I think the season went well. Obviously it ended disappointingly with the loss in the Capital One Bowl to South Carolina, but looking back we played a lot of good football defensively. We put in a whole new scheme. I don’t think we would have been successful as we were if we didn’t have the experience of all the seniors up front and in the back with Dez. I thought that was a smooth transition. But our senior class, I don’t think you can say enough about us — not to toot my own horn — but just a lot of great guys. A lot of really good friendships, a lot of fun memories and hopefully I’ll see a lot of them in the NFL.
Initially going to a 3-4 was different for me because I didn’t do any spring ball because I was out with ankle surgery – I mean, I did a little bit spring ball with a couple of practices, but I missed that time. So going in to camp with a new scheme and everything, at first I felt uncomfortable. But a week into camp it really clicked for me. I liked playing zero tech. It’s a challenging and demanding position, but I think that’s why it’s fun. You have to take pride in occupying blockers and doing your role. And that was hard at first, figuring out what my role was in the defense. I remember getting really frustrated because I thought I wasn’t making enough plays or making those big TFLs or sacks that guys really want, but then I talked with Coach K and coach Aranda and they just pointed out that wasn’t really my role any more, my role is to occupy blockers, hold the line of scrimmage and get knocked back into the center. Once I realized that it clicked more for me. I like playing nose guard, I like playing zero tech. I think it’s good to have played in both the 3-4 and a 4-3 because where I’m at now it just adds versatility and the more you can learn about football the better.
I got invited to the Shrine Bowl in early December. I was hoping for the Senior Bowl, but the Shrine Bowl is good, there’s a lot of good competitors here, it’s good for me, it’s good exposure.
I think I’m practicing well but it is kind of a grind. We were all surprised with how busy they keep us. I’m training down in Bradenton, Fla., at this place called Athletics Edge, so I just drove up on Saturday. When you get in you register. I wasn’t really prepared. I thought it was going to be a simple registration, like here’s your room key, here’s your schedule. But I registered and we had to fill out a whole bunch of forms for the NFL, and that part took like an hour. I thought I as done, but no, then we went out and had to take psych evaluations — like really intense psychological questions and four or five different tests — and that took 3-4 more hours. After that everyone’s head was spinning. Then we had dinner and after that we had a financial meeting sponsored by the NFLPA, to recognize financial fraud, make smart budget decisions and things like that. And again after that we had to fill out more forms for the NFL scouts. So that was just Saturday. We probably got done at 10:30 p.m. after going all day.
So Sunday rolls around and it’s a lot of the same stuff — we start our meetings early in the morning, like around 7 or 8 a.m. We installed our defense, but that didn’t take too long as we’re keeping it kind of vanilla because they want to see guys go good-on-good without too many blitzes or crazy schemes. We watched a lot of film, the coaches kind of laid out the expectations — so really there’s a lot of meetings. And then in the afternoon, you sit down and talk with NFL scouts and GMs, and that’s kind of an exhausting process, too. Obviously you want to portray yourself in the right way and say the right kind of things. I don’t even remember how many teams I talked with, like 15 on that day. I remember after a full day of meetings not getting back to the hotel room until 10 p.m. So we were all surprised how tiring it was with all the meetings and interviews. We weren’t really expecting that.
The crazy thing is Monday rolls around and we have to do our heights and weights and measurements. They measure your hand span, arm length, wing span, height and weight. So what they do is, you get down to your compression shorts — so you’re basically naked — and you go out on a stage in front of 100-150 NFL scouts and GMs and whoever else and they measure your hand, arm length and all that stuff and announce it over a loudspeaker. We all joked we felt like cattle at a meat market. We weren’t expecting that, and I was the first one to go because it was alphabetical and Allen was first. I was thrown for a loop. I didn’t really know where to walk or the progression — my head was kind of spinning.
But then we had more meetings and practiced, just in helmets but we pretty much went full-go because everyone has so much to prove.
Tuesday, we had meetings in the mornings and our first day of pads. It rained Monday and Tuesday, so the East team didn’t practice, they just did walkthroughs. I’m on the West team and we weren’t going to practice because the field was really soggy and soft, but we ended up practicing anyway and it wasn’t pretty, but I had a good practice. Then you come back and have dinner, then go meet with more NFL scouts.
Then Wednesday, kind of the same thing — have meetings from 8:30-noon, have lunch, head over to the practice facility at 1 p.m., be on the field from like 3-5:30 p.m. But I had a good practice Tuesday and I thought an even better one Wednesday. For me, it is all about showing things that I’ve already put on tape, being consistent and dependable and showing off that even though I’m a bigger guy, I’m athletic and can rush the passer, and I thought I did a pretty good job of that. I’ll know more when I see the film, but I think I’ve had a good week so far.
I’ve had college coaches tell me hundreds of times the film doesn’t lie. If you have a good day at practice, it will show up on film and if you have a bad day, it will be exposed. So that’s why you have to try your hardest and make sure you do your best, because if you have a bad rep it will be immortalized on film.
It’s all on the line. You have a lot of people watching you. I’ve had college coaches tell me hundreds of times the film doesn’t lie. If you have a good day at practice, it will show up on film and if you have a bad day, it will be exposed. So that’s why you have to try your hardest and make sure you do your best, because if you have a bad rep it will be immortalized on film.
One thing I want to say is hanging out with different guys from other schools is awesome. On my team, you get real tight with the front seven you’re hanging out with all day and practice. My roommate is Derrick Hopkins from Virginia Tech, we’ve hung out a lot, he’s a great guy. Some other guys I hang out with are Josh Mauro from Stanford, Cassius Marsh from UCLA. One of my friends is Evan Gill — he’s actually from Manitoba, Canada, so he played CFL and he’s down here playing American football, so I’m guessing his head is spinning. It’s funny how fast you become friends with guys who just met just because you’re hanging out all day and play football together. Even guys from the same conference. Max Bullough, the linebacker from Michigan State, Brock Vereen, the safety from Minnesota, Prince Shembo, linebacker from Notre Dame. But you just hang out with these guys and it’s a blast. Everyone is trading gear and equipment I got a Colorado visor from my friend Chiddy [Ed. Note — Chidera Uzo-Diribe].
Ryan Groy is here, too, from Wisconsin, so people are ripping on us in the locker room for losing three Rose Bowls and make jokes about certain plays. Because you watch each other on film. We played Arizona State and all the guys from the Pac-12 watched that game. I joked with Brock about how cold we were in the Minnesota game and how cold we were after the game and how we went to chop down their goal post and they wouldn’t let us. It’s things like that. You play each other and see each other on film then get to hang out at an all-star game, it’s pretty fun.