Aqib Talib mellows, ready for any challenge

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Aqib Talib (21) speaks during the Rams news conference at the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel, Wednesday, January 30, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Aqib Talib (21) speaks during the Rams news conference at the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel, Wednesday, January 30, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Rams cornerback Aqib Talib’s rocky past clearly is in his rearview mirror.

The person who helped him the most, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, will be on the other sideline when the Rams face the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“He played a part,” Talib said of Belichick. “I’ve said before, you become more of a professional. Bill definitely helped me there.”

Talib, 32, played parts of two seasons with the Patriots in 2012 and 2013.

After starring at Kansas, Talib was drafted in the first round (20th overall) of the 2008 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He played for Jon Gruden and then Raheem Morris, who currently is the Falcons’ assistant head coach/wide receivers.

Talib played left cornerback for the Buccaneers for five seasons before he was traded to New England. In 2013, he was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time.

After leaving Kansas early, Talib got into a fight with a teammate at the rookie symposium and later missed a flight to a mandatory rookie event in Canton, Ohio.

He was suspended for one game in his second season for assaulting a taxi-cab driver.

Talib was accused of firing a gun at his sister’s boyfriend in Garland, Texas, in March 2011. The charges were later dropped.

In June 2016 he shot himself in the leg outside of a Dallas strip club.

But on the football field, Talib has developed into one of the top corners of his era. After his stop in New England, he went to Denver, where he played for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

Those two developed a bond there.

“You're close to a lot of your players, but I'm really close to Aqib,” Phillips said. “He's certainly helped me get a ring, which is important. But, the friendship part has been really special to me.”

When the Rams were looking to re-tool their defense, they traded a fifth-round pick for Talib to reunite him with Phillips.

“I think, maybe, and it's not all money, but I think he came partly because I was here,” Phillips said. “That really means a lot to you as a coach – that somebody would like to play for you, or at least does to me."

Talib is fond of Phillips, a colorful old-timer.

“I don’t know exactly when, but when you’re around somebody, you conversate with them and feel their vibe,” Talib said. “It’s a good relationship. I can’t tell you when it happened and how it happened. … It’s just a good relationship.”

After playing for Belichick, Talib made four more Pro Bowls with Denver and was on their Super Bowl 50-winning team.

Talib also is a fan of Rams coach Sean McVay.

“I just remember when I first got out there, that first team meeting, how he had everybody’s attention,” Talib said. “Everybody was really buying into what he was saying. That was April. If the head coach has everybody buying into what he’s saying in April, man, that’s a great sign.”

Talib is ready to do whatever Phillips will ask him to do. In the past he’s covered some tight ends, most notably Jimmy Graham when he played for New Orleans.

If Phillips wants to put him on New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, Talib is ready.

“It’s difficult,” Talib said. “He’s big. He’s fast. He’s physical at the top of his routes. All in all, he has a hall of fame quarterback throwing him the ball, so the ball is pretty much going to be where he needs it to be. It’s going to be a tough challenge.”

Talib is ready to do whatever Phillips calls.

“I have a bunch of confidence in Coach Wade and that he’ll come up with a great game plan,” Talib said. “A game plan which is going to allow us to play fast. That’s definitely what you have to do against New England. I’m 100 percent confident that Wade will have a great game plan for us.”

McVay is a Talib supporter.

“Aqib is just refreshingly himself,” McVay said. “He doesn't have to. I think the best thing about Aqib, he's not trying to be somebody that is a charismatic presence where people are drawn to him. He's just that way because of who he is.

“I think what resonates with players is somebody that's themselves, that's secure enough in themselves to not try to be anybody other than themselves, where they're comfortable enough in their own skin just to go about their business.

“He loves football. He likes being in these atmospheres and I think that's why people like being around him and I'm sure glad that he's with us."