Tag Archive: East-West Shrine Game


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

Size: Coleman definitely seems to have NFL size, and I haven’t changed my opinion on that since I last watched him this summer. He’s got good size as he has listed at 6’5” but he looks a bit skinny on film and is listed at only 220 pounds. He could stand to get bigger, and if he added weight he would be able to sustain more hits as a quarterback.

Arm Strength: I have backed off my claim that Coleman has very rare arm strength for now. In this game his arm strength looked good, but it didn’t look great. He has a strong arm and can make all of the NFL throws, but it didn’t look elite. I’d grade it a 4.0 out of 5.0, so it’s not like he has a weak arm, but right now I can’t say that it’s elite. He has good zip on his throws though and can make quality deep ball throws.

Accuracy: Coleman has pretty good accuracy, and it was tough to judge against a very good Nebraska defense. He didn’t make a lot of NFL throws in this game just because a number of times they weren’t there, which made it difficult to truly evaluate his accuracy. But he showed the potential to be accurate to all levels, though he does still miss high at times. Right now I would give him a 3.5 grade on accuracy.

Mechanics: Coleman has solid mechanics. He very rarely lines up under center, but his offense is similar to what Ryan Mallett ran at Arkansas in that they run from under center almost every time he lines up there, but they will mix in play-action looks to try to catch the defense sneaking up to stack the box against the run. He has a smooth, quick release and has solid footwork in shotgun. He will need to develop his footwork when dropping back straight from center which I have rarely seen him do, but overall his mechanics are solid.

Mobility: Coleman has some mobility but won’t be a big scrambling threat in the NFL. However, he has more than enough mobility to make people miss in the pocket and to extend plays outside of the pocket by scrambling. He won’t outrun many people, but he can buy himself time which is all he has to do as a pocket passer.

Pre/Post Snap Reads: Coleman could use some development in this area. He stared down too many receivers in this game against Nebraska and checked down a lot. This probably has more to do with his receivers being overmatched as they struggled to create consistent separation, but regardless Coleman still struggled to threaten downfield. Additionally, he also did not recognize Nebraska’s blitz packages effectively prior to the snap which led to him being surprised by the immediacy of the pressure applied by them which led to a number of sacks for the Huskers. He needs to continue to learn how to use his eyes to deceive the defenders trying to read his eyes because right now he stares down too many receivers partially because he is still learning to read defenses and partially because of the offense that he operates. Particularly in this game, the only yardage they were able to accumulate was coming on short throws to try to get the ball out quickly due to Nebraska’s overpowering defensive line. He hasn’t really developed in this area since last season which is a little disappointing to me, but it adds credence to the idea that he would need a year or two before he could step in as a solid NFL starter.

Intangibles: Coleman still seems to have quality intangibles. His team was very overmatched in this game but he kept coming and making efforts even though literally every time his defense walked back onto the field they seemed to give up points. He is always up to the challenge of converting on 3rd downs, but doesn’t force a lot of throws into coverage which indicates pretty good decision making. He won’t just force throws into double or triple coverage which limited his options against a talented Nebraska defense. Their only touchdown drive was helped along by a big roughing the passer penalty that helped them convert on a 2nd and 10 after an incomplete pass instead of having yet another 3rd and long situation. I definitely need to see more of him from this aspect, but I’ve seen him exemplify mental toughness and perseverance before, so I know it’s there.

Character: I don’t know much about Coleman’s character, just like I don’t know an awful lot about his intangibles, but he didn’t seem frustrated or angry with his supporting cast even though they were vastly overmatched and struggled to consistently pick up yardage on early downs resulting in a lot of 2nd and 3rd and longs for him to try to convert. He seemed a bit frustrated later in the game as he continued to get hit, but by then they were so far behind that it was only natural to get a bit frustrated. He did transfer from Tennessee so I’m sure people will question how good he could really be if he couldn’t beat out Crompton back when he was a Volunteer, but that is only a minor concern in my opinion.

Overall: I was not as blown away by Coleman’s performance in this game, though he did play well overall considering the vast gap between Nebraska’s talent and the talent he had on his offense. He made good decisions, didn’t force throws into coverage, and continued to demonstrate good arm strength and accuracy. He still needs work on his pre and post snap reads and could stand to develop his mechanics further, but overall he is a solid prospect. Right now I’d grade him in the 4th round range based off of what I have seen so far, and hopefully he will merit an invite to the East-West Shrine Game so I can scout him further and potentially interview him later this year.

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