Funderburk has been setting the standard on a football field. Growing up in Indian Trail, NC – just on the outskirts of Charlotte – he took to football from an early age, and now tries to use it to set an example to two younger members of his family:

“I grew up in a household with my two parents and older sister. I’ve got a niece and a nephew, one’s fifteen, one’s six – it’s pretty cool being an uncle! They look up to me a ton and I try my best to be a role model for them. That begins with my dedication to football – I started playing it about five, just flag football whilst I was growing up for the most part. Then I started doing tackle, pee wee stuff, you know – I just grew up outdoors really. It was fun! I did a lot of dirt bike riding too – I had a Kawasaki KX125. Any time I could be outside I was.”

Funderburk’s proclivity for speed, whether that be on two wheels or on two feet, was evident from an early age. And, thanks to a lack of natural ability in one sport, it meant he was exposed to another – with track allowing him to get even quicker on the football field:

“I was never really a good basketball player. I don’t mind putting that out there! Most football guys play basketball in the offseason, but for me outside of lifting and staying in shape I took to track instead. Football was always my main focus, particularly when I hit 9th grade. But my track coach was my football coach, which helped – and it came natural to me. My mother and father, they both ran track growing up – but I definitely get the speed from my mom! I loved track and field to be honest, would definitely have considered doing it at college. But it doesn’t usually cover full tuition, and besides – football was always my priority. It was fun though!”

Funderburk didn’t just have fun with track – he thrived at it. At Metrolina Christian Academy, Tyrek was a state champion and three-time state medalist in the triple jump, and a conference champion in the long jump, 100 meters and 4x100m relay. But with football the primary focus, Funderburk did everything he could to get on the field – on offense AND defense:

“I wasn’t always a cornerback. Growing up playing pee wee ball, I did some running back, some wide receiver – and receiver was my primary position at high school too. But even back then, you look at what position gives you the biggest opportunity to get out on the field. Cornerback, particularly at college football, it’s a slightly easier route to getting on the field for some schools. So I decided to play both sides of the ball at high school – and I even dabbled at quarterback, and had some designed runs for me too! We got creative, did some option things, disrupted teams with my versatility. But I definitely got my feet wet as a defensive back.”

Recruiting and Richmond

If you thought Tyrek Funderburk was good on the track at high school, he was even better on the gridiron. A four year varsity letter winner and three year varsity starter, the two-way athlete won countless awards, including being named All Conference and All State twice. He also earned North Carolina Prep First Team honors, and was a captain for the Warriors. Heading into the recruiting process as a fully fledged cornerback, Funderburk had to work hard to get some exposure – but once he did get eyes on him, his recruiting experience didn’t last long:

“Out of high school I didn’t have many scholarship offer. I had just one Patriot League offer and a handful of Division 2 interest. No disrespect to D2, but I thought I was worthy of some D1 attention. The Patriot League offer was way up in Pennsylvania, so I asked my coaches if they could get my film out to some teams a little bit more. And then, just a few days later, Richmond came calling. It was kind of a quick turnaround – they called me on the Sunday, came to see me on Monday, and offered me that night. I went to visit the following weekend and committed – my recruiting was essentially done and dusted in a week.”

Funderburk speaks with a real appreciation for the opportunity that Richmond offered him – and he’s more than aware that, for a lot of other high school stars in his position, they may not have been as lucky:

“When I came out of my high school it might only have been the seventh year of football they had played. Prior to me going to D1, I think we had a quarterback go to Liberty and that was it. So at a smaller school, it’s difficult to get eyes on you. When I got to Richmond, my position coach admitted he had never even heard of my high school! It kind of puts your recruiting into context – for a lot of guys, it’s exposure and opportunity that restricts them, not talent.”

A Special Spider

Tyrek Funderburk headed to Virginia grateful for his opportunity and determined to repay Richmond for their faith in him. The Spiders, an established FCS football program with playoff ambitions each year, routinely develop and churn out talent, and Funderburk found himself redshirted in year 1 as he adapted to college life. As far as the cornerback was concerned, it was all part of the process – and stood him in good stead for the rest of his time at E. Claiborne Robins Stadium:

“I needed it. I’m not one of those guys who think they’re the biggest, baddest thing out here. We brought in something like 18 freshmen; we’re all here for a reason, we’re all on the same level playing field – and if you’re good enough, you’re going to play. But for my development, I needed to be eased in. Both cerebrally and physically, I needed to get better, bigger, stronger, faster. Because of that process, when my time did come I was ready. But redshirting, playing behind some good guys, learning what to do and what not to do, how to be coached – it helped out a ton. And it paid off, allowed me to have success later in my career.”

Funderburk’s football career officially began in 2019, where he played in a rotational role, starting one game and playing in eleven others. Impressing his coaches, he was lining up a true breakout season in 2020 – but a global pandemic had other ideas. Despite the setback, Tyrek was grateful for what little football he and his teammates were able to enjoy that year:

“COVID wasn’t too bad. Charlotte is about five hours away, and the school did a great job managing it. We had fans at our games, albeit maintaining their distance. It was a weird period, having six scheduled games but two getting canceled so just a four game season. But it was actually my first year starting, so I was focused on what I could control.”

2020 was something of a false start or Funderburk as a starter. So when 2021 arrived, he was ready to introduce himself properly to college football. Making an immediate impact, Funderburk was named All-State – and things got even better in 2022. Starting 11 games, Tyrek totalled 39 tackles, 10 pass breakups, two forced fumbles and four interceptions – one of which he returned for his first ever touchdown in college football. After struggling to find himself a team that wanted him at this level, it seemed like the end of a long journey for Funderburk – and he was ready to challenge himself even further:

“It was great to see my hard work pay off. I’m always looking at ways to get better – how can I develop more, how can I be more coachable? And how do I want to be coached – because that changes throughout your career. Do I need to be yelled at a little harder, or have my reps cut short to motivate me? At college, I kinda like it when I mess up and coach pulls me out, tells me what I did wrong. It drives me to go watch the film and make corrections. But having that Senior year at Richmond gave me that confidence that I was on the right path. I’ve always been a confident player – I think you need to be. But to know you’re working towards something and getting closer, it makes you want to put that extra time in, go even further. And that was part of the reason that I hit the transfer portal.”

Bouncing To Boone

Calling his time at Richmond ‘a great experience’, Tyrek Funderburk left Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts in Healthcare Studies and an impressive football resume. He is grateful for the coaches throughout his football journey, and focused on a trio in particular that taught him the nuances of being a shutdown defensive back:

“I had three key coaches. I started off with Coach (Rod) West; he recruited me out of high school, and even though he was coaching corners early at Richmond and I was playing safety, he was a big influence. And I got to work with him again at App State this past year. When Coach West went to Boone, I got Coach (Ross) Douglas – a guy who has just left the Patriots coaching staff and is now working with the receivers at Syracuse – he helped my game move to that next level. And then there’s Coach (Tarron) Williams, who’s at Old Dominion now; all three of those guys, it’s a huge testament to them just how far I’ve come. They pushed me in different ways – had their unique style of getting to me, making me work harder.”

When it came to choosing his next home, Funderburk had very defined ideals about what he wanted. In the end, one of those influential coaches made him re-think his priorities and head to Appalachian State:

“It’s funny how relationships in college football work. Reuniting with Coach West, it was a real blessing. I got a chance to go and play at a higher level with someone I know, someone I trust. I know he values me, wants the best for me, has my best interest at heart. And it was crucial to me going to App State – because the whole reason I hit the portal was to go Power 5. I wanted to play in the ACC, or SEC. And I remember telling my family, if I don’t get a P5 offer, I was planning to stay at Richmond. But App State, the first ones to offer me, it got me thinking – shoot, I know a few people there…”

“In the end it boiled down to trust. I won’t deny the Power 5 offers had me interested; the NIL opportunities, the big stage to show what you can do. Coming from Richmond and playing FCS ball, we had a great fanbase, but the big stadiums in the ACC? It definitely intrigued me. But App State have a rowdy fanbase too, and it being fairly close to home, the trust with the coaches – in the end it proved most important to me. Money from NIL, yeah it’s great and all. But do I want money now, or bet on myself and get paid on the back end? The fit and the family was the primary motive – and in the end it paid off.”

Taking It Up A Level

Tyrek Funderburk is the first draft prospect I have interviewed that really spoke of the lure of Name, Image and Likeness royalties in his decision making. Refreshingly, it wasn’t his biggest priority, but that’s not to say he disregarded the benefits entirely:

“App State didn’t really have a plan or know how to navigate that NIL space, it being a new thing when I was in the portal. Besides, my focus was elsewhere; I was looking to go somewhere and play, be a starter, and show what I could do. I wanted to be a leader and a big contributor on defense. Some of the numbers that you hear other guys getting sounds good and everything, and of course it would be nice. But I had a different outlook – and App State felt just right.”

Moving to Boone was a business trip for Funderburk. His new surroundings suited that perfectly – a picturesque location that had minimal distractions, that allowed Tyrek to pour himself fully into what took him back to North Carolina in the first place:

“Boone is awesome! It’s different to Richmond, which was more of a fast-paced city. But more similar to where I grew up – a rural area, quiet, low key, and easy going. That’s what Boone is man – it’s the mountains, it’s cold, it’s even had a load of snow the past few weeks. Isolated from everything, it gives you the opportunity to focus on school and football. It’s a great place to be.”

It proved to be a great place for Funderburk. In his one and only season at the FBS level, Tyrek racked up 46 tackles, 2.5 TFL’s, a sack, 8 pass breakups, four interceptions and a forced fumble. Essentially taking all that playmaking ability cultivated at Richmond to App State, Funderburk points to a combination of factors as to why he made such seamless transition to a higher standard of football:

“I really trusted myself. Having the confidence that I played with before, and knowing that the coaching staff wouldn’t bring me here without a reason – they knew I could play, and so did I. And I’m an extremely coachable person too, so I just carried on building. I’m always looking to address what my deficits are, and how I can improve them. And I put in a lot of film work too – a lot of meetings with my position group. I didn’t want to go in there and play catchup, I wanted to be someone who they could rely on. We built a brotherhood on that defense, and it helped me and the team have success.”

A Diverse Resume

Whether it be in Richmond blue or App State black and yellow, Tyrek Funderburk was a team player. Throughout the interview he’s happy to digress and talk about the impact of coaches, the school environment he was able to thrive in, or the camaraderie amongst his teammates. As a member of the Mountaineers, he was happy they were able to defy predictions and maintain a culture of winning – App State have not had a losing season for a decade:

“If you’d asked everyone where they thought App State would be in 2023, they probably would have said six wins maximum. And we proved everyone wrong. We knew what we had in that building – we were a great squad, and we worked hard to make it click. And it took a little time, us starting 3-4. But after that loss to Old Dominion we were determined to figure it out. And we got it done.”

‘Getting it done’ meant reeling off five straight wins after the ODU defeat. The Mountaineers finished 9-5, winning the Cure Bowl to cap off a great season for Funderburk and his teammates. I asked Tyrek if he noticed a step-up in quality of opponent from his time at Richmond:

“Yes and no. The guys up front, they were way bigger, way faster. For me, I saw some little differences; In terms of receivers, I think they’re much better at the catch point – I had to be more violent there. The quarterbacks would be a little better, have that ball come out a lot faster. But other than that, I didn’t think there was a huge difference between FCS and FBS football. It’s just about kids coming out of high school and their situation – maybe they weren’t that big at the time, or a little slower, or were from a small high school like me and didn’t get noticed too much – all those factors play into it. But in general, I was able to adjust pretty easily.”

That adjustment wasn’t just to the standard of football, but also to the style of football. Funderburk is keen to highlight how he was able to jump from one scheme to another – and not only survive, but thrive:

“It’s extremely important. That shows a lot about who I am. I’m a guy that’s flying under the radar right now; I didn’t play in any of the all-star games this year, which is fine. But to go from one school to another, step up a level and maintain a high standard, it speaks to who I am as a man and a football player. It should help me out when the draft comes round too – that ability to dominate in one system, go to another and pick it up immediately. And not only that, but get a little better in the process, it’s kind of the whole reason I made the jump. And in the NFL, I’ll be somewhere else with another playbook. They can trust me to be ready to go.”

'I Can Play Football'

After a successful college career, Tyrek Funderburk now turns his attention to the NFL. Cutting a humble, almost grateful figure, he appears to look at the opportunity ahead of him as a gift, and one he intends not to waste. In that regard, he’s leaving no stone unturned in his attempts to maximize his draft stock – a dedication to hard work that goes back to his days at high school:

“I’m down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, training at XPE Sports. I’m working with Tony Villani and Matt Gates – they’re some speed demons man! They really focus on speed, but I’m working on getting bigger and stronger too. And I want to show off my speed – my goal is to run a 4.42 forty. I know I can do it, and the work now is hitting it consistently. It’s a big yardstick too – getting under that 4.45 makes the scouts sit up, and go back and watch the tape. They’ll see I can move in pads too, but that I’m still getting faster. I know football is more than just being fast – and I am fast – but at this stage of the process, it gets you noticed.”

The pre-draft process is often referred to as ‘silly season’ – and if NFL scouts want to overthink Tyrek Funderburk’s speed, then I’m inclined to agree with the sentiment. Watch the tape, and it’s obvious the cornerback can move. The question is, how do you get scouts to watch the tape? As far as Funderburk is concerned, that’s a problem for his representation. He’s in the business of improving himself in any way he can:

“My agent works hard to get my name out there. I didn’t go to a bowl game, but I talked to several people from them. We just decided to go a different way, take care of my body and focus on my training. I know he’s out there pushing for me, but my focus right now is on what I can control. My training; what can I do to have a great Pro Day? And the rest of it will take care of itself.”

That pro day comes on March 28th, and will hopefully help Funderburk get some overdue attention. In a modern NFL, where teams look for certain measurables, it might be easy for them to skip past Tyrek’s film. Coming in at 5’11” and 185lbs, he simply won’t make some franchise’s prerequisites. I suggest a nickel or slot corner role may be his route to a roster – but Funderburk isn’t ready to be pigeonholed just yet:

“I’m versatile. In college I didn’t play a ton of nickel, but when I did I was good at it. I know I can play that role if needed. I’ve even played safety too, and I pride myself in being able to be moved around and help the team. Being under that six foot mark, it doesn’t shy me away from competing as a cornerback, particularly on the outside. There are several guys who do that on Sundays – Byron Murphy, he’s a smaller guy who plays on the outside, can move inside too. He’s made a bunch of money with a similar game to myself. Not having the ‘size’ or ‘length’ that some organizations look for doesn’t put me off at all. I can play football, and somebody will appreciate that.”

Far From Finished

Determined to be a contributor in any role in the secondary, I discuss with Tyrek Funderburk some schemes he feels would be good fits for his skillset. He has his preference, but exudes a confidence that, whatever an NFL defense asks of him, he’ll be able to perform:

“I love zone defenses. Teams that play primarily in zone then sneak in some man coverage in certain spots, that’s where I think I’d flourish best. It’s kind of what I did in college; quarters, cover 2, cover 3, you name it. And when it got serious, and it was time for man to man, I’d be ready. You against me. I had no choice – you’ve got to be better than him in your one to one matchup. I can do both, I don’t shy away from any kind of coverage. And whatever scheme I end up in, I’ll pick it up fast. That’s never been a problem for me. I’m coachable, will do whatever it is to the best of my ability, and get the job done.”

Totally locked in to the next six weeks, Funderburk hasn’t really thought about his plans for draft weekend. All he knows is, between now and then, there’s plenty to prove and plenty to work on:

“I’ll just be at home with the fam. Right now I’m projected to be a free agent, so there’ll be no huge draft party. I’ll have a couple of friends over, but mostly family. We’ll celebrate a little when the time comes. But the main thing has to be the main thing – and that’s training right now, have a great pro day, meet with some teams, hopefully get some visits, land on a roster and be ready for minicamp.”

Which minicamp does Funderburk ideally like to be a part of? The cornerback is pragmatic – much like when Richmond showed some faith, he’ll do everything to justify the opportunity:

“I don’t really care. I’ll play for whoever wants to call my phone. California, Vegas, Carolina; you give me a chance, I’m gonna repay you.”

The outlook of Tyrek Funderburk regarding a potential future NFL career is somewhat conflicting. He almost seems surprised to be in this situation, an endearing and genuine interpretation of his football journey. Considering the amount of work and effort he’s put in to get to this stage, he’d be forgiven for being a little more cocksure. But now he’s here, it seems like there’s not a thing he won’t do to give himself a bigger chance of making it at the next level. Whether Funderburk gets a call or not, he’s making sure there’ll be no regrets:

“Honestly, I didn’t know I had the ability, the opportunity to play in the NFL, until I transferred to App State. Obviously it’s something I’ve always dreamed of, and worked towards. But then you see guys you’ve played with, trained with in the league, and you’re like ‘okay, I can do that too.’ Once I showed I could play this game at Richmond, I knew I had to challenge myself. Then I went to App State and did it again, and now I know I’m capable of making it at the next level. And now, it’s all about taking this opportunity and making the most of it when I get that call. I’m going to be super excited, and I’ll give myself a pat on the back – but then it will be time to go back to work again.”

Mock Draft





A huge thank you to Tyrek for taking the time to talk to us. Everyone at The Touchdown wishes him well in his future career.