Questions and Answers with Colts defensive back
Q: Entering the 2010 NFL Draft, you were overlooked by a number of teams. Did playing at a small school and not receiving an invitation to the NFL Combine provide you with any extra motivation?
A: “Whenever you’re in that situation, going to a small school, you always have a chip on your shoulder. At William and Mary, we were fortunate enough to play the big schools once a year. We always looked forward to those games. They were the types of games that I always went into wanting to show that I could compete at that level. Coming out of William and Mary, I knew that it would be hard coming from a small school, and I wasn’t even a big name coming from a small school. So I just kept faith in everything, because I knew I would have an opportunity to show my talents and athleticism in front of scouts.”
Q: Following high school, did you have offers to play collegiately at schools other than William and Mary?
A: “The year before (prep school) I had actually wanted to go to Richmond, and they said, ‘Listen, we don’t have any running back opportunities right now. What do you think about prep school?’ I was thinking, ‘Prep school? That’s an extra year and my mom and dad aren’t going for that.’ I introduced it to my parents, because out of high school I didn’t have any scholarship opportunities. They were very supportive.”
Q: Did you ever have the opportunity to face fellow teammate
A: “Yeah, we played against Ben’s team (Villanova) five times in four years, and I was 0-5. At William and Mary, our rival is always considered to be Richmond, because we play for the I-64 trophy. But if you ask anybody who went to school while I was there, we are going to tell you that (our rival) is Villanova. The last one was the worst, because it was the semifinals to go to the championship. It was a rough one. Villanova, that’s one team that’s gotten the best of me personally, but it is what it is.”
Q: How would you describe your style of play as a safety?
A: “I feel like I get the tag or that a lot of people would say that I am a ‘box safety,’ and that I play in the box a lot. That was something that my coach at William and Mary wanted to work with me on a little bit, but I actually feel comfortable in the passing game. Even now, coaches will sometimes say, ‘You just have to work on your awareness and develop more in the passing game,’ but I feel comfortable in it. Actually my freshman year at William and Mary I played cornerback, so I feel comfortable back there. It’s still something that I have to work hard on. The tackling, hard hits and stuff like that are areas that I’m always trying to improve, just being a physical player. You’ve got to use whatever you’ve got, and I feel like that’s something that I was blessed with. Being able to be physical and overwhelm the opponent is a strength.”
Q: In your first season at William and Mary you were a cornerback. How did you make the transition to safety?
A: “I have enjoyed making that transition. I first played cornerback in college and coming in from high school, I didn’t really play corner. My college coach told me, ‘We already signed a running back. So just tell your coach to put you at cornerback the next game. I can see if you can play it, and then we will get you on the team.’ I just did that, and I guess they liked it because I ended up playing corner in college. Then our new defensive coordinator came in from UMass (University of Massachusetts) and they had a safety up there, James Ihedigbo, who was just running through the league, killing it. They had a great defense, and Coach (Bob) Shoop came in and moved me to safety. He would always relate me to James Ihedigbo, and I liked the transition. I was really excited about it, and it’s become a home.”
Q: As you developed and grew as a safety, was there a certain player that you looked up to or tried to shape your game after?
A: “I looked at guys, of course Bob Sanders, Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed, those are guys that get the job done. They are, as I said before, not box safeties or back safeties, they’re both. They can play on any part of the field. You look at guys like Ed Reed, and he played 10 games last year and had eight picks. They are just guys that are playmakers and guys that are always around the ball.”
Q: After being injured for the 2010 NFL season, how have you been an able to adjust to the NFL game?
A: “It’s definitely an adjustment because before training camp, I hadn’t even tackled. I was thinking about the last time I tackled somebody and it was the Villanova game in 2009. It was the kind of thing where I just had to get my mind right. It’s hard to set yourself up for something that you really don’t know what to expect, because I had never even played a game in the preseason.”
Q: Have you enjoyed playing as much as you have gotten to this year?
A: “Definitely. You always want to be prepared for it. Injuries do happen in this game, and I am very fortunate to have the opportunity. Last year was tough because I was hurt, so I have enjoyed a greater chance this year.”
Q: Do you have a pre-game ritual?
A: “I wouldn’t say a ritual, but I do listen to music. I guess it’s a routine. It helps me focus, and I vary the music. Maybe one song will be an R&B song to relax me and bring me down a little bit. The next song might get me excited. I go back and forth with my music. I also call my dad before the game. He wishes me good luck.”
Q: Who's the person most responsible for you being in the NFL?
A: “I would not say it’s just one person. I would say my entire family. They all have been very supportive, sending me to William and Mary, allowing me to go to prep school for a year after high school, so I would say my family. I also have to credit my college coaches, Coach (Jimmye) Laycock and Coach (Bob) Shoop. They both played a large role in my development.”
Q: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
A: “I was an offensive guy, and I liked Barry Sanders. I liked him and a lot of running backs, also Terrell Davis. They were big when I was growing up. The things Sanders could do were amazing. Guys would have him tackled, and he would get out of it. No one did it like he did. Being a safety, it would be a nightmare seeing Sanders in the open field. When I got older, it was Bob Sanders and Troy Polamalu. You just had to like their styles of play. I also liked Jerry Rice a lot, too.”
Q: You are in Bob Sanders’ old locker. Does that mean anything to you?
A: “I didn’t know that (smiles). That’s an honor, and I really mean that.”
Q: Did you have a favorite team growing up?
A: “San Francisco 49ers. I went to San Francisco when I was younger, about eight years old and I think it was around 1995. They were good, and I liked the whole team. I liked Deion Sanders, and Jerry Rice had been one of my favorite players growing up. It was a fun team to watch. I grew up in New Jersey and the Giants and Jets play five minutes from my home, but I liked San Francisco. I guess I followed the other coast in that regard.”
Q: What is it about football that drives you the most?
A: “I like the competitiveness, and it gets even greater the older you get. There is an urgent need to get better. It’s a great game. There is no other game that has so many components that go together in playing as a team. Because of that, there is a camaraderie involved, and you grow close to your teammates. I grew up playing with my friends, and I have made friends throughout my life because of football.”