Category: Interviews


James Gayle is one of the best defensive end/3-4 outside linebacker prospects in the country, but somehow he seems to be flying under the radar. That won’t last long, as he is primed and ready for a double digit sack season as a junior.

Tom: First of all James, thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know you’re busy.

Tom: What was your favorite thing about playing for Virginia Tech last season?

James: Probably the fans, just the Virginia Tech atmosphere and playing at Lane Stadium. I’d rather play in our stadium than anywhere else in the country.

Tom: You’ve been productive both seasons you’ve been at Virginia Tech even though last year was your first full season as a starter, do you expect an even more significant break-out year this season?

James: Definitely. I think the thing that hurt me last year was my injury, I missed 3 games and I still led the team in sacks. I’m healthy now though.

Tom: What is your accurate height, weight, and 40 yard dash time?

James: 6’4”, right now I weigh about 266 or 267 and the last time I ran I ran a 4.45 40 yard dash time, but I think I only weighed 257 or 258 at that point.

Tom: You “only” weighed 257 or 258 pounds and you ran in the 4.4’s, Josh Gordon just ran a 4.53 in the 40 yard dash at his pro-day and got drafted in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft and he weighs 40 pounds less than you!

James: Well I’ve always been fast though, even when I was in high school I was running in the 4.4’s but I guess I never got slower since all I’ve gained since coming to Virginia Tech is muscle.

Tom: Do you have any statistical goals for yourself or the team?

James: For the team I just want to be the #1 defense in the nation, or at least top 5. For myself I just want to have a better season than I did last year and continue to improve. I think if I stay healthy I’ll be better than I was last year and put myself in a good position.

Tom: What was it like watching Logan Thomas progress and grow as the season went on last year?

James: It was great. It was great watching him get acclimated to defenses but I think it was the Miami game where he really showed everyone what he could do.

Tom: Did he look even better in the spring?

James: You can tell he’s more comfortable and I think he’s getting better every day.

Tom: Everyone just kind of assumed he was going to play tight end when he was coming out of high school and now he’s one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation, it’s crazy.

James: I knew he was going to play quarterback because I played in an all-star game with him in high school, haha.

Tom: Well then you knew something I didn’t! Now did your defensive coaches mention anything to you about things you were doing well during spring ball?

James: Yeah they said I’m starting to get the little things down like my technique and my angles. I feel like I did an overall better job of that in the spring than I did in the past.

Tom: What kind of technique stuff did they specifically say you were improving on?

James: Just when I’m pass rushing taking the right angles. I usually just get by with my speed but that’s not going to work with every tackle so I’m just trying to get better with my hands and trying to take better angles to get to the quarterback.

Tom: That’s great to hear, that’s what you need to be a complete defensive end. You’re going to be scary when you get that technique down James.

James: Haha, well I’ve been working on it all summer.

Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a football player? Maybe your speed?

James: Yeah my speed, I’m just a natural pass rusher.

Tom: What about some of the things you think you need to work on? Obviously you’ve already mentioned technique.

James: Yeah, I mean I really haven’t been playing football that long to be honest my first season was my junior year in high school so basically I didn’t really have anybody to actually coach me up or teach me the position. Then I redshirted when I got to Virginia Tech and they don’t really teach you anything when you redshirt so I was just learning how to play the position my redshirt freshman year.

Tom: Do you have any mentors for the defensive end position? People you’ve patterned your game after?

James: Oh yeah definitely. Coach [Charley] Wiles the defensive line coach, Cornell Brown has been really instrumental and then I watch a lot of film of Bruce Smith since he played here.

Tom: What is one thing that every defensive end has to have in order to be successful?

James: I think he has to be aggressive. That’s something you can’t really teach a guy to be honest. There are a bunch of guys that have ability but they’re not aggressive, but then there are guys that have less ability but are more aggressive and I think that’s important. I feel like that’s something you can’t teach, but I think that also goes for every position.

Tom: Are there any players on defense that stuck out to you during the spring? Anyone I might not have heard about?

James: Antone Exum. I think he’s going to be one of the best corners in the nation this year, him and Kyle Fuller. Antone runs a 4.3 and he’s like 225 pounds. He’s a good corner. Kyle is really good too he plays a lot bigger than he is. I’ve seen him lay some guys out that he was much smaller than.

Tom: Anyone on offense that has especially impressed you?

James: The running backs J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes, then Logan Thomas. The receivers too, I know Marcus Davis is going to have a big year. For the most part our offense is going to do pretty well.

Tom: I’m sure Hokie fans will be encouraged to hear that the running backs look good since you just lost David Wilson and Josh Oglesby.

James: Yeah it’s pretty different because when I came here I played against three All-American running backs. I played against Darren Evans first, then Ryan [Williams] and then David [Wilson]. So I’m pretty sure one of those guys is ready to step up next.

Tom: You’re getting some hype coming into the season, do you feel any added pressure because of some loftier expectations?

James: No not at all. I feel like I’m just going to play my game. I feel like the expectations that people have for me coming into the season aren’t any higher than the expectations I already have for myself, so it’s not any different. I feel like I should be one of the best defensive ends in the country and I feel like I should be an All-American.

Tom: I know you saw me mention that you and J.R. Collins are one of the best defensive end tandems in college football, what do you think makes him so dangerous?

James: J.R. Collins is relentless. I totally agree that we’re a great tandem too because I think that J.R. Collins’ name should be up there with any of the best defensive ends in the ACC this year. He’s relentless, he’s hard-nosed and if I could pick anybody to play on the opposite side of me it would be him.

Tom: That’s a glowing recommendation. And I was just looking at your defensive line depth chart last night and it occurred to me that you guys could have one of the best defensive lines in the country as well. Do you think that’s possible?

James: I definitely think it’s possible. I feel like if it weren’t for my injury last year we would have been one of the best in the country from a pass rush standpoint.

Tom: And then you have the Hopkins brothers. You guys have a lot of returning experience on that defensive line.

James: Yeah the Hopkins brothers! I feel like our defensive line is going to be one of the best of the country. Both of them are really good players, and then we’ve got Luther Maddy who started last year as a true freshman at defensive tackle, so we essentially have a couple starters at second string.

Tom: Ok, who are the rotational guys behind you and J.R.?

James: Tyrel Wilson is the guy behind me, he did well last year. And behind J.R. is Zack McCray, plus we have another defensive end named Dadi Nicholas who redshirted last year.

Tom: Did you say his first name is Dadi? That’s AWESOME!

James: Yeah his first name is Dadi, haha.

Tom: What is it like playing for Bud Foster in his aggressive defense? I imagine it’s pretty fun.

James: Oh definitely, because I feel like I’m a pretty aggressive player so coming to school with an aggressive defensive coordinator it just matches. So I really enjoy playing for him.

Tom: Are you comfortable buzzing into coverage? Foster likes to bring zone blitzes so I know he asks you to drop sometimes.

James: Yeah definitely I feel really comfortable dropping into coverage. At first when you don’t do it for a while it’s weird but I’ve been doing it all summer since I’ve been working out with the DB’s so I’m comfortable doing it.

Tom: Uh-oh… I hope they don’t move you to safety James. You’ve got the speed for it after all.

James: Hahaha. I don’t think I’m ready for some of these little receivers though!

Tom: Is there one game this year you are particularly looking forward to? Maybe Clemson?

James: Oh yeah definitely Clemson. They had our number last year but this year they gotta be ready to go to war.

Tom: You and Tajh [Boyd] go back to high school I’m sure you want to get a W against him.

James: Oh Tajh? Yeah definitely. I’ve been playing him since high school but I’ve never been able to beat him.

Tom: I think this year might be the year then James.

James: Yeah, hopefully.

Tom: You’ve got a pretty good football pedigree with your dad Jimmy playing running back at Ohio State from 1979-82 and your Uncle Shaun playing DB for the Buckeyes and in the NFL from 1984-95 as well. Do you think that has helped you pick up the game so quickly?

James: Absolutely. I feel like I have strong football bloodlines since both my father and uncle played at Ohio State. I think my dad was an All-Big Ten running back so that might be where I get my speed from. Actually in high school my father was one of the fastest backs in the nation. I think that’s where the speed came from.

Tom: I definitely think that could be where you got your speed from.

James: Yeah I’d say that’s it, haha.

Tom: I read in an article that before you started playing football you were “more of a video game guy” and that after you got done with video games you said “I think I’ll just play football.” How did that come about?

James: I really wasn’t that interested in playing football when school first started so I just played video games. Then I got tired of that and just decided to play football, but I had never lifted weights or anything so I was like 160 pounds at the end of my 10th grade year. So I just started lifting weights and eating right and by the beginning of my senior year I was like 210. Now that I’m over 260 I’ve put on over 100 pounds of muscle since high school.

Tom: And you haven’t lost any speed, that’s the scary thing. Now, do you still play video games? If so, what’s your favorite game to play?

James: Nah, I guess I kinda played myself out of that. I guess I play some NCAA. They’ve got me rated as one of the best defensive ends on the game so that’s good.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

James: Man, that’s tough. I guess that I can actually run a 4.4 because every time I get on the internet I see people saying I run a 4.7 or something like that. I want people to know that I have that kind of speed because that’s what I take pride in.

Tom: I had definitely read that you had 4.4 speed, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to believe that a 260 pound defensive end had 4.4 speed, that shit scares me.

James: Well I’ve seen guys at 270 be timed in the 4.5’s! It’s possible, there are guys that can do it. I guess we’ll see if I get my shot at the combine.

Tom: Well I predict that you will, that’s my prediction. It’s not bold, but it’s a prediction.

James: Haha, we’ll see.

Tom: I just want you to realize how unfair it is that you can run a 4.4 at that size, even a 4.5 would be just disgusting.

James: Well I’m very confident I can run a 4.5. I’ve never ran a laser 40 time, but I know I can do it.

Tom: Well that’s about all I have, do you have any questions for me?

James: No I don’t think so.

Tom: Well thank you for your time James, I appreciate the chance to talk with you a little more in depth. When does camp start up for you?

James: August 7th, I’m getting ready.

Only a couple weeks away! I’m ready for some football. Well good luck with the rest of your training and good luck this season!

James: Thanks! It was great talking to you.

Tom: You’re welcome, it was great talking with you as well. Take care.

There aren’t many football players in the entire country that are easier to root for than UCF’s Storm Johnson. His story has been well documented, so I tried to stick to football in this interview.

Tom: First of all Storm, thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know you’re busy.

Tom: What was it like sitting out at UCF last season?

Storm: I felt like it was probably one of the hardest things I had to do in my life. I could still practice and everything, but sitting out in a sport that I really love and not being able to go out and compete against other schools with my teammates was extremely hard.

Tom: What made you choose UCF?

Storm: Coach O’Leary recruited me out of high school and I kept good ties with him. I loved the program and it was somewhere I felt comfortable at and somewhere I felt I could play at.

Tom: Your coaches really seemed to be excited to get you on the field even when you weren’t eligible last season. How do you think spring ball went for you?

Storm: I felt I accomplished a lot in spring ball, we got a lot of chemistry and I feel that spring ball gave us an edge on this upcoming camp and it gave us the goals that we needed to set for ourselves and gave us a clear shot at accomplishing our goals.

Tom: What is your accurate height, weight, and 40 yard dash time?

Storm: 5’11”, 215, and the last time I got clocked as a freshman weighing at about 218 I ran a 4.37.

Tom: I’ve read a number of articles about your upbringing and how hard you worked. Do you think your experiences growing up have made you a better football player?

Storm: I feel like I have. My parents did a lot for me and showed me how to work hard for the things you want to get and that you gotta work hard for everything you really wanna get.

Tom: What was your #1 goal of the spring practices with Central Florida?

Storm: Just trying to get playing time. My #1 goal is to have a great practice every practice, never take a down for granted, and always do 110% and get in my playbook. I know the playbook inside and out and I studied it like a subject in school.

Tom: Do you expect to start this season?

Storm: That’s a really good question I have no answer for. I just go hard in practice every day and push the running backs. We all push each other every practice so we can get better as a unit, but that’s all I can really say about that question.

Tom: Are you looking forward to that first game? Who do you guys play?

Storm: Akron, and yes. I’ve been looking forward to that day for a very long time.

Tom: Do you have any statistical goals for yourself or the team?

Storm: For the team it’s to win every game. For myself, not really. This is my first college season where I can be a regular contributor so I’m just trying to help my team however I can.

Tom: If you had a great season personally, would you consider declaring for the NFL Draft?

Storm: Honestly I just want to have a great season and we will worry about that when the time comes.

Tom: Did your offensive coaches mention anything to you about things you were doing well during spring ball?

Storm: Yeah they did. Just having great instincts, figuring the play out as it develops, bursting through the hole, little things like that. They were more concerned with things I was doing wrong than what I was doing right. They praised me when I got things right though, but as a team we want to focus on things we need to work on obviously.

Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a football player?

Storm: My vision, definitely.

Tom: What about some of the things you think you need to work on?

Storm: I feel like my game is never going to be perfect, there’s always something to work on to get better. For me, I want to work on blocking, catching.

Tom: Do you feel comfortable in pass protection right now?

Storm: I mean yeah. I think the first thing is just not being scared to make contact with the person, that’s half the thing right there. The other part is just technique, and I’d say I’m about 85% to where I want to be with that.

Tom: Do you have any mentors for the running back position? People you’ve patterned your game after?

Storm: I’ve watched a lot of running backs, but I’ve watched a lot of Reggie Bush’s film from college.

Tom: Are there any players on defense that stuck out to you during the spring? Anyone I might not have heard about?

Storm: There’s a lot of talent on our defense, there’s a lot of talent on the whole unit. I mean, they all make plays. It’s hard to say.

Tom: Anyone on offense that has especially impressed you?

Storm: Yeah of course. The running backs push eachother so when one of us makes a play the others try to step it up and make plays. We’ve got a lot of depth at the running back position.

Tom: You’re getting some hype coming into the season, do you feel any added pressure because of the transfer and some of the rising expectations?

Storm: Nah, I just believe in my coaches, believe in my teammates and I just want to go out and play football like I’ve been playing. I’m not thinking about any hype or any of that, just focusing on executing and helping my team win.

Tom: Is there one game this year you are particularly looking forward to?

Storm: I feel like every game I’m looking forward to, me personally I’m looking forward to my first game in my first actual season. Any time I can put that helmet on I’m looking forward to it.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

Storm: *Laughs* Wow… one thing… I wanna say I feel like I study a lot in school, at the library, and I always get my homework done before it’s due. I feel like I enjoy doing schoolwork a lot more than people think.

Tom: That is definitely the first time I’ve ever gotten that answer to that question, I love that. Well thank you for taking the time to talk with me and I am looking forward to watching you this season! I’m sure we’ll talk before the season, good luck with the rest of your training. When does summer camp start for you?

Storm: August 1st.

Tom: Less than a month away! I’m ready for some football and I know you are too, thank you for your time Storm, and good luck with the rest of your training.

Storm: Definitely. Thank you.

Aundrey Walker took over as USC’s left tackle only a few practices into Spring Ball and hasn’t looked back. He is the only new starter on USC’s offensive line, and must replace Matt Kalil while protecting Matt Barkley’s blind side.

Tom: First of all Aundrey, thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know you’re busy.

Tom: What was it like playing on USC last year?

Aundrey: I mean it was different from High School. I feel like camp here made you a man, and made you actually realize “did you want to play this game, do you want to play this sport” and at USC the team, the coaches, it’s a lot of love. I had a great time last season and I’m really looking forward to this season.

Tom: What ultimately made you decide to go and stay at USC despite the sanctions?

Aundrey: It was just my dream, it was my dream school and when I got the offer I was lost for words because it was just three years ago I was watching them on TV and now I had a chance to be a USC player so I thought why not take it. It wasn’t just looking at the football side, it was academics too. You can do a lot of things with a USC degree so I knew it was a good route to take.

Tom: What was the team’s mindset like given the 2nd and last year of the bowl ban?

Aundrey: The mindset was just go out there and have fun. I mean, we really didn’t worry about the bowl sanctions to be honest. It was more about establishing team unity and becoming more of a family. We just went out there and played, went out there and played as a team.

Tom: Is the team excited to finally have a chance at a BCS bowl game again?

Aundrey: Oh of course. It’s always been a dream for a high school kid to come to college and play in a bowl game. I’m happy that we have the opportunity to compete for a bowl and we are all looking forward to it.

Tom: What was your playing weight during the season last year?

Aundrey: Last year in January I was 378 on my visit here at USC and I went back home and my Uncle was told me “you can’t go to college at that weight” and I came to USC at 352. But through all that I was gaining weight as I was at USC. Mini-camp came around and I got down to 346, then I went home in December at 344 or 342 and came back 330. I just kept going through the training and weight lifting with the whole training staff and I lost 30 more pounds to get down to 296. That was my last time I weighed in at 296. It really only took me four months to lose all that weight.

Tom: That is amazing Aundrey. You should be really proud of that. Obviously you changed your eating habits, but what kind of weight training did you do to help you lose so much weight?

Aundrey: It was a lot of conditioning, a lot of running, a lot of cardio. And when we lift weights it will be low weight but heavy reps so you burn more fat.

Tom: Do you feel faster now that you are under 300 pounds?

Aundrey: Oh yeah of course, I feel like a gazelle out there.

Tom: What has playing lighter changed most about your game?

Aundrey: I’m more explosive and quicker off the ball and I feel like I can compete. When I played at 346 I was very sluggish and I lost my breath a lot. Within five plays I would lose my breath, but now I can play forever I feel like.

Tom: I remember reading that you said you were “surprised” that you were named the left tackle over Kevin Graf, did you expect to be at right tackle this year?

Aundrey: It was really just, whatever my team needed me to do I was going to do it. That was my mindset. If I was right tackle, right guard, left tackle, center it doesn’t matter. I was just out there working and they switched me over and if I got the opportunity to play left tackle why not take it. I worked hard and I’m still working hard to maintain this spot.

Tom: I read that Graf started out the spring at left tackle, but shortly after you were at left tackle the rest of the way. Is that true?

Aundrey: Yeah.

Tom: What was your reaction when the team moved you to the left side?

Aundrey: Did you say what was the team’s reaction?

Tom: No what was your reaction, but yeah both!

Aundrey: I mean the team was happy with it, it was a coaching decision and they felt comfortable with me playing there. I have to go out there and play hard every play to help keep Matt Barkley protected. But I was happy obviously, a very good feeling.

Tom: Did your offensive line coach mention anything to you about things you were doing well during spring ball?

Aundrey: I don’t ask him much about that, I’m more of a guy who likes to work on my game and work on the flaws of it so he’s going to send me a cut-up of things where I need to improve. We’re more focused on those things.

Tom: What are some of the things you think you need to work on?

Aundrey: I would say my point of contact, I think I open up a bit too much in pass pro just being honest with myself, I think I need to work on that. If I stop opening up so quick I think I can be a great pass protector.

Tom: I know you said you like to focus on where you need to improve, but if you had to pick one of your greatest strengths as an offensive tackle what would it be?

Aundrey: I like to pull and to get out in space and POUND dudes.

Tom: Did you pick anything up from Matt Kalil while you were at USC with him?

Aundrey: Oh yeah I picked up a lot from him! The reason I was so determined was because of him. He told me that I have to grind. He told me the left tackle spot was open and I had to go out and take it. I promised him I would come back at 320 pounds and I did. So I mean I always looked at him and his pass protecting, he was a great pass protector, a great run blocker. He was just an all around great player and athlete.

Tom: Would you say he’s one of your mentors for the position?

Aundrey: Oh of course, of course.

Tom: Do you have any other mentors?

Aundrey: I work with LeCharles Bentley, he helps me a lot.

Tom: Did you ever get to go up against Nick Perry in practice?

Aundrey: I think it happened one time. It was a lot to handle it really was, knowing that he was a big NFL prospect.

Tom: Did you stop him or did he get you?

Aundrey: Umm… It was at the point of contact and I couldn’t really move him he’s just a brick.

Tom: Are there any players on defense that stuck out to you during the spring? Anyone I might not have heard about?

Aundrey: Everybody who is on defense right now is stickin’ out.

Tom: Give me one player who really balled out on defense.

Aundrey: TJ. But that’s normal for TJ, he’s a great player. On the whole we have a great defense. Dion [Bailey], Hayes [Pullard], Lamar [Holmes], Wes Horton, Nickell Robey.

Tom: Anyone on offense that has especially impressed you?

Aundrey: Same. All around we are a great team I feel like. Offense we have targets, defense we have talent. I can speak for everybody. Our whole offensive line, quarterback, running back, receivers, tight end, everybody is talented.

Tom: Do you feel any added pressure being the only new starter on the offensive line?

Aundrey: No, not at all.

Tom: I mentioned earlier that you’ve got a little nastiness to you, is there anyone else on the offensive line like that?

Aundrey: Khaled Holmes. He’s a great guy, a great role model. He’s very smart, very intelligent. He knows everything. The whole playbook, he’s like another coach away from the coaches.

Tom: That’s great to hear. I like John Martinez too, what’s the story on him?

Aundrey: Oh, John Martinez? Oh my god he’s an animal. Just one word: animal. That defines John Martinez.

Tom: I really like that he can play center and guard, I like that versatility.

Aundrey: Oh yeah absolutely. I mean he came in as the #1 recruit as a center right?

Tom: I think so. Oh, and tell me he still has the afro from last year.

Aundrey: Oh yeah he has braids now though.

Tom: Do you have any specific goals for the upcoming season, both for the team and for yourself?

Aundrey: Just go out there and play, just have fun. That’s all it is, go out there and try to win every game, step by step, day by day.

Tom: Is there one game this year you are particularly looking forward to?

Aundrey: All games. All games are important and we just have to go game by game. There’s not one particular game I’m focused on because we need to win every game.

Tom: Is there a defensive lineman you are particularly excited to go up against?

Aundrey: I haven’t heard anything yet, probably during mini-camp and before the season I’ll hear something but no I’m not worried about anyone really.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

Aundrey: I’m a great guy, I love to sing, and I’m determined and dedicated to be successful and failure is not an option.

Tom: Wow, that’s probably the best answer I’ve ever heard for that question. What’s your favorite song to sing?

Aundrey: My favorite thing to sing? Another Day, Another Dollar hahaha.

Tom: Haha! Good answer! My favorite thing to sing is any Eminem song.

Aundrey: Hahaha.

Tom: Well that’s about all I’ve got, do you have any questions for me?

Aundrey: No not at all, thank you so much.

Tom: Great, well thank you for taking the time to talk with me and I am looking forward to watching you this season! I’m sure we’ll talk before the season, good luck with the rest of your training. When does summer camp start for you?

Aundrey: August 7th I believe.

Tom: Alright, well congratulations on all your progress, and I’ll be in touch! I’ll send you the link when I get the interview up on the site. Thanks again Aundrey.

Aundrey: Great, thank you.

Chandler Harnish Interview:

First of all Chandler, thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know it’s been a busy week for you.

CH: Yeah it really has. We checked in on Saturday, have been doing meetings ever since. Meetings, interviews, testing, watching film so it’s been an unbelievably hectic week but at the same time it’s been a lot of fun.

What has been your favorite part of being down here this week?

CH: Just having the opportunity to meet some great coaches like coach Childress, Paul Spicer, and my QB coach Craig Johnson. I’ve had an opportunity to be with a lot of good people that have taught me a lot of different things.

Tom: What is one thing you think you have done very well this week?

CH: Just being a leader on the field and commanding the huddle. When guys are down or unfocused or need some extra direction on what they’re doing I think I’m a guy that’s really helped them along. There’s still plenty to work on but I think I’ve added a leadership aspect to the team.

Tom: What is something that your coaches have taught you this week that you consider particularly valuable?

CH: Just the way to actually progressively read through different receivers across the field and getting used to a NFL pass rush. I think they really harped on us as far as the pass rush in the NFL, specifically as defensive ends go, because they are so much faster than anything we’ve seen in college. So they’ve really taught me to play more urgently, to use my feet in the pocket and step up when I need to.

Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a quarterback?

CH: I think just making plays. When the game is on the line whether it is a 3rd and long or a 2 minute situation to go down and win a ball game I think that being able to make plays. Whether it’s a big throw, or scrambling out of the pocket to make a play with my feet or throwing on the run I think that’s something I’ve always been able to provide.

Tom: Yes sir, I’ve seen you do that at NIU many, many times.

CH: NIU asked me to do a lot of different things when I was playing for ‘em and that’s just the kind of player I’ve always been so it was comfortable for me to do that.

Tom: What about something you need to work on?

CH: I think that taking snaps from under center, doing your normal 5 step, 7 step drops. And then if your first guy is not open being able to go through your progressions and find your next receiver or go to your check down in a quick amount of time without getting sacked. Just taking the snap, reading the defense and making the proper throw from under center is something that I really haven’t done in college.

Tom: I agree, and how do you think that has been going this week as you’ve been learning how to do that?

CH: I think every day has gotten better. I think I saw improvement every day and again I think there’s still a lot of work to do, but we’ve had great coaches to get us there and hopefully on Saturday we’ll be able to show off some of those skills.

Tom: Do you have any mentors for the position or people you modeled yourself after?

CH: As far as mentors go I like to contact my two former quarterback coaches. Most recently a guy named Matt Canada who was my quarterback coach at NIU and the guy before him Jim Zebroswki who is now at the University of Minnesota. Those two guys I really keep in contact with a lot. Then as far as modeling my gameplay after, I feel like I’m a pretty unique player. I guess maybe a guy like Jake Locker or Fitzpatrick from Buffalo. Just gritty, tough guys that can make plays with their feet but also can make the throws.

Tom: How would you describe your work habits?

CH: I feel like I’m an incredibly hard worker, especially when we are on the field I’m going 100% all the time. I like to simulate game speed when I’m practicing so I practice as hard as I can. And off the field I watch a lot of film, take a lot of notes. I’m one of those guys that likes to take a lot of notes and then go back over those notes afterwards.

Tom: What do you think is an attribute that is crucial to play and succeed at the quarterback position?

CH: I think definitely just having confidence at the position. It’s one of those jobs where there are a lot of critics out there and you have to be confident in yourself and confident in your abilities to lead a team. Once doubt creeps in your mind is when you start to fail as a quarterback. So if you can maintain a positive self image of yourself and stay confident then everything is easier after that.

Tom: Who are a few players on defense that have stuck out to you this week?

CH: I think Dominique Hamilton is a helluva player, he’s a beast on the inside. Tank Carder from TCU he’s a really good player that can do a lot of different things. He actually intercepted one of my passes today. It just shows what kind of athlete he is. Blake Gideon the safety for Texas is also a good player. We’ve seen a lot of good ones and I’m sure we’ll see more on Saturday.

Tom: Have you heard about Josh Norman and his 6 interceptions in East practices this week?

CH: Yeah I heard about that I kind of followed that along on Twitter. Where is he from?

Coastal Carolina, so I had never really seen him much before, but he really impressed me this week.

CH: Alright, I’ll definitely look out for him on Saturday.

Tom: Anyone on offense that you have been impressed by?

CH: Yeah, we have some really good WR’s. It’s hard to name just one. We have a guy from Fresno State named Devon Wylie who I think has surprised some people. He’s a quick guy, Wes Welker type who has made a lot of plays. Tyler Shoemaker from Boise State has really impressed me. Greg Childs and Jarius Wright are really good players. Our running back Bobby Rainey is a really good player as well. We have some talent there and I think they’ll make a lot of plays.

Tom: How have your offensive linemen been doing?

CH: The offensive line has done great. The first day was kind of a struggle in the new scheme and things like that, but they’ve really settled down and provided a lot of great protection and they’re creating running room in the ground game as well. So there’s a lot of great players there, can’t really name them all, but I think they’re really big guys. They’re strong and they’re smart and they’ve done a great job.

Tom: If you don’t mind me asking, what teams have you talked to this week? Any interesting questions?

CH: Man I’ll tell you what I’ve talked to about every NFL team that’s been here this week. The Packers, Vikings, Titans, Bucs, NY Giants, Jaguars, Falcons, Patriots, Browns, Chiefs. Just to name a few. You get asked a BUNCH of different questions. They range from “Have you ever been arrested?” to “What do your parents do?” to “What do you like to do in the offseason?” to what kind of leader do you describe yourself as, to what would your coaches say about you. Just a lot of in depth questions that start to make you think.

Tom: Yeah they really ask you a lot of quirky stuff!

CH: Yeah and I think a lot of times they want to see your mannerisms, how articulate you are, or how quick you are to blame yourself rather than blame others. I think there’s a lot of things they do to see what kind of person you are because it’s pretty evident by how you answer those questions.

Tom: Where do you see your career going after this?

CH: Nowhere but up. I feel like I’ve done a lot of good things, I’ve done some things poorly down here, but I think it’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot of cool things and been around a lot of great people. I can only get better and continue to work on the techniques I’ve been taught. And being able to get to know Coach Childress and to gain familiarity with the West Coast offense is a great asset for any quarterback.

Tom: I agree, and I don’t think you can be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re gun-shy the scouts will see that and take note of it. Being able to make mistakes and learn from it is an incredibly important skill.

CH: I completely agree with you. You have to find that fine line between being willing to make a mistake and being too aggressive with the football. Sometimes you have to throw it away or you have to tuck and run but there are times you need to make a tight throw or see if you can throw one over the top. I think those guys just want to see what kind of decision maker you are and they also want to see how you bounce back from mistakes. I think that’s one thing that kind of gets overlooked is how you react to adversity when bad things do happen.

Tom: Absolutely! That is a HUGE thing that I look for when I am watching quarterbacks. You have to acknowledge that interceptions and turnovers are going to happen and that you want someone at quarterback who can lead you back down the field and not let those eat at him the rest of the game.

CH: Right, and there’s a lot to be said for having a skill like that; to be able to fight back through adversity.

Tom: Where will you be training for the combine and your pro day?

CH: In a suburb of Chicago, a place called Lake Barrington Field House. It’s a big high performance facility and I’ll train all the way through the combine and to my pro day after that.

Tom: What was your favorite moment during your senior season?

CH: Of my senior season… Man, I’ll tell you what there’s been a lot of great moments but beating Toledo when we beat them 62-60 on ESPN2 was pretty special because it was a rivalry game and there was so much on the line. But I don’t think anything tops the MAC Championship win and kind of the way we did it. NIU hadn’t won a MAC Championship for 28 years so that was really special for former players and alumni to get that one for them. There was a lot of pain there, so we kind of fixed that pain and to be able to hoist up that banner was pretty great.

Tom: Wow I didn’t realize it had been 28 years for NIU!

CH: Right, it was 1983 and we had lost a couple heart-breaking championships in the last 5 years, we could never really finish the job.

Tom: Is there one thing you want to work on or develop once you get to the NFL?

CH: Yeah I think, again, just continuing to work on reading my keys and becoming more and more comfortable under center and taking the 5 step or 7 step drop. Another thing is just being able to block out those distractions and not worry about those critics and the media and maybe some upset fans or whatever it is. Just being able to put that stuff to the side and be comfortable in your own play.

Tom: Is there a specific offense that you’d like to play in in the NFL?

CH: You know what, not really! I just want to get an opportunity to play because I like to think of myself as a pretty smart person that can pick up an offense if he’s coached the right way. But being a spread guy who has played in the shotgun a lot in college I wouldn’t mind playing in a system like that. Again, whoever is paying the bills when you get to that point. It doesn’t really matter to me!

Tom: Do you have any specific goals left for the rest of the week?

CH: Yeah, just continuing to learn our offense and master it by the big game on Saturday. Whether I start or not I want to take advantage of my opportunity and my reps that I get and be smart with the ball so I can show what I can do.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

CH: Oh man. Well I’m a farm boy. I grew up on a farm in a small town. Every summer me and my family we’d sell sweet corn. We’d go out, pick it in the field, sell it out to our local people in our community and that was the greatest time. We didn’t make a lot of money, but you can reconnect with a lot of people from the community and your hometown fans. Just being a country boy and coming from humble beginnings is I guess what I’d like people to know about me.

Tom: Well that’s about all I’ve got, do you have any questions for me?

CH: Yes actually, I saw you were from Minnesota, do you know where Richfield is? I have a teammate who is from there.

Tom: Yes of course! What is your teammate’s name?

CH: His name is Trevor Olson he was my left tackle at NIU. You should definitely follow him because he’s a great player. He’s at the NFLPA game right now and I guess he’s kind of the talk right now at left tackle. This is a guy that started 54 games at left tackle at Northern Illinois. He started every single game and in his career I think he had 5 penalties and gave up 3 sacks and at left tackle which is pretty impressive. He seems like he will be a nice sleeper and definitely make a NFL team that’s for sure.

Tom: Wow! 54 starts and only 5 penalties and 3 sacks? That’s amazing! But hey, tell me how much of that is you helping him out by stepping up and scrambling! *Laughs*

CH: Haha, yeah you know you have to put that into account but that was never a part of my game that I had to worry about was my left side. That’s probably what helped me do some of the things I did. I was always so comfortable in the pocket because I never had to worry about my back side. He’s a great player, he really is.

Tom: That’s great to hear, thanks for the heads up on that! Well it was great to talk to you Chandler, thanks again for taking the time to talk with me and good luck on Saturday!

CH: Thanks, I appreciate it.

BJ Coleman Interview:

Tom: First of all BJ thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know it’s been a busy week for you.

Tom: I have been high on you as a quarterback since before the season started, so it was fun to see you down here. How do you think your senior season went overall?

BJ: Senior season was tough. It felt great starting out, opened up in Nebraska. It was an awesome opportunity to play in Lincoln, it was really impressive. We were off to a great start, 2-1, played against App State got beat and then I got knocked out during Georgia Southern. I had a shoulder injury and was out until the rest of the season until the last game, wasn’t out the whole season, but was out until Wofford. Threw the ball around fairly well I’d say, was able to finish and come back which was big. The guys fought hard, I was blessed to be a part of that group of guys, didn’t go the way we wanted it to so that’s a credit to my teammates and the coaches.

Tom: I was trying to watch that Georgia Southern game, it looked like a tough injury.

BJ: It was one of those plays, you look at it on film and it looks like the guy didn’t even hit me that hard but the guy just caught me in the perfect spot and came down right on that AC joint. When you get that AC joint messed up, it’s really hard to lift that arm. I really hard to let my arm heal for a while, do little shoulder exercises, and I feel like my arm is stronger now I’ll be honest with you.

Tom: What has been your favorite part of being down here this week?

BJ: I would definitely say Sunday, being able to go to the hospital and visit those kids, those 3 hours are something you will remember for a lifetime. It was special and to be a part of that was way more than I could have ever asked to be a part of. I love the game of football, football is what got me here so I owe those memories to football, but being here is pretty special. After that obviously it’s been the guys, I love being a teammate and this has been special. Nothing is guaranteed after Saturday, we’d love to think that everyone will get picked up and play at the next level, but nothing is guaranteed after Saturday. We just need to go out and have fun; it’s the last send-off from college football for all of us.

Tom: What is one thing you think you have done very well this week?

BJ: I think I picked up the offense very well, I feel very good with what we’re doing. Coach Carr has done a great job preparing all of us in the meeting rooms and on the field. I think I have gotten better with my feet this week, I think that has been huge for me. I have never really had someone focus in and coach me on my feet. It was a good feeling to get a lot out of what Coach Carr was saying about feet and how it measures up with where to go, the timing of the throw and the accuracy. So I think I picked up the offense well and got better with my feet.

Tom: I agree, it’s always good to see someone that can take coaching well and improve over the course of the week and I think you proved that you could do that this week.

BJ: Oh absolutely. Ever since I was 4 years old my Dad has always been there for me and he coached my little league teams. I’ve always been able to listen and focus in on what the coach is saying and try to execute it the way they want. Sometimes it’s not going to work that way and you have to improvise a little bit, but it’s very important that you don’t get too mechanical and that the fundamentals stick so that it’s like muscle memory so you don’t have to think about that stuff when you’re playing. That way you can play fast and you can react. Sometimes I catch myself guessing a little bit, but this week I was able to kind of release, say “hey, I know this offense” make a pre-snap read, get the ball out, react and just play football. I think I’ve always been able to pick things up quickly and that was big this week as well.

Tom: What is something that your coaches have taught you this week that you consider particularly valuable?

BJ: I would say it would be the fact that it’s important to show up, and keep focus for certain amounts of time. What I mean by that is that everyone comes in and always going to be amped up to try something new. Scouts are coming in and you get the chance to play in a very prestigious game, one that’s been around a long time and that has produced a lot of NFL players, some Hall of Famers and some future Hall of Famers. We all know that. But when you come in you have all that excitement. What are you going to do when you get tired? What are you going to do when you finish practice and have to go to two hours and forty five minutes of meetings? Are you going to put your head down, take your cell phone out and not keep focus? For the most part I was very impressed with the guys in that meeting room with me because they all worked hard. Because this is a job interview for all of us, and when you go to that next level it’s a business, it’s a job. It’s something that you are going to do to put food on your plate for your family. It’s still fun, and you gotta treat it like it’s fun, but at the same time it’s what you do.

Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a quarterback?

BJ: I’d say teammates. The most important thing for a QB ESPECIALLY, yes you have to know the offense, yes you have to be able to interact and communicate, but to say it all in one word it has to be teammates. If you’ve got 10 other guys that are looking at you in the huddle with 20 eyes and they look back at you and they believe in you and what you’re selling, and they believe that you’re going to take whatever is thrown at you and make it positive, then you can accomplish anything. If you don’t have anyone that believes in you it doesn’t matter how good you are, it doesn’t matter how strong your arm is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are and it doesn’t matter if you know where to go with the ball, you’re not going to be able to do it on your own because this is an 11 man game. You’re playing against 11 other men who are very determined to stop you from your goal, especially offensively. It could be the opposite if you’re a defensive player, but I think if you’ve got guys who believe in what you’re selling and believe in you as a quarterback I think that the sky is the limit. It’s not going to be perfect, but do you give your team the best chance to win.

Tom: I think that’s a fantastic answer BJ, this has been a very refreshing interview so far.

BJ: Haha, well I’m an up-beat guy! Some people will say “Woah, easy, easy calm down!” but my mother is a principal and she has always taught me to be a leader and as a quarterback you gotta be. You gotta be outspoken and at times you gotta be able to take coaching but at the same time you have to let guys know that in a time of duress; everything’s fine. Even if it’s not!

Tom: I agree, you always look for those intangibles from a quarterback. I think that’s what sets the good ones and the great ones apart.

BJ: Oh absolutely. And you know, everyone here is a good football player. Excuse me, a great football player. I’ve seen some amazing athletes and amazing people this week, but the littlest of things, and I’m talking the littlest of the little, set some of these guys apart.

Tom: What about something you need to work on?

BJ: You would put me on the spot, Tom. I’d say touch. I think that’s another good one. Touch on the shorter passes, and I think a lot of that to with touch on the red zone, I think a lot of that comes with knocking the rust off it’s been a little while since we’ve been out here playing. But I’ve got a great feel for the long ball, I’ve got a good feel for touch, and I missed some of them this week which I was upset about. But at the same time when you get a good feel for the receivers you’re throwing to and you get time to work with them then that stuff comes. But I think that touch when throwing the check-downs and the shorter passes, other than that I was pretty pleased.

Tom: You know, it’s easy to grade a quarterback during these weeks and say “Oh he missed this throw, oh he was inaccurate that day” but playing quarterback is so much about timing, anticipation and having a good feeling for all of your receivers.

BJ: Absolutely! That’s a great point. And being down here I love seeing the big receivers and the strong legs and people that can move down the field and eat up grass fast. I think that’s what excited me because I knew I had the arm to get it there. But sometimes you get so amped up that you get a little heavy on some of those touch passes. You just have to slow yourself down, not your game, but you have to understand what throws to make in certain situations.

Tom: I agree, and I think that people forget sometimes that as a quarterback you have to develop chemistry with your receivers in just a few days of practice because you’ve usually never played with or even met any of these guys before. So I think watching the whole week to see if the chemistry starts to develop or whether the quarterback and his receivers just aren’t on the same page still is important.

Oh absolutely. I got off the plane and started shaking hands because I had never met these men. But we have done a lot of hard work this week and now it’s time to let the hard work go to work.

Tom: Do you have any mentors for the position or people you modeled yourself after?

BJ: Well, I have. It was my freshman year at UT with the Vols under Coach Fulmer, I went to Coach Cutcliffe. I went to Coach Cut and said look, I know I’m redshirting, I am going to take 18 hours of classes and I want to get every piece of film you have on Peyton. I got as much as I could and I I watched his release and his feet, and I still got some way to go on my feet, but my release I really like. It’s comes over the top, it’s not a ¾ release, it’s over the top to get the ball over the defensive line, I like it and it comes out quick with no waste of motion. I got a lot of that stuff from Peyton and I love watching Peyton. I call him “The Sherriff” because he can dissect a defense better than anyone I’ve ever seen. So if you’re going to model your game after someone he’s not a bad one to model yourself after.

Tom: How would you describe your work habits? Do you watch a lot of film?

BJ: Junkie baby. I want to be one of those guys that when you walk in “hey BJ, why are we running this play?” I want to be able to tell you. I love watching film. Throughout my career at Chattanooga and at Tennessee when I was there I watched as much as I could weekly along with class, but making sure that I could balance it and take care of business in the classroom. I watched between 20 and 25 hours of film a week on top of school and on top of the film we watched with our coaches. Preparation is important to me. I think that being unprepared for what you’re doing on game day is the worst feeling. I can safely say there were not many times in my career when I was out there and I had to say “Coach I have no idea what they’re doin.” I have been very blessed to have some great coaches prepare me. Preparation is key and it’s something I’ve always been able to do. I’m not the fastest guy, I don’t have the strongest arm and I’m probably not the smartest but if I can prepare and understand how teams try to attack us defensively and I can try to put us in the best situation to be successful.

Tom: If you don’t mind me asking, what was the biggest factor that led you to transfer from Tennessee?

BJ: The truth is, the biggest factor was that I wanted to play. I love this game, I enjoy it. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to showcase that if I stayed there. I wasn’t there to just sit on the bench. I knew I had the intangibles to get guys to play and to get excited, and to know that if they blocked for 2.5 seconds that the ball was going to come out and that we could be successful. And that’s the biggest thing with me. I wanted to go a place where I could play in a pro-style offense. There is NOTHING that is close to a NFL offense, but I wanted to go somewhere that would line me up with two backs, let me do play-action passing, do 3 step, 5 step drops. So I was able to get some of that stuff in my muscles early. That was the biggest reason. I wanted to play. I love the game and that’s what I wanted to do.

Tom: What do you think is an attribute that is crucial to play and succeed at the quarterback position?

BJ: I think you have to have a great mind. I think it’s as simple as this too, I think you’ve got to have a good arm. You don’t need to have the strongest arm, but you’ve got to be able to throw the football. I think the NFL has really become a passing league and I believe you need to be able to push the football down the field. I think if you watch the league, guys like Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Manning, Rivers, Jay Cutler, Brett Favre, they can push the football down the field. It’s important to carry out your fakes to hold those defensive ends, but it all comes down to completions, completions, completions. That’s what you wanted, I can sum it up in one word: Completions. To be able to play quarterback in the NFL you’ve got to be able to complete the football. You can never go broke making a profit, and if you complete the football… getting a yard in the NFL is very tough, and I don’t know anything about it, but listening to these coaches this week they say that getting a yard is very tough and winning is even harder. So I think it all starts with being able to complete passes.

Tom: That reminds me, I have always noticed that you do great ball fakes even when it’s in drills without a running back. I think that is part of what makes your play-action fakes so effective on film.

BJ: I learned this from Coach Clausen. He said that you want your defensive line and linebackers to see the ball in the running backs pocket. You want them to see that and if they take a picture, they would think he’s got it. Then you can carry out your fake and make big plays down the field. But if you don’t carry out your fake correctly and get that ball in the right spot then it’s not going to be effective.

Tom: Who are a few players on defense that have stuck out to you this week?

BJ: You’re going to have to work with me with some of the names, but I really like the Merrimack kid (Shawn Loiseau). I love his intensity. I love his energy, his passion. You can tell he loves to play the game for the game. There are several good defensive linemen here. Defensive back wise there’s some good ones. The kid from Notre Dame, the Blanton kid is pretty good. The Hampton kid is a solid football player.

Tom: Anyone on offense that you have been impressed by?

BJ: Tauren Poole. I’ve known him for a while but that’s not why I like him, he really works hard. I think our tight ends have done a great job. Ford, Rodriguez and I can’t pronounce the last one Tom, we just call him Big Ig. Those guys have been a solid group. The offensive line has done extremely well. You’ve got to give those guys credit, and I’m not just doing that because I’m a quarterback. For four days to get the protections down well is impressive. The receivers have gotten better all week. I like the Michigan State kid (B.J. Cunningham), I like his burst and I think he’s got something to him. I like Jenkins from Illinois and the Benford kid has made some strides as well. We’ve got some weapons, and those guys have really stood out.

Tom: If you don’t mind me asking, what teams have you talked to this week? Any interesting questions?

BJ: Oh man. I’ve talked to a bunch which I hope is a good sign. I was able to talk to several teams. Every one of them was something different which I thought was something intriguing. Those guys are just down to earth type people. They interact with me just like they would anybody else. It was a really neat experience. They asked me what type of offenses are you in, can you explain certain plays, what do you expect out of your career. Some cool things, I was intrigued. It was a neat experience, and they asked a bunch of the same things you’re asking me about my strengths, weaknesses, what do I like or dislike, what type of guy are you. They just want to get to know you.

Tom: Well I’m glad some of my questions are reminding you of those interviews, I think that’s a good sign for me! Haha.

BJ: That’s exactly right!

Tom: If you don’t mind me stealing one of their questions, what do you see from your career?

BJ: I’ve always loved this game. It’s funny, I understand the situation that it’s very difficult. There’s 96 quarterbacks give or take a few, 3 per team, 32 teams. Those jobs are very few and far between. I understand that. My goal is to play football in the NFL. I want to be on a team, but I want to contribute. My goal is to play in a Super Bowl. I want to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and I want to play and win a Super Bowl. I want to have a long, successful career and I want to be the best. I think that’s something you should always strive for, to be the best. There have been some GREAT quarterbacks in the NFL, but I think that’s the goal you have to have.

Tom: I love hearing players, but especially quarterbacks, say that they want to win and that they want to hear a Super Bowl. That’s not always the first thing to come to people’s minds. But you can throw for a lot of yards and everything, but it comes down to being able to win and I think that’s why Tim Tebow has created such a big stir, because he has been able to win games.

BJ: Oh absolutely! I love what he has done in Denver. He goes out there and he has “it.” I believe you can look into a guy’s eyes and say “he has it.” You gotta be able to have that factor for people to gravitate to you. That comes down to playing quarterback and being a leader, being somebody that you can look at and say “I want to follow that guy and do whatever I can because I know that if he succeeds, we succeed” and that’s big.

Tom: Now, here’s the big question: Do you think YOU have “it”?

BJ: Gosh, I would prefer if someone else told me that I have “it”. But deep down in my gut I truly believe I do have “it”. I believe I have the ability to walk into a room and take control, and not in a “hey look at me” way, I’m talking about walking into a room and you have their respect and their eyes pop up. I think Coach Cutcliffe had “it.” When he walked in you knew he was there, you could feel him in the room. That’s the difference to me between good and great. When Peyton Manning walks into a room you can feel him, I’m positive. When Brett Favre walks into a room, people felt it and they could tell “hey, it’s time to go to work.” I love to have fun, but when it’s time to go to work you’re going to be accountable.

Tom: Where will you be training for the combine and your pro day?

BJ: As of now I have been working out in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. My agent is Bus Cook so I have a great man representing me. He’s a lot like me outside of athletic clothes I wear cowboy boots and jeans. I have gotten to work out with Brett Favre a couple times so I am very pleased.

Tom: Wow, how was working out with Favre?

BJ: Oh man, it’s been great. He’s a hall of fame quarterback man. He’s everything and more that anyone could think about, and I’m very lucky to be able to work out with him and Sam Morris my weight trainer down there. I’m not anything flashy man, I don’t like flash. I’m working out at a local high school in Hattiesburg with the head trainer there named Sam Morris and that’s exactly how I want it. I’m from Chattanooga, Tennessee and I wouldn’t want to be from anywhere else. To be able to go down and train with people who are very respectful “yes sir, no sir” type people is all I could ever ask for.

Tom: What is some of the advice he’s given you so far?

BJ: His biggest thing is that you gotta go in prepared. You never know what’s gonna happen. Make sure that when you go in you have a plan and when you snap the ball you can react. That’s what I’ve been trying to do this week. You have to do what you do, and you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Our quarterback coach, Coach Carr for the East, he said “Hey look, I don’t want you to play so uptight that you’re afraid to pull the trigger.” And that’s how I’ve played this week, I’m not afraid to pull the trigger. Was it always perfect? No, but because of that it allowed people to kind of see that this kid here is not afraid to throw the football.

Tom: What was your favorite moment during your senior season?

BJ: Senior season… It felt good to come back, I’m not gonna lie to you. It felt good to come back. It was a feat that I wanted to accomplish. Since I was very young I hadn’t missed a game in any sport I had played. This was the first time I had to sit out of anything. You can get to a point where you start playing mind games and you say “Am I ever going to be able to come back, is my arm ever going to be healthy” and the guys there, and my family were great and told me not to think that way. They told me that this is a part of playing athletics. You’re going to get injured, you’re going to have knocks, but my mom always said that every knock is a boost. If you can get through it it’s only going to make you stronger, and I really believe my arm is stronger now. I just gotta continue to build on it.

Tom: You know, it might be a strange thing, but I believe that sometimes those hardships that might feel awful when they happen, but knowing how to deal with an injury and rehab from it is important for going to the NFL. And maybe, if you hadn’t gotten hurt, you wouldn’t have known what to do but now you have some experience dealing with that adversity.

BJ: Absolutely!! My mother always says that everything happens for a reason. I had no idea Tom, I had no idea what it was like to get injured! I mean I’ve played with bad ankles, with a bad whatever, but I’ve always played. It didn’t matter, I always played through it. But this time the good Lord was saying “Hey man, you’re a guy who is just like everyone else and you’ve got to learn these things.” Did I like it? No, not at all. It was my senior season and we had great aspirations, and I was sorry that it happened that way not just for me but for my teammates, but everything happens for a reason.

Tom: Is there one thing specifically you want to work on or develop once you get to the NFL?

BJ: Sure. I think the biggest thing is that whatever ball-club I end up with I want to take in that system, learn all the ins and outs and everything I can learn about it. I’m one of those guys that loves to study and I want to learn all about it and I am one of those guys that really focuses in on the little things about it. But I think the most important thing is to learn from the guy that’s there. Obviously you want to be the guy, but I think there’s a lot to be said for a guy that can come in and really learn from the guy that’s there. It’s important for a new guy to come in and take in everything people are willing to teach him. It’s important to take some instruction and I’m very willing to do that. I think there’s a lot to be learned from those guys that are up there. They aren’t up there for no reason, they are up there because they can play football and I think they can really be good leaders too.

Tom: Is there any offense that you would like to play in?

BJ: I really… I’m very pro-stylish. I love what the Colts do, I know that’s Peyton, but the Colts do it. The Saints and Drew Brees do it. Play action fake and push the ball down the field. I like what Green Bay does with Aaron Rodgers, and he’s a guy that can move outside the pocket but it’s a lot of ball fakes and throwing the ball down the field. I like that I really do. I’ve never really played in a spread offense so I don’t know too much about it and I don’t know who runs it, I know some teams have dabbled in it, but wherever I go I’ll be able to adapt to whatever they do.

Tom: Do you have any specific goals left for the rest of the week?

BJ: Have fun. I think the biggest thing is for the rest of this week is, as I have been all week, is to just go out and have fun. As I said earlier, nothing beyond this Saturday is guaranteed and the teammates thing is pretty hard to swallow. I miss the guys back in Chattanooga, I miss my boys and Go Mocs. Those guys have been awesome for me. I’ve talked to a few of them since I’ve been down here, my brother is on the team, so I just really miss the team. You miss bleedin’, you miss sweatin with those guys, but now I have been blessed to try to make another ball squad. That’s my focus, it’s still an interview, but you go out, you have fun and you stay focused. Even if it’s just a disaster, that’s ok, you pick yourself up and you go on to the next day.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

BJ: That’s a tough one, but I could talk to a wall man. I’m always open to meeting new people. But if you give me a call Sunday after the game I can have a better answer for you than that, you put me on the spot! But I really appreciate you takin the time to talk to me and taking the time to follow me and the guys, it really means a lot.

Tom: No problem BJ, this has been great. I’ll check in with you on Sunday, and if I don’t talk to you before the game good luck on Saturday!

I’ll be sure to update this once BJ gives me his final answer on what he would like the world to know about him, so stay tuned for that. Hopefully you enjoyed the interview; I had a lot of fun talking to BJ.

–Tom

Perry Baker Camp Diary: Chapter 1

Some of you may be familiar with Perry Baker, but for those who aren’t he is a wide receiver from Fairmont State who was invited to the East-West Shrine Game and in my opinion was quite impressive. He was learning specific things and was working hard to improve his route running there. Even still he was consistently burning DeMarcus Van Dyke, a corner who was severely overdrafted by the Raiders in the 3rd round almost entirely because of his speed. Still, he was burning a player who NFL teams (or at least one) thought warranted a draft pick and that says something about him.

The most amazing thing, however, was that he was doing it all on a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Yes, Perry did all of this with a torn meniscus in his knee. He played the majority of his senior season in college on a torn meniscus, he was invited to the East-West Shrine Game where he practiced and played on a torn meniscus, he trained and worked out for teams on that torn meniscus, and the reason he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles after agreeing to sign as an Undrafted Free Agent was because of that same torn meniscus. Having interviewed Perry previously and seeing him play, I could barely comprehend that he did that all on a torn meniscus. Obviously it isn’t a dramatic, debilitating injury like an ACL or MCL tear, but having a tear in your knee in any way, shape or form is nothing to scoff at. That just makes what he was able to accomplish all the more impressive in my eyes.

Unfortunately, the Eagles were forced to fail him on his physical examination, since a tear in his meniscus isn’t something they can just overlook. It’s safe to say Perry was on a roller coaster ride of emotions after getting calls from teams and agreeing to terms with the Eagles, then hours later being notified of an unknown injury that he had been playing on for the better part of a year prior to being cut before even getting to show what he can do in training camp.

You have to feel for Perry because he is a great kid and he is a good football player, even if he doesn’t have much name recognition because of his time spent at a small school. But having talked to Perry during the East-West Shrine Game practices and after being in contact with him consistently since he got the offer from the Eagles until just minutes before writing this I can assure you that Perry is ready to work, ready to rehab and ready to make sure he gets his shot. He told me that the surgery went well and his first day of rehab was this morning bright and early. He has been doing range of motion exercises with his knee since the surgery on Friday morning at 6 am. He texted me again after his first rehab session and told me that it went great and that there was “no swelling in the knee at all” which is obviously a great sign. He told me that the expected recovery time for the injury is 2-3 weeks, which means he will have to make the most of any offers that come his way once he is healthy enough to pass a physical examination.

It is my hope, as well as everyone’s here at NFL Draft Monsters, that Perry is able to make a full recovery as fast as possible and that he is able to get another invite to training camp so that he has a chance to strut his stuff. I’m not sure how realistic that will be, but I have seen him play and I can attest to his ability. It would be unfortunate if he didn’t get another invite, but if he doesn’t I’m sure he will have options in the CFL or the UFL since both leagues had players taken from them to fill NFL training camp rosters. Then it is just a matter of time until he gets his shot later this year or if he must, he can wait until next year. That isn’t ideal obviously, but there are worse things.

So for those of you just learning about Perry Baker, this is just the first chapter of his post-rehab diary. There are many to come, and as I get more updates on his progress I will be sure to share them with you. I encourage you all to retweet this, share it with your friends and leave comments on this post offering well wishes to Perry as he begins his road to recovery and ultimately the NFL.

Thanks for reading, and good luck to Perry with his continued rehab efforts and we all wish him future success in the NFL!

–Tom

Martin Parker (on right) was the defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game, and I interviewed him for the second time shortly after this picture was taken.

For those of you who don’t know, Martin Parker is a defensive tackle from Richmond. He was a four year starter there, and graduated this year and was invited to the East-West Shrine Game which is where I first met him. I interviewed him before the game during the week, and again on the field after his team dominated the game and he was named the Defensive MVP of the contest. Then he went to the NFL Combine and put up impressive numbers measuring in at 6’2″, 303 pounds, running a 4.95 40 yard dash time (officially) and had 22 reps on the bench press. After all of this, though, he still was not drafted much to my surprise as well as many others. But Martin is not one to give up easily, and he continued training and working hard, even ending up on the roster of the Chicago Rush, an Arena Football League team, during the lockout. Now he has been signed to an undrafted free agent deal with the NFL’s New York Giants. Nothing is guaranteed for him, but he is ready for the next challenge and I know that everyone here at NFL Draft Monsters is rooting for him to make the roster. Maybe after you this read this interview and get to know him, you will too.

Martin Parker Interview:

Tom: A lot has happened since we last spoke! Do you mind if we start from after the shrine game and work our way back to where we are now?

Martin: Sure, well I was lucky enough to get an invite to the combine and I was able to go out to Indianapolis and I felt lucky to be able to go on the Colts field and work out with all of those guys, and I actually performed better than I thought I would so I really thought I was going to get drafted after the combine. Then the draft rolled around and I was watching it with my family and friends and I didn’t get drafted, but I took it on the chin and woke up the next day and kept training and working because I knew my time would come. During the process while the NFL was still locked out the Chicago Rush from the AFL approached me about playing there and after talking it over with my agent we decided it couldn’t hurt and that I could benefit from it, so I went there for about 6 weeks and played in 6 games for them. I ended up with 6 sacks, but it was a huge transition. Counter moves don’t work there, it’s all about your get-off and your initial pass rush move, which was something I needed to work on, so being there for 6 weeks gave me an opportunity to do that and it helped me improve my initial get off and my initial pass rush move. Then I went back to training, and the lockout ended and I got a lot of offers, but the Giants were my first one and it was a great fit for me seeing as they are a team that focuses on the defensive line with their defensive scheme, so I knew they were the team I wanted to go to as soon as I got the offer on Monday. 2 hours after I got it I gave them the word and accepted their offer and here we are today.

Tom: Wow, great synopsis. If you don’t mind I’m going to delve into some more of it to get more specific on some parts.

Martin: Sure, go ahead.

Tom: Ok, great. What was the combine like? I was very impressed with your showing there but I’m sure it was a unique experience.

Martin: It was just a totally new experience, there was no way to prepare for it. On TV you only see the drills, the 40 yard dashes, and the other physical tests they put you through, but behind the scenes so much more goes on.

Tom: What stuck out to you most? Did anything particularly weird happen to you?

Martin: Nothing particularly weird no, but I’d say the thing that stuck out to me most was just realizing that I could compete with these D-1 athletes from Florida State, Auburn, and other powerhouse schools and that I could play on this level.

Tom: How many teams did you conduct an interview with?

Martin: I’d say the majority of the league. I talked with a lot of the teams, I’m not sure exactly how many.

Tom: What were the interviews like? Were they all similar or did they vary a lot?

Martin: I’d say they were similar for the most part, they wanted to feel me out as a person and as a player. They wanted to see how much I knew about the game, how high my football IQ was, whether I was a team player or not, stuff like that. They wanted to know what my coaches and teammates would say about me if they asked, and I was always a team player, a good teammate and a good kid in college, so I knew they would say good things.

Tom: So you checked out huh? No skeletons in your closet! Haha

Martin: Nope I checked out just fine.

Tom: Did any teams bring up your performance at the East-West practices when they talked to you?

Martin: Not a lot of them, but the head coach from Miami (Tony Sporano) brought it up and told me the film he saw from that week was the best film that he had seen of me and that it showed I had clearly progressed since the last game of the season, which was great to hear, especially since I felt I had progressed also. But it was good to hear that from someone else.

Tom: How did you arrange things for your pro day? I know you and Justin both came from Richmond, did you guys just hold it there or did you hold it with some more guys some place else?

Martin: Justin and I both went back to Richmond for our pro-days. It’s funny, my trainers and everyone else told me not to run my 40 yard dash again at my pro-day because I had done well when I was timed at the combine so I wasn’t going to, but two minutes before my name was called I decided I was going to do it again and I ended up running a 4.92 which was even better than my combine time, it’s funny how those things work out sometimes. I also improved on my bench press numbers from my combine.

Tom: That’s a great story! And clearly you felt prepared enough to do both of those things again even though you had prepared well, to me that speaks to your preparation and your work ethic, and it shows that you kept working hard even after your combine performance.

Martin: Exactly and that’s what I wanted to show the teams that came to see me at my pro-day.

Tom: Ok, so what did you do on draft day?

Martin: I went back to Connecticut and had all of my family and even some friends from Richmond up to my house and we watched the draft together, so it was hard when I didn’t get drafted.

Tom: How tough was it not hearing your name called on draft day?

Martin: It was really tough, I was really down about it the night after the draft ended, but I knew that wasn’t the end of my journey, it was just the beginning, so the next morning I got out of bed early as usual and got back to training and that has led me back to this great opportunity to be a member of the Giants.

Tom: That’s a perfect attitude to have, that’s great to hear. What was the most helpful or best piece of advice you got after the draft?

Martin: I’d say that the most helpful thing I heard after the draft was from my Uncles. They told me before the draft even started that they were very proud of me for the hard work that I had put in to get to this point, they were proud that I had finished school at Richmond and they were proud of the football career that I had already had up to this point, so that was great to hear. And they said the same thing after the draft.

Tom: That’s great to hear, I’m glad you have that kind of a support system behind you. So where have you been training?

Martin: I’ve been training in downtown Manhattan, and I have been training with a guy who had never had a client specifically for the combine before. He was an Olympic athlete so he helped me with all of my speed work.

Tom: Well after your combine and pro-day performance I guess it’s safe to say whatever he does works!

Martin: Haha, definitely. He helped me out a lot.

Tom: I remember you saying you wanted to work on your leverage and flexibility, how is that coming?

Martin: Yeah I definitely wanted to work on that, and the AFL actually really helped improve that. I wanted to be able to keep my leverage and get under the offensive linemen to drive them back, and I wanted to have the flexibility to dip my shoulder and drive around the edge to get to the quarterback, so playing in the AFL for 6 games really helped me improve that along with my initial moves.

Tom: Hand usage is a huge part of playing defensive tackle, some guys do MMA training to improve that, how would you describe your hand usage and would you ever consider that kind of training regimen?

Martin: I actually have done some MMA work and I would definitely say it helps. It teaches you to be violent with your hands obviously, which is a huge part of keeping blockers off of you. And being a 4 year starter at Richmond and having played in three different defensive schemes with three different coaching staffs I’ve seen every scheme and every block you can see, so being able to improve your hand usage to keep blockers off of you and to shed blocks is very important.

Tom: What teams called (or maybe we should start with what teams DIDN’T call!) once they were allowed to talk to you?

Martin: A lot of teams called, over half the league called I would say, so it was good to feel wanted and to feel that people thought I deserved a shot, but after I got the Giants offer and talked to my agent about it we knew that was the best fit for me, so we decided to accept that offer early just so we could get the process over with.

Tom: What made you ultimately decide to go to New York?

Martin: It’s just a great fit like I said before. They are known for their defensive line and their defensive line is what makes their entire scheme go, and I am really excited to be a part of a team that has such an intense focus on the play of the defensive line because it will be a great experience for me. Plus playing with a defensive line that has had so much experience making plays and being disruptive will be great.

Tom: How rewarding was it when you finally signed with the Giants and had a spot?

Martin: It’s funny, everyone around me was more excited that I was. It’s funny how that happens sometimes, but it was more of a relief for me than anything. After the combine I was convinced that I could play at this level, but I thought that I was going to get drafted. Not getting drafted was obviously a humbling experience though, and the wait was a long one to finally get signed because of the lockout. So after that long process, which was essentially an 8 month interview starting in December, it was nice to finally know where I was going so I could get back to playing football again.

Tom: What is the one thing you are most looking forward to at training camp?

Martin: Just stepping out on that field you know? I’ve been dreaming of this for a long time, and to finally have my chance in the NFL is something I have been looking forward to for a long time. I can’t wait to get out there and play some football again.

Tom: Do you think you can make the 53 man roster? I know what my answer is, but I thought I’d ask you first.

Martin: Hahaha. Absolutely I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could make the roster. Obviously it won’t be easy, but nothing has been given to me or been easy for me up to this point, so there’s no reason this should be any easier. But I am committed, I work hard and I am ready to get out there and compete. I am going to approach every day of practice like it is a game and just give it my all, that’s all I can really do.

Tom: Who was the first person you called after you agreed to go to the Giants?

Martin: Haha, I called my mom and then I told the rest of my family. They were really excited.

Tom: What is your opinion of Lawrence Sidbury? Did you ever get to start alongside him?

Martin: Yeah I got two start next to him for two or three years… I think two. It was great playing with him because he is just so fast and so quick off the ball. You almost felt like as a defensive tackle that you would be guaranteed a shot at a sack every game because he forced quarterbacks to step up in the pocket so consistently. It was great playing with him. It was definitely a transition for me personally after he left for the NFL and I had to play without him.

Tom: Do you think he is ready to contribute to the Falcons rotation? We could really use the pass rush.

Martin: Definitely. I’m just waiting for him to get unleashed and rush the passer like everyone knows he can. Hopefully this is the year for that.

Tom: Ok, fun question: Where is your MVP trophy from the East-West Shrine Game at this moment?

Martin: Hahahaha… wow… where is it…

Tom: I got you! Character concern #1!

Martin: Hahaha. I think it’s in a box at my house, stored in a safe place obviously.

Tom: Ready for you to move close to the Giants facility when they lock you up long term!

Martin: Haha, exactly!

Tom: Are there any up and coming Richmond Spiders I should keep an eye and an ear out for?

Martin: Definitely. Aaron Corp sticks out obviously. We have a bunch of guys that are going to be seniors, so Richmond is a team to watch out for this year!

Tom: Duly noted! And I don’t know what kind of consolation this is, but after the draft the entire draftnik community was convinced that you were the consensus “player who should have been drafted”, how does that make you feel? Haha

Martin: That’s great to hear! Obviously I agree with that and I think I should have been drafted, but there were reasons that I wasn’t. That’s all in the past now though, and I can’t worry about any of that now that I have gotten my shot with the Giants.

Tom: Well I for one was extremely happy that you got a spot, I was keeping one eye on Twitter, the other on ESPN, and listening to NFL Network to try to find out as soon as possible when you were going to get picked up, because I knew it was going to happen. I Can’t describe my elation when I heard you signed, can’t imagine how happy you must have been. So congratulations, good luck, and just know that I, as well as thousands of other fans and supporters are pulling for you to make the 53 man roster! Thank you so much for the interview, it had been too long. I will keep in touch better than I did the past few months. Good luck in training camp and never hesitate to give me a ring or shoot me a text, I’d always love to hear from you. Unless you’ve got any questions for me, I’m all done with the interview!

Martin: No questions from my end, thanks for the call!

Tom: No problem Martin. Thanks again, and kick some ass and take some names in training camp!

Martin: Haha, will do!

Hopefully you enjoyed that interview with Martin Parker. Look out for a couple more in the coming days, and thanks for reading!

–Tom

Akeem Dent Interview

Here is my interview with Akeem Dent, a linebacker from the University of Georgia. Enjoy!

Akeem Dent projects well to the ILB position in a 3-4 defense, and I think he warrants at least late round consideration.

Tom: What was your fondest memory as a Georgia Bulldog?

Akeem: Just being able to play in front of thousands of people week in and week out.

Tom: I’ve watched a lot of tape of you and you fill very well as a run defender, plus you are a tackling machine. What is your secret to being so effective against the run?

Akeem: Just making sure I read my keys. My coach told me you have to pay attention to the small things and all the details, and that starts with reading my keys.

Tom: What do you think is your biggest strength as a player?

Akeem: My willingness to work hard and my will to want to work and get better and to get to the ball as a linebacker.

Tom: What do you think is one thing you might need to work on?

Akeem: You always have to improve on coverage stuff and on pass rushing when I come on blitzes. Those are a couple things that stand out to me as a personal critique.

Tom: How do you think things went in practice for you this week?

Akeem: I feel like I had a chance to compete against a lot of good players and show a couple NFL scouts what I can do and I feel like I got a lot done. But there’s still a lot of work to get done.

Tom: Have you talked with many teams or scouts since you’ve been here?

Akeem: Yeah I’ve met with a number of teams. It’s hard to remember all of them, but I’ve talked to a number of them.

Tom: Who is the toughest player that you played against while you were at Georgia?

Akeem: I played against a lot of guys! It’s tough. Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, practicing against Knowshon (Moreno), A.J. (Green), so I’ve played against a lot of elite players in this conference.

Tom: Who was the toughest player you played against this week?

Akeem: I would say there were a couple guys. Delone Carter, he stands out as a good running back. Graig Cooper from Miami, he’s real solid. A couple offensive lineman, the guy from Clemson (Chris Hairston), he’s pretty good.

Tom: Have any of your fellow linebackers stuck out to you this week?

Akeem: Oh yeah. Greg Lloyd from UCONN, Rolle from Ohio State. I think that all of the linebackers here have done a good job of taking coaching well and just trying to learn.

Tom: Is there anything in particular you have learned from your linebacker coach this week?

Akeem: Just try to be fundamentally sound. Making sure you use proper technique so you’ll be able to make plays and get to the ball.

Tom: Is there anything you want the world to know about you that it might not already know?

Akeem: Just that I’m a Georgia guy, I’m hard working and I’m trying to improve as much as I can.

Tom: Thanks for your time and good luck the rest of the way!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Here is my interview with Martin Parker from before the East-West Shrine Game and after he won the Defensive MVP award in the game. Enjoy!

Martin Parker (on the right) after he won the Defensive MVP award in the East-West Shrine Game. I interviewed him for the second time shortly after this picture was taken.

Tom: How do you think the week went overall as far as all the practices?

Martin: I think it was a great week, at first it was a little nerve racking but getting out there and practicing made it a lot better for me.

Tom: What would you say is your biggest strength as a football player?

Martin: I would have to say my motor and my determination. No matter where a play is I want to be the one who is chasing the play down and trying to make a play from the backside on the running back, quarterback or even wide receiver.

Tom: What is something you might want to work on or develop once you get to the NFL?

Martin: One thing I really want to work on is my leverage, my flexibility and body strength. I’m not a weak person but I think I can improve my strength and I just want to improve my leverage just to make me a better football player.

Tom: Any goals left for the rest of the week?

Martin: I mean, I am never satisfied with what I do, personally I think I have had a good week of practice. I just want to prove that I, Martin Parker, from the University of Richmond can play at this level of football against these bigger offensive lineman.

Tom: Who is the toughest player you’ve gone against in practice this week?

Martin: The offensive lineman from Illinois, I forget the name. *Randall Hunt* He was definitely bigger than any other offensive lineman I had gone against at guard. It was one of those things where I had to attack the challenge head on and I think I held my own against him and the other offensive linemen.

Tom: You and David Arkin had some good battles this week, any thoughts on him?

Martin: He’s a great player. Our whole battle started on Monday in the ballroom and just continued through the rest of the week. He’s another great player from the FCS level that is going to get his shot to make it to the NFL, he has a great skill set to make it there.

Tom: You kind of laughed when I asked you that question, do you remember a couple of the plays in the ball room on the first day of practice?

Martin: It was the first play where our DL coach told us to take it easy and take it slow and he came off the ball hard and knocked me over so the next play I came off hard and put him in the backfield. I walked away calmly after that though.

Tom: What do you think is your best scheme fit in the NFL?

Martin: I can play where-ever any team wants me to play. I know a lot of people say that because they think that it will help them sound good, but I’ve played DE, 3 tech, nose guard, 3-4 DE and I’ve been successful at all of those positions in my four years at Richmond. If a team drafts me and wants me to go play 3-4 DE then I will go out there and I promise you I will be one of the best players out there. I’ve been playing 3 technique for four years at Richmond, so I know I can hold my own at that position.

Tom: Have you talked to any teams or scouts yet?

Martin: Earlier in the week I talked to a handful of teams, nothing since then though. It will be interesting to see how all the pieces of the puzzle come together.

Tom: Do you have any preference as far as what kind of coach you would like to play for?

Martin: I went through three different head coaches at Richmond, three defensive line coaches at Richmond so I have experience under pretty much any kind of football coach you can have. It really isn’t bothersome to me, whoever my coach is I am going to listen to what they have to say so that I can have success in whatever system they run.

Tom: Your teammate Justin Rogers had a good week, any thoughts on him as a player?

Martin: He’s a great player, he has been ever since we have been at Richmond. He came out this weekend seeking to prove that he can cover wide receivers that a lot of people didn’t think he could cover. He’s made a name for himself this week and batted some balls down this week to put himself in a good position.

Tom: What is one thing you’d like the world to know that it might not already know.

Martin: That I’m different. I’m always full of surprises.

Tom: Thanks again for the interview, and good luck in the game tomorrow!

After the game interview:

Tom: I had to get an interview with you after you won MVP. *Laughter* 2 sacks, a forced fumble, you dominated today! How does it feel?

Martin: Right now I can’t stop smiling. Coming into this game I just wanted to have a solid game and come out and put myself in a good position after this game. After the first sack I just wanted more. The defensive line played great today. We pushed each other. On the sideline we told each other wanted two, we wanted three, we wanted four sacks.

Tom: Remember I interviewed you before NFL Network! *Laughter* I was there before it began! All the guys I interviewed played well today, especially you, so… I’m just saying…

Martin: *Laughter* I give the credit to everybody!

Tom: Where do you go from here now?

Martin: I’m going back to New York to continue training again and get ready for the combine.

Tom: Great! Well thanks again and congratulations on MVP! Enjoy the night!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Here is an interview I conducted with Justin Griffith, a former Falcon fullback, at the East-West Shrine Game way back in January. I’ve been swamped so I haven’t gotten to all of the interviews yet, but this is one that I do have done. Enjoy!

Griffith was always one of my favorite Falcons so it was great to get a chance to meet and interview him.

Tom: What has it been like coaching instead of playing?

Justin: It’s been fun man, I played for 8 years and the things I have learned over those 8 years I have been able to relate those things back on the field. Coaching these guys, trying to put these guys into a position like someone else put me into position.

Tom: What is your favorite memory from playing in Atlanta?

Justin: My favorite memory is probably going to the NFC championship game. We had a great year that year, first round bye, guys were ready to play like a family in the locker room. You never forget stuff like that, it’s pretty much the locker room that stays with you that whole time.

Tom: Do you still talk to the players or coaches that were on the teams you played on?

Justin: Oh yes. I talk to several coaches on that team, I ended up staying my whole career with one of those coaches from that team. I also keep in touch with teammates. Once you form those relationships in the locker room you never forget those guys and they never forget you. You always have those memories.

Tom: Who has stuck out to you out of the players you have been coaching this week?

Justin: You know, I like all my guys. But I really like my fullback Patrick (DiMarco). He’s a good pass protector, I like what he does catching the ball, and hopefully he will go out on Saturday and do those things again. He’s a good football player.

Tom: How did you end up coming here for the East-West Shrine Game?

Justin: I ended up coming here because the GM in Atlanta when I was drafted ended up calling me and asking me if I wanted to coach in the East-West game. He knew that I wanted to get into some coaching and he told me that this would be a good way to start so I have gotten started just like that.

Tom: What have you been doing since you left the Falcons?

Justin: I played for some different teams, I also got married and I have a little boy now. Things have been good and I can’t complain about anything.

Tom: Sounds like you have been looking to get into coaching, how is that going?

Justin: It’s going good, coming down here was big for me, coming down here and coaching for these guys. Hopefully I can make some contacts, get in touch with somebody and get on somebody’s coaching staff.

Tom: What is one thing you’d like the world to know about you that they might not already know?

Justin: I don’t know… that’s a hard question. I am a family man. I am a family oriented guy. I love my wife, I love my son and they mean the world to me.

Thanks again for the interview Justin, and good luck with your coaching career!

–Tom

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