LaDainian Tomlinson goes one-on-one with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. LT catches up with Dalton as he prepares for his third season in the NFL and gets his thoughts on his alma mater, TCU, in an exclusive interview for FOXSportsSouthwest.com.
LaDainian Tomlinson: This is your second full offseason in the NFL. How have you been spending it so far?
Andy Dalton: Getting back up to Cincinnati, things are going really well. We’ve got a great group and all of our guys are here. It’s been nice to get to work with everybody.
I’ve sat down with guys and watched film with them…, going over different aspects and different running routes, making sure we’re on the same page. It’s been nice to have time to sit and talk about the different things we’re going to be doing.
It’s a little bit different having this offseason compared to my first one … from the aspect of knowing a little better what to expect this season.
LT: So much is being made of the quarterback situation at your alma mater, TCU. Who do you want to see taking snaps this fall, Boykin or Pachall?
AD: I think it should come down to whoever is playing the best. I think you’ve got to go back to when Casey [Pachall] played, and played really well. Boykin came in last year and did a lot of good things, too.
I think you’ve got to give each of those guys an equal opportunity to win the job. I think Casey has a “leg up” just because he’s been in the offense longer. I think he’s probably more familiar with what they’re doing offensively.
Boykin’s got the athletic ability to do a lot of different things.
I was around Casey more than Boykin. I think Casey, with everything he’s gone through, has got his head on right, and I think he’s got a good chance to win the position. Honestly, it comes down to whoever’s playing the best and whoever can help the team win.
LT: Do you see a situation where Pachall probably will be the quarterback, but Boykin might switch positions or maybe get some time at quarterback?
AD: There’s definitely an opportunity for TCU to have some packages for Boykin to use his athletic ability. For a guy who played as a freshman to have to sit out this year and wait around again, you have to find a way to get him on the field, so they’re not just wasting a year for him.
LT: Do you stay in contact with your former TCU teammates like Pachall and give him advice? AD: I’ll talk to Pachall some. I’m back in Fort Worth in the offseason, when we’re not up here in Cincinnati. He seems to be doing really well. I try to give him little tips and advice as much as I can.
LT: You hold numerous career school records from playing in the Mountain West Conference at TCU, but how do you think you would have fared playing in the Big 12?
AD: I think we would have done really well. For our senior year to go undefeated and win the Rose Bowl, I don’t think much would have changed, if we were in the Big 12. I feel like we would have done the same, regardless of the conference we were in.
LT: A lot of Texas native quarterbacks are doing big things in the NFL. What do you think that says about high school football in this state?
AD: It just shows the influence that Texas high school football has on getting guys to the next level, not only college, but in the NFL.
I think with the 7-on-7 leagues, there are so many different opportunities for players to really improve and get better.
High schools are running spread offenses and throwing the ball a lot, which allows quarterbacks the opportunity to get looked at by schools.
I think it’s the best state to play football in. I’m sure that’s disputed over many locker rooms across the country, and I’m sure you’ve had talks about that as well. I think the coaching and the emphasis being put on different aspects of the game is what makes Texas high school football the best out there.
LT: You can’t argue with the numbers. The number of starting quarterbacks in the NFL from Texas speaks for itself.
LT: How do you really feel about the nickname “Red Rifle?”
AD: At first I didn’t like it. I’d rather people just call me by my name, Andy, than “Red Rifle.” If I’m out somewhere to eat and people yell, “Hey, Red Rifle!” I’m kind of like, “Oh, come on!” I’ve learned to accept it because I know the name isn’t going anywhere.
LT: It kind of fits you and it’s good to have a nickname.
AD: I guess the nickname could be worse.
LT: How was your draft experience and were there any particular teams you were hoping to get the call from?
AD: There was a lot of speculation whether I was going to be a first-round, second-round pick … where I was going to go.
I opted not to go to New York [for the NFL Draft]. I got the invite, but decided I’d rather spend time (at home) with my family and friends. I watched from my living room (at my parents’ home) as the whole first round went by.
I saw four quarterbacks taken in the first 12 picks and thought that maybe someone would trade up, that someone would pick me in the second-half of the first round, but it didn’t happen.
When it got toward the end of the first round, I thought maybe Seattle would have a pick … I think they had one of the later picks. I knew San Francisco liked me, but I wasn’t sure if they were going to trade up.
I didn’t think Dallas was much of a chance, though I’m sure my family would have loved that.
Once it got to the second round, I felt like Cincinnati was probably where I was going to end up, because I had met with them five different times, before the draft. I had a good idea I was going to end up coming here.
LT: Tell us about the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation and what sparked you and your wife to start it?
AD: It wasn’t long into my rookie year when we had a company called Prolanthropy contact us to say they wanted to run our foundation. My wife and I were like, “Yeah, that would be great. We would love to have a foundation and we would love to help out.” But we were young and not sure how (running a foundation) works.
Basically, we needed to find our focus. For us, we wanted to focus on kids that are sick, kids that are in the hospital, kids with special needs… and find ways to help them and their family. We wanted to help find ways to make their life a little brighter.
From there, we partnered with hospitals in Cincinnati and with Cook Children’s [Medical Center] in Fort Worth, trying to make life better for those kids.
Something I’ve learned is that if kids have something to look forward to, something to get excited about, then we can make an impact. We’ve taken kids to an amusement park with a Fastpass, and provided food, so that they can spend the day doing something fun and exciting…not in the hospital having to worry about the sickness.
We also provide grants for families, so if a kid needs a wheelchair and can’t afford it, we’ll provide it. We’re finding ways to make an impact and give back.
My wife and I are really passionate about it. We’ve been doing it for about a year and a half now and it’s been going really well. We’re excited for the future, and what we’re going to be able to do.
LT: How have you and your wife, Jordan, handled being so far from family?
AD: It’s been a tough thing. We have family who travel up for games, but it’s not a quick car ride to go see family. We keep in contact with them, talking on the phone, but it’s an adjustment. As you get older and get married, you start your own life together. It’s been good for us to be able to spend so much time with each other, but we do miss our families.
LT: Do you feel like you have something to prove this upcoming season and what will it take for the Bengals to take the next step?
AD: I think we do have something to prove, even though we felt like we got better last year (from my rookie year). We made it to the playoffs then lost in the first round to the Texans again.
The first goal is to win the division and we feel like we’ve got all the pieces in place to do that. If we win the division, then obviously we’re making the playoffs.
From there it’s getting that first playoff win and gaining some momentum. I think that’s what it comes down to … it’s not always the best team that wins the Super Bowl, it’s the team that’s playing the best at that time that wins it.
We’ve got to have the attitude and do whatever it takes to find a way to win the division, get to the playoffs and make a run at it.