Questions and Answers with Colts Safety
Question: So you’re an NFL veteran now, the last step in a lifelong dream. But when did it begin? When did you begin playing football?
Answer: “I probably started playing organized football around sixth grade.”
Q: What do you remember about your first team in sixth grade?
A: “I played for the Melrose Park Gaels Pop Warner team. We wore green and gold jerseys, had a big ‘G’ on our helmet like the Green Bay Packers. I wore number 34, and I’m from Chicago so I was like, ‘Walter Payton this, Walter Payton that,’ but it was a very, very, very exciting year. My first year, my brother almost scared me out of playing football because he was talking about, ‘Somebody got hurt so bad,’ and I was like, ‘Mom, I want to quit. I don’t want to play football.’ And she was like, ‘I already paid this money, so you’re going to play football.’ And here I am now.”
Q: Being from Chicago, were you a big Bears fan growing up?
A: “Yeah, I was a Bears fan growing up. Of course, I was Bears, and everybody was the Miami Hurricanes.”
Q: So was it tough then wearing that Packers ‘G’ on your helmet?
A: “You know, I didn’t even realize, I didn’t know anything then.”
Q: To get this level, it has to be about more than just money or fame, which are two things people associate with the NFL. So what do you love about the game that’s kept you going?
A: “I just love the game. I love playing. I love competing. I love hitting. I love the feeling when you cause a turnover or create a turnover. It just gives me a certain type of rush. You know the bond you have with your teammates, it’s unlike anything else. I really couldn’t see myself doing anything other than that right now, and I’m glad I’m still doing it.”
Q: Was football your best sport growing up, or was it a different sport?
A: “I had hoop dreams growing up, played some basketball. Started playing basketball first, that was my first love. Everybody in Chicago played basketball. My father, he was the first black basketball player at Texas A&M. My whole family was like a basketball family. I went to a basketball high school with people like Dee Brown, Shannon Brown, Michael Finley, Doc Rivers, Steve Hunter. It was just a real, real strong basketball heritage just in the area I was growing up, and it drew me. Basketball was my first love, and then I kind of started playing football. I was a great athlete, and I picked it up well.”
Q: So were you a big Michael Jordan guy?
A: “Oh, huge Jordan guy, huge Jordan guy growing up.”
Q: Was safety your first position, or was it something else and then you made the switch?
A: “My first position was like, defensive end and tight end.”
Q: So one of the big guys out there?
A: “I wasn’t that big, it was just somewhere they could put me to make some noise. And all the coaches’ sons had all the good positions.”
Q: So when did you make the switch to safety?
A: “I was playing linebacker and wide receiver, and then my sophomore year, my defensive back coach in high school, he saw me doing linebacker drills. He walked over to the linebacker drills, I laid a hit on somebody, and he was like, ‘Oh, good hit! Alright now come over to safety,’ because he was a safety growing up and he played ball in the league before he tore his shoulder or something. So he was a safety, and he saw it in me. He turned me into a safety.”
Q: Did safety feel right right away?
A: “It felt right right away. I always wanted to play safety, but I played linebacker growing up. I thought I was supposed to play linebacker. But safety felt so right for me, I love just being back there, being able to roam and go get the ball.”
Q: What’s your best football memory from when you first started playing until now?
A: “I’d have to say, as a pro, my second year in. I’m on the Patriots. It’s the conference championship, playing the Ravens. We get down to the end of the game. Brady and them had a third down, and then we had to punt, probably like two minutes left in the game. Zoltan (Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko) pounded the ball, like deep, like close to the twenty-yard line. I’m running down, I beat my block, I’m a gunner, and it’s just me in open field. And Webb (Ravens punt returner Ladarius Webb) just catches the ball, he tries to put a move on me, spins, I tackle him, two-yard gain. They go down, missed the field goal, we win the game. So that was a big play, and a key moment in the game. And it’s one of my biggest memories to this day.”
Q: When did you first think that this was real? When did you first realize that you could make it to the NFL?
A: “I knew it was real around my sophomore year in college. I mean I wasn’t playing a lot, but I just see the people in front of me, I see the competition, and I see the people that make it to the league. And I didn’t get on the field too much, my coaches didn’t really put me out there like that, but I look at these people and I’m like, ‘I think I’m better than them. If these people can make it to the league, all I’ve got to do is stick around, and I’ll have a pretty good shot.’ ”
Q: Do you have any pre-game rituals?
A: “I just listen to some music, and get in my zone, but no real pre-game rituals. Just go and get hyped.”
Q: Do you have specific types of music you like to listen to?
A: “I like listening to rap, hip-hop, like Young Jeezy and Pastor Troy, they really kind of get me amped up. And I guess whatever ‘hot’ songs are out at the time.”
Q: What about after football? Do you have any post-career plans?
A: “After football? Shoot, it depends on how much money I make and the people I meet. I was a business marketing major at Notre Dame, so I know the importance of relationships. And depending on who I meet and the people I come across that might determine what I do after football. But coming into ball, I was like, ‘If I don’t make it to the league, I’ll probably try to be like a branding manager or a marketing rep for an attractive clothing line.’ Definitely if I was able to get an international marketing job, because I love to travel. I had an international marketing class in college that I really, really liked. If I was able to do this, I’d be somewhere in business.”
Q: If you had to give credit to somebody, who would you say is most responsible for helping you get to the NFL?
A: “My mom and my father. My father, he passed away when I was a freshman in high school, but he was a very, very, very influential part of my life and basically the whole neighborhood. He was one of those ‘hands-on’ parents, favorite fan, loudest person in the gym, loudest person on the field, get kicked out of football games he was so loud. But he really, really inspired me and kept my head on the right way. And when my father passed away, my mom was able to really take that torch, and take it to the next level.”
Q: Do you have a particular high school coach or teacher who means a great deal to you?
A: “My head coach in high school, Aaron Peppers, he really helped a lot. But, my position coach, Terry Love, he really, really, really sticks out in my mind. He has a lot of sayings, and he taught me a lot of stuff that I still carry along until today, in football and out of football. So I have to give him a lot of credit. He influenced me a lot.”
Q: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
A: “Favorite player growing up was ‘Primetime,’ Deion Sanders. He was electrifying, and I just liked him a lot.”
Q: What was your first car?
A: “My first car was a Mercury Lesabre, I think it was like a ’94, maroon. I saved up my money. I was in and out of AAU basketball, so I finally got it before July 4. Had it for a month, and crashed it, totaled it. I totaled the car after a month and two days. And out of all people, I got into a car accident with like a security guard at my high school. It was ridiculous, and I was like, ‘Shoot, I did all this to try to get a car, and now I have to get another one.’ ”
Q: What was your first job?
A: “My first job was a summer job. Just to give some kids something to do in the village. I lived in Maywood, on the right side of Chicago. In the summertime, picking up leaves, cleaning the streets, just giving us something to do. That was my first job.”
Q: Was that the toughest job you had? Or have you had any tougher jobs?
A: “My toughest job I’ve had is playing in the NFL. But I only had that job, and then I had a summer internship with this place called Marking Works. It was a time we didn’t have a bowl game, so I came home in the winter. It was a sports fair in McCormick Place. This was in the time when they we’re trying to have Chicago get the bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. And we just ran an event at the fair, and we tried to educate people about the Olympics and different parts of it.”
Q: What is about football that drives you the most, that keeps you going?
A: “It’s just the excitement of the game, man. The excitement of the game, just playing, it gives you a rush. And making your name means something.”