Question: You’re in the NFL now, the latest step in a lifelong dream. But when did it begin? When did you first start playing football?
Answer: “I was actually a late-bloomer. I started playing in middle school, in eighth grade. It was a blessing and hard work has brought me this far. I think wrestling played a big part in it. Growing up in upstate New York, near Pennsylvania, it’s nothing but wrestling. It’s a testament that with hard luck dreams can come true.”
Q: When did you start wrestling?
A: “I started that in seventh grade, one year before I played football. I learned how to work hard. I had a good work ethic already, and I just kept grinding.”
Q: What was it that led you to football? Was it something you saw others doing?
A: “It was something that would keep me in shape for wrestling. I had good size in middle school. I was about 6-1 and 220 pounds. The coaches told me, ‘You have to do something with your size other than wrestling.’ They kept egging me on to try out. It took me a while to get the game but once I did, the light went off and the rest is history.”
A: “I’m (6-3, 315) actually the shortest in the family. I have two brothers who are special athletes. Jon is a UFC champion and is 6-4. Chandler plays for the Patriots and is about 6-5 and a half. We ate up everything in the house growing up, and we ate everything. Our mom (Camille) fed us with two shovels.”
Q: Were you competitive with your brothers? You must have pounded on each other a lot.
A: “We still are competitive. We tore up our house wrestling. We were so competitive, whether it was the last piece of chicken, or a cookie. We always competed growing up, and it’s the same way now. We still compete, ‘Whose contract is bigger?’ There’s no jealousy, it’s just us striving to be good and make our parents’ name great. I’m the oldest of the three, then it’s Jon and Chandler.”
Q: Did you ever break anything you got in trouble for? Were there spankings and if so, when they stop hurting?
A: “Yes, we broke the couch. We broke chairs in the house. We put holes in the wall, we did it all. It was WWE in the house. Our parents believed in spanking back then. We got our share of spankings. My last spanking was probably when I was 11 or 12 when I grabbed my mom’s belt, or whatever it was. She said something like, ‘You’re too old to be hit.’ She sat down and talked to me and ever since, we just talked. Going from spankings to talking things out was just a rite of passage as we matured, and our parents did a great job raising us.”
Q: What do you remember about your first team in middle school?
A: “I was just out there having fun. I didn’t know much about the plays. I was just winging it and running to the ball, tackling people and not really knowing the rules of the game. It’s funny, a couple of guys I played with in middle school we played high school together, and we keep in contact to this day. That shows you what football can do.”
Q: What was your best sport growing up? It wasn’t football for all NFL players . . .
A: “I would say football, but it could be wrestling. I do miss that. I like them equally. I just like to compete. The physical aspect of both sports is something that drives me. I also participated in track – shot put and discus – but I wasn’t that good at it. Football and wrestling were the best.”
Q: Did you prefer the team-oriented aspect of football better, or the individual competitive aspect of wrestling better?
A: “That’s a good question, a good question. They both have great aspects. With wrestling, it’s just you and another guy out there. If you lose, everyone sees it. You can’t hide. In football, you can slip up and it may catch you or not. I like both aspects – team and individual. I just like to compete.”
Q: When did you move to your position?
A: “I pretty much always was a defensive lineman, but I played a little fullback, too. They called me, ‘Refrigerator Jones.’ I liked getting the ball. Every big guy likes to get the ball in their hands. I played it a little bit in high school, too. I was really more of a situational fullback, though – fourth-and-short, goal-line. That’s when they put me in the most. Other than that, I’ve been a lineman.”
Q: What is it the most that you find fun?
A: “The locker room, the stories and conversations you share with your teammates is good stuff. That’s a special thing for me. Winning games is a big thing, too. You have guys who give it up for each other daily. After work, we go out and break bread together. You make lifetime friends with the relationships you build. It definitely builds a family-type bond.”
A: “It’s winning the Super Bowl with the Ravens. That’s something that is special. It’s close to my heart because of what it represents and for how hard it is to do. You did it with buddies and through sacrifice. Some people never get to experience that. We really came together because it had been a rough season. Ray Lewis had announced his retirement. We came together, bonded tighter together, won four in a row and got it done. Trying to get another Super Bowl championship is the goal. It’s a special memory, and I definitely won’t forget it.”
Q: Ray Lewis is more vocal and you’re not. Do you have a style 180 degrees different than him?
A: “Yeah, absolutely. He’s a guy who’s intense all the time. He’s a vocal leader. I can be vocal. At the end of the day, my actions show more. I’m the kind of guy who has a lot of energy on the field, but I’m the type who lets my action on the field speak for me. I probably got my quiet nature from my dad (Arthur, Sr.). My mom is a little bolder person.”
Q: When did you first think this was real? When did you first think, ‘I have a chance to play in the NFL?’
A: “Probably high school. I had a great mentor, Isaiah Kacyvenski, from my high school and who played with Seattle. We’re friends to this day, and I remember telling him years ago, ‘I want be like you when I grow up.’ He told me to be better than him. That stuck with me, and it’s something I tell young guys. You want to emulate guys who achieve, but always set your own goals.”
Q: Do you have a pre-game ritual?
A: “I like to go out to the field a couple of hours before the game with my headphones on and walk around the stadium to get a good stretch. I don’t listen to any specific music every week. I will listen to R&B, a little country sometimes. I listen to satellite radio, whatever is on. That’s about it. I do like to be around my teammates some. Prior to the game and before we walk out the tunnel, I try to distance myself a little bit after we break it down and try to get my mind ready to go.”
Q: Do you get butterflies?
A: “I always get butterflies. If anyone says they don’t, they’re lying. It’s one of those things that no matter how hard you train, you get a few butterflies. I think it’s something that tells me I’m ready to go. I say, ‘The day I don’t get butterflies is the day I stop playing football,’ because I wouldn’t have that passion anymore that makes me love the game. It’s good to get them. They do go away pretty quick, though. I’ll run out there and after that first play, they go away.”
Q: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
A: “Yeah, he and Dwight Freeney, with Dwight being from Syracuse. I always stay attuned to Robert’s game. I really started watching him around 2007, when I was in college. What I really liked was his speed and power, just how someone with a small frame can do so much. He’s gifted. Not everyone has the talent Robert has. If I patterned anything from him, it would be the power with the bull rush. I watched film of a lot of linemen, but Robert was different. It is awesome to play with him.”
Q: Was Robert being here the reason you signed, or was it something in addition to that?
A: “It’s something bigger than that. This team is a great team. The locker room is awesome. We have a great quarterback. Guys leave their egos at the door, and I want to win another championship. That’s the main reason I came here.”
Q: Did you have a favorite team growing up?
A: “Not really. Being from New York, I guess it’s the Giants. I couldn’t cheer for Buffalo.”
Q: What was your first car?
A: “I had a 1995 powder blue Cadillac. I got it in 2008. It was in good shape. It was an older car, but I tried to keep in it good shape. I didn’t rough it up like I did my brothers.”
Q: What was your first job and what was your toughest job?
A: “My first and toughest job was the same. When I was a junior, I wanted to get a car and my parents said I would have to help pay for it. They told me if I could come up with half the money, they would do the rest. I worked at McDonald’s. The hours were long. The duties were very specific. I was doing that and handling grades. I had to juggle a lot to earn something I wanted to get. It was a great learning lesson of responsibility for someone that age. It was good to get the feel of working to get ahead. I remember that to this day. If you want something in life, work to get it.”