Badgers in the NFL Draft: Q&A with Mike Caputo
Mike Caputo — you might remember him as Michael when he played at Wisconsin, although he insists he also went by Mike there — recently took some time to answer some questions regarding his preparation for a pro football career.
Caputo had 244 tackles in four years with the Badgers, including 106 in 2014. A three-year starter, Caputo combined for 17 passes defensed and four forced fumbles the past two seasons.
While Caputo was not invited to the NFL Combine, he did play in the East-West Shrine Game, where he took home the Defensive MVP trophy. And, of course, he was at Wisconsin’s Pro Day last month.
This Q&A covers Caputo’s training, but we did finish up with a question about the current Badgers and the defensive back crew — Caputo said he hopes there are five or six players worthy of starting. When I asked if he felt weird talking about Wisconsin like that, he answered "Feels weird, not going to lie. That question made me feel weird." It might feel weird to fans not seeing Caputo at safety in 2016, at least at Wisconsin. He seemingly has the skill set for a team to take a late-round flyer or sign him as an undrafted free agent.
I hope to follow up with Caputo after the draft, but until then here’s our Q&A:
Q: I was once told by a friend who is from the Pittsburgh area that you were a Golden Gloves boxer. I know you listed boxing among your hobbies, but did you do Golden Gloves?
A: Golden Gloves, you have to enter those tournaments and stuff. I did box, I did do a lot of that stuff. I trained up until right before I left. I wasn’t some Golden Gloves (boxer). In my high school career I just trained. It got to be too much. At that point you have to start taking things seriously. I didn’t want to cut weight and miss football. I just trained every day.
Q: The reason I asked it with boxing there is a certain discipline you have to have, both in the ring and in training. With that discipline, is there a carryover in football and even now while waiting and just training?
A: The discipline is the same. It humbles you. When you push something to a certain point where you’ve never reached before, a mental threshold, more or less, a physical threshold where you doing things now you could never have imagined yourself doing but you’re staying humble the whole time. And you’re giving full effort, 100 percent, every single time. Because you have to have the will or the want-to to succeed. And that’s what the carryover is. I wanted to succeed at boxing. It was just me against another person. And you take that philosophy and you put it through anything you have to do, whether it’s football, getting through a workout, it’s me vs. the workout or me vs. the guy across from me in football, whatever it may be. You can do it with things that aren’t physical as well, but there is a definite discipline that transfers over.
Q: What has it been like past 4 months of training?
A: So pre-Pro Day type of training was 8 a.m. until roughly 5 or 6 p.m. And that’s all day. I ate at the facility down here in Phoenix, which is the Fischer Sports Institute. I just trained all day, whether it was speed — training for Pro Day, all the events. And then working on football on the side. Now that I’ve come back after Pro Day, all I’ve been doing is strictly football work, football oriented things. Lateral movement, agility, conditioning, things like that, to get myself ready in the hopes that I’ll be invited to a rookie camp.
Q: Rewinding a bit, back to January. You played in the Shrine Game and obviously stood out. However, practice there is just as important, if not more. What was the experience like at the game and in practice?
A: It was a fun experience, getting to meet a lot of other players and talk to them. You get to play with a lot of new faces who are really good football players, that’s always fun to do. I met with a lot of the scouts who were there throughout the week. Then the practices, they were equally as important. They wanted to see if you were hustling to the ball, if you were hustling off the field, how many reps you got, how you did, things like that. They just wanted to piece together your character in terms of being a player. Then the game speaks for itself. It is all fun, don’t hold anything back.
Q: And of course you intercepted Joel Stave, who was your teammate for four years.
A: You know, whether it was him or not I felt like I would have picked the ball off. It was cool to give him a little crap afterwards. He’s a standup guy. I thought he did really well in the game, other than that. I thought he improved on a lot of his ability.
Q: I read that at Pro Day, you didn’t run as fast as you wanted, but you did well in other things, like the vertical. How would you rate how you did? Did you feel you were able to show your athleticism?
A: I think I showed my athleticism, especially in the position work afterwards. Maybe a couple of the numbers didn’t really come out the way I wanted, but I thought there were things I did well on that I was training to do well on. But I thought the position work itself showed I had range, that I had athletic ability and am not a track guy more or less, that I’m an actual football player. That I can get to the ball, go up and make a catch, or go from hash to sideline. The position work, like I said, was the best.
Q: What kind of position work do they put you through?
A: It’s seeing how fluid you are, how you can open your hips, seeing if you have flexible hips, seeing if you have good footwork They want to see if you’re smooth back there moving backwards, because that’s not a very natural thing to do. And that’s the main thing. They want to see if you can read the ball, jump up and get it. They want to see how much range you have. There’s a lot of factors that play into it that I feel I needed to improve on throughout the training process since January leading up to Pro Day, and I thought I did really well on. I’ve been working with Will Sullivan down at Fischer Sports Institute, who works with a lot of DB agility things.
Q: Watching you from afar, I always had the sense you were intelligent player, knew the right place to be on the field and a leader. If you agree, how do you show that to teams?
Obviously I hope to be drafted but my ultimate goal is to be invited to a rookie camp for a team.
A: I pride myself on being in the right place to make a tackle, knowing what’s going to happen before it happens. And then being a leader and having the other guys . . . rally the troops more or less in terms of keeping the team morale up, especially when facing a little adversity during a game. But I do see myself as a leader and I expressed that to teams . . . not me personally, but the tape shows it all. That’s basically my resume. And whenever teams ask me to do board work that’s how I show my intelligence of the game and how hard I’ve worked and studied football. Because football is in my heart and I love to do it, so it’s really not work for me. It’s fun.
Q: And did you get confirmation from teams on this, on those intangible skills?
A: Yeah, I’m getting confirmation but I know who — I don’t want this to come off the wrong way — but I know who I am as a person and a player. I know I’m not at the pinnacle as how smart or intelligent of a player I could be, so I’ll continue to keep working on that, but a lot of teams have commented that I do know more than the average player. But that’s something I don’t want to get complacent with that.
Q: You mention game tape. The Alabama game last year obviously would have been a good one to highlight and show what you can do, but obviously you had to miss most of that game. Looking back, is it even more frustrating to have played a good opponent like that and not have tape?
A: I’ve come to terms with it. I obviously wish it wouldn’t have happened, but it did so I can’t change it. I’m glad the medical staff and the doctors did what they did even though I might have fought them every step of the way — during the game, I wanted to go back in because I knew at the time it would have been a very big opportunity to showcase my talents and skills against a very good opponent on a very big stage, but, you know, I didn’t get that opportunity. I believe there’s a reason for everything, but I’m really happy the medical staff at Wisconsin, the doctors, the training staff did what they did because it was the right thing to do. And I’ve let them know that since then. They forgave me more or less for being a jerk and wanting to get back in the game and being like that.
Q: Have you talked to NFL teams? What have you done since Pro Day? Gone on any visits?
A: I just got back from a visit with the Washington Redskins and next week I’m flying to Seattle to meet with the Seahawks.
Q: It’s good to get the experience, I imagine.
A: I’m appreciative of the Redskins and Seattle for giving me an invite. That’s big for me.
Q: Earlier you said you hope to get to a rookie camp What’s your thought process on the draft?
A: Either way, drafted or not drafted, all I need is an opportunity. I’m just looking to get my foot in the door. Essentially, I’m doing all I that I can do in terms of myself, I can control what I can control and I’m letting the rest take care of itself. Obviously I hope to be drafted but my ultimate goal is to be invited to a rookie camp for a team.
Q: I forgot to ask this earlier, but for someone like yourself special teams is a key. Have you sold yourself that way to teams?
A: Oh yeah, special teams is most important. I feel like that’s a staple, that’s a determining factor of a guy. You could have two guys battle at a position and one plays special teams, that automatically makes him more valuable because there’s only so many guys on a roster. I feel like special teams, it is the most important phase of the game, really. The statistics are there. A team gets a punt blocked, they have a higher chance of losing. I feel like I can make an impact on special teams — I will make an impact on special teams if I get invited to a team.
Q: What special teams units did you play on at Wisconsin?
A: Redshirt freshman year I played all of them. Sophomore year I played all of them. As the years went on, junior and senior, they kind of tapered me off, so I only played kickoff and punt, and then my senior year I played punt. But I have been on all the special teams in my career at Wisconsin.
Q: What are your plans on draft day?
A: I’m going to go back to Pittsburgh, go back home. Hang out and see some family. I’ll watch the draft, but mainly for I know some guys who will go high in the draft and I’m happy for them. But I’m just going to hang out.
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