How have the last few days been like for you? Getting acclimated & making plans to get out here?
“Yeah, so I actually just got here this morning. I flew in. And getting acclimated like you said — going through the physicals & getting my equipment, fingerprints done. So you know, it’s good!”
How much do you look forward to getting back to actually football and not just training & what not?
“Oh man, I’ve been waiting for this for a while now. The (NFL) Combine is great and all, ‘jump, run a 40 (yard dash), and all that other stuff!’ But, this is real football now, and that’s what we’re gonna play.”
Are you having moments where you think to yourself, “Wow this is really happening!”
“Oh yeah! Well, ever since I got the phone call! That’s how I’ve been. It’s really going to set in when I get the jersey & helmet on & I’m out there running around. It’s just been surreal, it’s been great!”
Have you done your homework on the LBs that have come before you in this franchise already?
“Absolutely, and I think anyone who watches football knows who those guys are that have come through here — Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, guys like that. I’m hoping to come in and follow their lead.”
Do you see yourself fitting in more of a middle linebacker role or more on the outside? Where are you gonna be?
“I’m gonna do whatever the coaches ask me to. I think when I talked with them on my visit, they talked about playing middle (linebacker) just to start me off, and we’ll go from there.”
You’re a little bit taller than the guys you mentioned. How does your height, your length help you in what you’re asked to do?
“Absolutely, I think it just helps all around in my game. Just being able to be a rangy player and get in those passing lanes for the QB, or just trying to defeat blocks and make tackles — that’s my job.”
Is that a big point of emphasis? We talked to John after he drafted you, he was saying 6’3″ makes you one of the tallest inside linebackers in the league. Is that something that they talked to you a lot about?
“They did talk to me about how they like my size. When they talk about me in this scheme, they were talking about what I do well, well what I did well at BYU, and how that fits into their scheme.”
Do you have any background as a defensive back?
“I do not. I get asked that question a lot because the position I played at BYU is kinda more like a Nickel-back because I was out in space a lot and I was comfortable doing that.”
How did that help you develop into a good pass-coverage linebacker?
“I think it’s something that just kinda came natural to me and my coaches had a lot of trust in me to be out there in space & covering guys – slot receivers, tight ends, and it’s only added to my game. I feel like that’s one of the hardest things you can ask of a linebacker to do. So I’m happy to have that.”
I’m assuming you’ve watched football for a long time. The way the game has evolved, how do you see it fitting what you do? Do you feel it has put you in a better position coming into the league now, rather than say, 8 years ago?
“Absolutely. This is a pass-first league now and teams are passing the ball avout 65% of the game. You gotta have linebackers that can move and cover and that’s kinda why I feel I fit perfectly in what we’re doing here.”
What was the name of the nickel-back position at BYU?
“It was our SAM strong-side linebacker position. We called it ‘Flash’ but it was strong-side ‘backer position. When we were playing bigger personnel teams like Wisconsin or teams like that where they had 12 or 13 personnel, they bring in tight ends and I’d come down and I’d play more traditionally in the box and on that tight end.”
The Seahawks have a strong safety in Cam Chancellor that’s almost 230 lbs. Were there any teams looking at you as that? Did that come up at all — whether you could play SS?
“It never came up, at least not seriously. I mean, the social media people were talking about whether I could play Safety or not, but teams knew I played LB. They’ve seen the film and seen what I can do. They just feel like that (having the ability to play SS if needed) kinda just adds to my position.”
Have you watched guys like Deion Jones & Telvin Smith, KJ Wright?
“Absolutely, yeah I’ve watched plenty on them.”
What stands out to you about those players?
“I mean, those are kinda like the new-age linebackers. They’re not the big bruisers, they’re kinda the smaller guys who can run and cover. They’re physical dudes too, so I’m looking to do exactly that.”
So if they’re the new-age LBs, you’re a big guy who can run and cover..
“(Laughing) That’s right, maybe it’s just the next step, I don’t know. I feel like it’s good that I have that added length.”
You had one of the higher Wonderlic scores of all the draft-eligible guys, is that something that you take pride in — that score and the intelligence that it denotes?
“Absolutely. I mean, I’m not exactly sure how everybody else scored. I know my agent told me I got a 32, and I don’t know what the average is or anything like that. I think all those tests that they do at the (NFL) Combine & all that you kinda have to take them with a grain of salt, you know? I think I’m a decently smart guy, so hopefully that adds to it.”