Last time we spoke to Jeremiah George, he was still wearing his cardinal-and-gold-trim uniform an hour after a Senior Night win over Kansas, 34-0.
"If I could, I would go home and sleep in my pads," George said. "Man, you guys don't know how good this feels."
Fast-forward a few months. After finishing No. 3 nationally in tackles per game with 11.08, George is in Houston prepping for the NFL Combine and Iowa State's Pro Day, where he'll try to prove to talent evaluators he can have a similar impact at the next level, despite his size (listed by ISU as 5-foot-11).
AllCyclones.com caught up with George, a first-team All-Big 12 player in 2013, Thursday via telephone.
AC: So how's it going?
George: "I'm doing great, man. I'm currently working out at CES performance here in Houston, working out with about 15, maybe 20 guys, some are already in the NFL, some are free agents right now and a lot of guys are just combine guys getting ready for their Pro Days."
Q: You're preparing for the combine, a physical and mental challenge: I want to start with the latter. Covering you last year, I quickly picked up you'd arrive to every press conference with a prepared statement or, if not, would say "I'm taking all questions." Very few college athletes do that — how'd it end up being part of your routine?
George: "I was watching how Coach Rhoads would conduct himself and he would always control the situation. Football is a game of uncontrolled environments so if you can control the situation you have a lot better chance of being successful and saying something you want to say rather than going into it and not feeling prepared. I always tried to be prepared and as if I was the one in control of the interviews."
Q: So you'd spend Monday before you came and talked to us running over some questions we might ask?
George: "Not necessarily. I would think about the week had gone, how the game went, how the upcoming opponent — what their strengths and weaknesses were. That way, if a question was asked, I'd already have an idea of what I'd say. Then go with it accordingly."
Q:Is there any training in that regard you can do for the combine? Do you know what teams will ask you?
George: "I have somewhat of an idea. It could change the day of. But I had a session with an interview coach and he said I have a natural ability to talk and relax in interview sessions but he did show me some things to improve on and I improve on practicing that and getting it done in a positive way in the combine."
Q:I saw in an interview you did with the Ames Tribune that you had been working out as a [weakside] linebacker, rather than middle, which you played senior year. Are you surprised that's an adjustment you're having to make?
George: "No, not at all. If you look at a lot of the middle linebackers in the NFL, they're a lot taller than I am. Six-one, six-two. A lot of guys at the WILL linebacker position are guys who aren't big enough to be a middle linebacker or SAM linebacker and not fast enough for that strong safety position. Not that they're not athletic but just have a little more trouble moving in space.
"What I've noticed about WILL linebacker is this: At middle linebacker, you're pretty much playing all of the field. At the WILL, you have one third of it, from the hash over. OK, so let's say I'm responsible for a curl flat (route concept). All I have to do is push to one direction. If it's not there and the quarterback's not looking that way, I'll just go to where he's looking.
"I've discussed a lot of things with Coach Rhoads and Coach Wally Burnham so when I had to make the transition I kind of already was ahead of the learning curve. I took my athletic ability, my coach-ability, and it's helped me a lot."
Q:And if you end up with a team that runs a 3-4 defense, you'll be an inside backer?
George: "Yeah, at that point I'd be inside. I've had talks with some teams about that. They'd say for a guy my size they'd try to put a shade technique (moving a d-lineman over to occupy a particular gap) in front of him — to protect him a little more so they can make plays. For example, the New Orleans Saints, they had a scheme where they run a mix of 3-4 and 4-3 in Rob Ryan's defense. They had to protect their undersized linebackers."
Q:Wally will tell you he runs a simple, vanilla 4-3. What's different from his 4-3 to one you'll see in the NFL?
George: "I've got a linebackers coach here in Houston, Zerick Rollins, who coached for the Seahawks, and he's helped me understand football is universal. The only thing different is terminology. There's not much an offense can do to a defense and a whole lot you can do to an offense. You've got your man coverage, your Cover 2, your Cover 3, your quarters and your Cover 8. It's just about understanding my job is on the run and pass. That's what's more important than the formations. The scheme (4-3, 3-4) isn't as important as what I'm supposed to be doing."
Q:I'll put you on the spot. If you were in charge of cutting up the highlight film they'd show if you're drafted, which two plays or so from the last season would you pick?
George: "I'd go with my blitz against Kansas State (below). I was spying the quarterback and I kind of reacted. He had to step up into the pocket and I was able to get him for a third-down stop.
"Another play I'd go with is the interception against Texas Tech. I was responsible for the tight end and I saw him almost doing a pop pass and I pushed to it but saw where the quarterback was intending to go and I tipped the ball up with one hand and caught it."
Q:Yeah, I was thinking those two and then against Oklahoma State on third-and-five or something you rag-dolled Josh Stewart in space and then against Texas, I've talked to you about this before, you were in charge of Johnathan Gray, the running back, and he was staying in to pass protect and you were in a scrum of lineman. He popped out for a flare and you followed him (below).
George: "Somebody else was probably blitzing and I was assigned in coverage, but if he steps up to block then I can blitz. I saw he was hesitant and did a little bubble route so I stayed inside that way if the quarterback went to him I could disrupt the play."