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Morris Claiborne enjoying role as leader of Jets secondary

Morris Claiborne's approach to the game is one thing that has stood out to teammates. Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets Jets' young secondary -- so young you wonder if some of them shave more than twice a week -- do not refer to teammate Morris Claiborne as pops, grandpa or wise old man.

They just call him "Mo," which is exactly the way Claiborne wants it.

The sixth-year cornerback from LSU is savoring his role as the leader of the secondary in his first season in New York. Jets coach Todd Bowles bestowed the highest compliment on Claiborne.

“He’s a pro," Bowles said. “I mean, he comes to play every week."

And he comes with a smile on a his face, which has helped prevent his younger teammates -- the Jets start two rookie safeties, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye -- from beating themselves up when during rough patches.

“He’s such a talented player, but it’s his approach to the game that stands out," third-year corner Robert Nelson said. “He’s always upbeat, always encouraging us younger guys. And he prepares for every game like it’s the Super Bowl. That’s a guy you can learn from."

Claiborne came into the league with high expectations. The Dallas Cowboys traded up in the 2012 NFL draft to take the former LSU star with the sixth pick. He was solid, but not spectacular in Dallas, and injuries hampered him from emerging as an elite corner.

But he’s found a home in New York, and it all began with a dinner with Bowles, who was wooing Claiborne during free agency.

At a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Bowles, who spent two years coaching at Grambling in Louisiana, and Claiborne, from Shreveport, found common ground.

“We just talked about some of the stories, some of the things that happened when he was coaching down that way and recruiting down that way," Claiborne said. “And the things he was talking about, I remembered, so I started giving him more detail on different things. We sit there, we laughed, we talked; it was a good time."

Bowles, as is his nature, didn’t go into detail, but he acknowledged his fondness for Claiborne.

“He’s got a very colorful personality," Bowles said. “He’s probably one of my favorite people."

Claiborne has a chance to curry more favor with Bowles and his teammates Sunday when the Jets (4-7) host the Chiefs (6-5) at MetLife Stadium. Kansas City has one of the fastest players in the NFL in wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and Claiborne often will be matched against him.

“You have to always know where he’s at on the field," Claiborne said. “He could take it the distance, no matter where he’s at."

Ironically, the Chiefs recently signed Darrelle Revis, the cornerback that starred with the Jets from 2007-2012 and in 2015-2016. Claiborne now is the team’s lock-down corner, surrounded by players who are trying to learn how to lock down a receiver.

“I feel like this year, I’m more focused on the little things," Claiborne said. “It don't really take much to make me happy. I’m always focused on the little things and worried about what I got now as [opposed to] what I want."