Questions and Answers with Colts Offensive Lineman Mike Tepper.
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 started playing football my first year in high school. I had been playing soccer and volleyball since I was a child. Then I was like, 'You know what Dad, I want to try something new. I want to try football.' My parents are kind of like, 'People get hurt playing football.' There was a little uncertainty there. I just said, 'I'm not going to get hurt. I'm going to wear all the protective gear. I'm going to go out there and move along.' They saw me out there with all the other kids, and I was huge in comparison to all them. They said, 'Okay, he'll do okay'. That's when I decided to take football seriously and really try pushing. I think I had a second wind when I was in college. I had a scout come up to me and said, 'How serious are you about the NFL?' I said, 'I've never really thought of it like that.' "
Q: What do you remember about your first team?
A: "When I walked into Dallas, I was with the Cowboys in 2010. I remember walking in and I met Leonard Davis who is like an 11- or 12-year vet at the time. I was like, 'Oh my God, this is a huge human being.' I met the defensive linemen and they were all just as big as me and just as fast and more athletic and stronger than I was. I was like, 'Wow, this is the real deal here.' That kind of woke me up to how serious I need to start taking my job and how hard I need to work."
Q: To get to this level, it has to be about more than money, or fame – the things a lot of people associate with the NFL. What do you love about the game that has kept you playing?
A: "Absolutely the team camaraderie. Training camp right now is a grind. It is a grind. That's the point of right now, to get our bodies in an uncomfortable situation, our minds in uncomfortable rounds and to fight through it. That's a main thing with training camp. The thing that keeps me going is the brotherhood the offensive line has. That room is a very good and close room."
Q: What was your best sport growing up? It wasn't football for all NFL players . . .
A: "My best sport growing up became football. I played a lot of soccer, and I played a lot of sweeper and fullback. I did well with that, but I entered high school at 6-4, 245 pounds, not your stereotypical soccer player. I was 14, but I did well at volleyball. But as soon as I started playing football, I made it my new goal to become one of the best at that sport."
Q: When did you move to your position? Were you always an offensive lineman?
A: "(I've) always been an offensive lineman. I was a left tackle throughout high school, left tackle in college. I played one year at right tackle and when I came to the NFL, I was a little bit small, not as lengthy and not as quick as a tackle per se. I'm doing well with right tackle, but left tackle is kind of the gem."
Q: Was it a good fit from the start?
A: "Absolutely, football was definitely a good fit for me."
Q: What's your best football memory?
A: "My best football memory was probably in 2007 when we beat Oregon. It was 1:20 left in the game, took a knee and walked out. That was when Oregon was really, really good and we were really good at Cal. One of my best NFL memories is being activated. I was on the practice squad last year. I was up and down through activation, but that first activation (for the Tampa Bay game) I was like, 'Yeah, I'm getting a paycheck from the Indianapolis Colts.' I was considered a professional athlete, but this is the real deal. They're paying me to perform and I'm excited for this opportunity."
Q: When did you first think this was real? When did you first think, 'I have a chance to play in the NFL?'
A: "I thought I could do it my senior year, really when I did it. I was a medical sixth year player. I broke my leg in four places and tore my pectoral, so I got a medical sixth season. I was in college and I was kind of like, 'Defensive ends, there's nothing too tricky about it now, I need something a little bit bigger, faster.' I thought that I could do it. I really felt it when I was invited to the Combine in Indianapolis. I was like, 'This once again is another huge opportunity to show myself to the world.'
Q: Do you have a pre-game ritual?
A: "Not really, just to stay calm, listen to some music here and there. I don't always listen to music, but just keep your mindset on what is in front of you. Understand that you're about to go out to battle against guys your size, bigger, faster and stronger. You have to be able to perform at a really high efficiency level to win a game. Keep that mindset."
Q: Who's the person most responsible for you being in the NFL?
A: "I'd like to say my father. He's been my support ever since I was a child. Being with me hand-and-foot through everything, calling me a lot, making sure I'm doing alright. He is the number one guy who has always been there for me. I greatly appreciate it."
Q: Do you have a particular high school coach or teacher who means a great deal to you? If so, why?
A: "My coaches always discussed with me that I had an opportunity, but they kind of left it up to me because they kind of didn't know how I stood on it. I really didn't give them very much feedback on what I wanted to do. I wanted to keep my options open. Not until my senior year, did I decide, 'I wouldn't mind giving it a try.' I want to at least know I tried."
Q: Did you have a favorite team growing up?
A: "Not really because when I was growing up I was in soccer. I watched a lot of the World Cup. I'm not a fair weather fan. I'm a California fan so when the Chargers are doing good, great, if the Niners are doing great, great. If the Raiders are doing great, sometimes great. Other than that, I really didn't watch too much football growing up."
Q: What was your first job?
A: "I don't know if the IRS is going to come after me, but I was a pizza delivery guy. I got paid under the table seven dollars or something like that. I only worked part-time. My first legitimate paying taxes job was in college, I bounced a little bit. I was a doorman and a security personnel guy. My offensive line techniques definitely were used. It was a good experience."
Q: What was your toughest job?
A: "Playing in the NFL is definitely my toughest job mentally, physically, emotionally. But most frustrating was sometimes that job (doorman) with the drunks and girls that don't want to listen and dealing with people that have egos three or four times the size of them."
Q: Do you have a favorite quote that has inspired you in football or life? If so, what is it and why does it mean something to you?
A: "(It is from) William Ernest Henry, 'It matters not how strait the gate. How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul."