Located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the Division II program with an enrollment just north of a thousand gave an opportunity to Witherspoon out of high school. Four NFL teams later, the 26-year-old cornerback received another one of those chances from the Giants, who picked him up late last year.
"I was fortunate enough to get a shot and made the best of it. I'm still just trying to hang in there," Witherspoon said. "It taught me to work even harder. I think my work ethic was a lot better since I went to a small school because I knew I wasn't going to get the big-time recognition that a Division I school would get."
Undrafted in 2008, Witherspoon landed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a return specialist, playing in 21 games over two seasons. There he returned 76 kicks for a 24-yard average and two dozen punts for an average of 11 yards.
Cut near the end of the 2009 season, Witherspoon signed with the Detroit Lions -- where his numbers dropped significantly -- and eventually moved on to the Carolina Panthers. That is where the Giants entered the story and acquired Witherspoon to bolster their depth.
Now it might be time to settle in.
"Ever since I got here, they treated me like I've been here for years," said Witherspoon, who signed just before the final week of the 2010 season and played in the last game. "It's a first class organization. I love being here. I love playing with the guys that are here. Just being in the meeting room and seeing the enthusiasm and the will to win that these guys have, it's really good and easy to feed off of. I would love to stay here."
For Witherspoon, that enthusiasm trickles down from defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to the DB group he lines up with.
"The whole secondary, we have a lot of fun," Witherspoon said. "But when it's time to practice, those guys are very serious about what they do. They have fun at the same time. That makes it easier for you to go out there and just do your job. It also makes you feel a lot more comfortable…As far as this group, I think this group is more of a family-type than any other DB group I have been in."
However, outside of football, that comfort level took some time to develop for the small-town player from Alabama.
"Coming to New York, it was fun, but at the same time it was different, very different," said Witherspoon, who grew up in the town of Butler with a population of 2,000. "The first thing I noticed is it's very crowded up here. That's the first thing I noticed. And then the taxi drivers, they're very aggressive on the road. It was really different."
Witherspoon, playing with the second-team defense, made his 2011 debut in the second quarter of Saturday's preseason game at Carolina. Witherspoon made two tackles and broke up a pair of passes from Cam Newton.
Witherspoon thought one of those should have been a pick.
"I just wanted to go out there and just show them what I can do, just put some good tape out there," Witherspoon said. "I think I did fairly well, but there's always room for improvement. There are a couple things I could have done better. I thought I could have come up with an interception. There's always room for improvement no matter how well you thought you did."