Catching up with Dusty Dvoracek

Oklahoma's former defensive tackle talks in-depth about his preparations for the NFL draft and the future of the defensive tackle position at Oklahoma.

Former two time All-Big 12 defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek recently returned from the NFL Combine. Dvoracek, a four-year starter during his time in Norman, is regarded as one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the NFL draft and he is getting ready for the NFL Pro Day coming this Wednesday in Norman.

Dvoracek, who immediately returned to Norman following the combine to work on his speed with OU strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt, slowed down long enough to talk with

JH: I understand you celebrated a birthday last friday. Happy Birthday.

DD: "Thank you. It is my 23rd birthday and I am getting pretty excited. I am an old man now."

JH: You bought yourself a pretty good birthday present didn't you?

DD: "I got myself a new car today, so I am pretty excited. I got myself a 2007 Escalade, so life is good. It is a good birthday and I am driving to Dallas to see my family. I haven't seen my family in a while. I am pretty excited to see grandpa and grandma and mom and dad."

JH: Does the kind of car you buy depend on what position you play or just personal taste?

DD: "I think it is just whatever you like. I know that I am a big guy at 300 pounds. I need a big car. I couldn't fit in a little Mercedes or something, so I know I fit better in a big SUV. I figure if I am going to get an SUV then I think the Escalade is the nicest."

JH: How did you do at the NFL Combine?

DD: "The combine went really well for me. I was disappointed how I ran because I ran a 4.9 40, and I expected to run a 4.8 or high 4.7s. That turned out to be the third best time for D-tackles, so it turns out to be pretty good.

"In all, in the other stuff like the shuttle I had the best time and I had the highest vertical. I had one of the best broad jumps, the best Wonderlic score (41) and one of the highest bench presses. The thing that helped me this most is that they did these specific position drills with these NFL coaches, and I got word from my agent that all the scouts, GMs and coaches said that I did better than anybody in those.

"So, overall, I got word from my agent and some other people that me and this one other guy stood out head-over-heels over everybody else. He said that I made a lot of money there."

JH: It sounds like the fact you worked out really helped you. Do you look at those guys who decided not to work out and believe they made a mistake?

DD: "Everybody has the choice to workout or not. All of the NFL people say that you should work out, because even if you don't have a good day everybody still has their pro day. So, really, I don't see why everybody just doesn't workout because they respect you so much if you do.

"I know a guy like Jay Cutler really helped himself. Matt Leinart didn't workout, but a guy like Cutler had a great workout and he is moving up the draft list. That shows a lot to those owners and GMs, especially the ones who are old school NFL. They want hard workers and guys who are willing to show them what they can do when the pressure is on in front of all those eyes.

"That is a very intense atmosphere and I think that is going to correlate to the football field. They respect you a lot if you do it. I think working out does nothing but help you."

JH: How many times did you do the bench? Coach Schmidt has always said you have been one of the best offseason weight room guys he has ever coached, so how did you do in the bench?

DD: "It went well. I did 32 reps, but I thought I was going to be able to do a couple more. I had done 34 in training before and I thought I was going to be able to do more. I just got a little excited and lost my rhythm, and if you lose your rhythm the bench gets very hard to do.

"I did 32 and that is a very good number. That correlates to over a 500-pound bench and the NFL people were very impressed with it. So, that exercise went well for me."

JH: I am sure you have heard all the controversy about the Wonderlic score. You put up a whopping 41 on the board so congratulations on that effort. What did you think of that test and what do you think about some of the low scores you are hearing about like Vince Young's six and 16."

DD: "It is a weird test, first of all. It is 50 questions and you have 1 minutes to answer them. You really have to race to get them done. I would say that 10 to 15 of the questions are very simple, so they are trying to give you those.

"I did very well because I took one at the Senior Bowl and I kind of had an idea what was coming. They are simple problem solving questions with a little math stuff. It is not that difficult.

"I was really happy to score a 41. I was proud of myself for that, because they say anything over 20 is really good. I was very surprised that Vince Young got a six, because they almost give you 10. He must not have been taking it very seriously at all.

"He probably didn't realize how serious of a test that was, because they want to make sure that you have the ability to learn and that you have a brain between your ears."

JH: Some people are now saying that test is culturally biased. Since you have taken it twice, do you agree with that?

DD: "I am going to have to disagree. There is not one question on there that has to do with race, religion or sex. It shouldn't matter what color you are. The questions are just simple problem solving skills, or they are simple math questions.

"The questions are like...'the foot is to the toe what the mouth is to what?' The answer is teeth. It is real simple stuff and it has nothing to do with race or culture.

"I heard some people on the radio and they were trying to say that it was culturally biased, and I am just going to have to disagree. I think that is kind of a cop-out, because that test is equal to everybody."

JH: We haven't talked to you since the Senior Bowl, so how did that week go for you?

DD: "It went good. The first day I had a great day, as I had a couple of sacks in practice and did really good in the one-on-one's. I was feeling really good about my performance that day.

"The second day I had a little bit of trouble because Nick Mangold, the center from Ohio State, is an excellent football player. He kind of got the better of me, but I still had a pretty solid practice.

"Wednesday I came back and did very well. I won most of my one-on-one's and then the game came around. I had a sack-and-a-half in the game playing only 19 snaps. I got through and sacked Brodie Croyle my junior year and I was messing with him about that, and then during the game I got him one time good. I sacked him and I guess he was wearing a microphone and I broke the microphone. I popped him pretty good, so all-in-all it was pretty good.

"I got great feedback from the NFL guys and I helped myself at the combine. I probably moved myself up a couple of rounds since the season ended. It was really fun at both the combine and the Senior Bowl. It was just the fact of meeting all those NFL people and more than anything and meeting all those other guys. You read about all those great athletes like D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold. The list goes on-and-on with all these great players.

"You get to be friends with them. You stay with them for a week at a time and everybody just becomes tight-knit. I met a bunch of great guys who are going to be my friends for the next 10 to 15 years playing football. I am glad that I did both events. I think it has helped me financially significantly."

JH: When players graduate they have to make a decision where they are going to workout. A number of players stay and continue to workout with Smitty, while others go off and workout at training centers totally centered on developing skills for the combine and NFL workouts. Where did you go to get ready for the Senior Bowl and the combine?

DD: "My agent is Gary Richard. He is the same guy who represented Teddy Lehman, Brian Bosworth and Chris Chester, so he has worked with some OU guys. He works out of Los Angeles and he has a group that works out of LA. I went out there and worked with four guys.

"We had a strength coach, conditioning coach and NFL coaches come in and work us for position drills. We had a 40 coach and we ate great food. We had a nutritionist who had us on a diet plan. I got all the way up to 306 at the combine, which is really big for me. I am usually a 298 or 300 pound guy, but I weighed 306 and that impressed everybody. My body fat was lower than it ever was at OU, and that was big.

"I flew out there two days after the Holiday Bowl and I have been out there ever since. I got some really good work done. I think more than anything it got me away from everybody. I was kind of out there all by myself, so I was totally focused on training, where if I was back in Oklahoma I would be worrying about people bugging me throughout this whole process. Everybody wants to know where you are going to go and what is going on, so that was really neat to get out there and be alone and do all that.

"After the combine I was upset how I ran my 40, and I kind of wish I had stayed here with Coach Schmidt. He does such a good job, so I caught a flight home as soon as I got done with the combine. I headed straight back and I have been working with Smitty ever since Tuesday [2-28], and I am going to keep going until Wednesday [3-8] when we have pro day."

JH: What kind of athletic foundation does Coach Schmidt's program develop for you during your career at OU?

DD: "He is the best there is. You really realize that when you go out and see other people and you see what kind of work ethic they have. I saw that at the Senior Bowl and the combines just working out with the guys in my group.

"I came here 265 pounds and stiff as a board. I went to the combine at 306 and moving like a skill position guy. Everything that Coach Schmidt does make's us a better athlete and consequently makes us a better football player. He is hard-nosed, in-your-face and he is a high-energy guy.

"Coach Schmidt knows you better than anybody. He knows what your body can do and what he has to do to get you there. I know he gets a lot of praise, but I don't think it is enough. Coach Schmidt is the key and the secret behind Oklahoma's success. I think without Coach Schmidt, we would not have won all the games that we won the last five to six years."

JH: You and Davin Joseph were the leaders in the weight room last year. Who do you project as the leaders this year?

DD: "I have heard that (Calvin) Thibodeaux has really stepped it up and taken a leadership role. I hear that he has taken over that whole defensive line and is leading those guys and doing a great job. Bird (Larry Birdine) is back and he is doing a good job. They have so many darn good defensive ends that it is kind of scary.

"They told me that Rufus Alexander is doing a great job. I don't know how he wasn't an All-American last year, but I think he is going to win the Butkus this year. He has been having a great offseason and I expect nothing but great things form him.

"Then you have Adrian Peterson, who has an unbelievable work ethic. You take a guy like him, who has had so much success so early and it would be so easy for him to loaf around. He has so much athletic ability that he could go half-speed and make it through workouts. But he gives more effort than any guy that I have ever seen since I have been to Oklahoma. He is so good, but he just keeps getting better. When the guys see a high-profile player like that going as hard as he does, that motivates the guys too keep going hard. I think he is the leader on the offense and you have a bunch of guys on defense.

"(Rhett) Bomar has been doing a good job. I tell you what, if they put it all together I don't see many teams beating them next year."

JH: I hear DeMarcus Granger has got into great shape. What kind of future do you see for him?

DD: "I think DeMarcus will be one of the best defensive tackles to ever play at OU. He has so much ability, so much talent, but his problem was that he came in so overweight. He has lost almost 50 pounds and he is looking good.

"He is just so big, strong and talented that I think you are going to see a guy like him in two years become an All-American. He is going to be a first round pick in the NFL. There are so many of them. He is going to be good, Billy Blackard is going to be good, and Cory Bennett had a great year last year. He is coming back and Carl Pendleton is a great player.

"Then they have Gerald McCoy coming in. They are going to be loaded. They have some big-time talent and I think this spring is going to be huge for some guys. They are all fighting for a position. I just named about six guys and you only have four spots. We rotate four defensive linemen, so it is going to be nut-cutting time as these guys have to step up and play.

"They are not freshmen any more, and that is what they are going to have to realize. They are going to have to get out in the spring time and really show what they got. I think DeMarcus and all the guys are going to do well.

"DeMarcus is really going to put on a show and I think Cory is going to have a great spring. Carl has a knee thing, so I don't think he is going through spring, but Coach Shipp was telling me that Steve Coleman has made more improvement than anybody. He has his weight up, he is getting stronger, he is faster and Coach Shipp thinks he is going to have a huge year.

"We are so deep on that D-line that they are going to be really impressive."

JH: Carl Pendleton really doesn't get enough credit does he? Isn't he better than people think?

DD: "He is as he is so fundamentally sound. He does a better job with his technique and hands than anybody. He does a better job than me and a better job than Tommie ever did. He makes plays and does a good job, but he has been overshadowed by some other guys. I think he is going to step up this year.

"It is too bad that he doesn't get to go through spring, but at the same time it is not going to hurt him to much. He has played so much during his career as he has basically been a two-year starter. Spring is more for the younger guys, so it might be good for him to sit out this spring and let his body rest, then get ready for summer and have a great summer.

"He should be preseason all Big-12. And then you get a guy like Granger or Bennett and if any of those other guys start being more successful, he is going to see more single blocks. He is going to make a lot of plays, so I think he is going to have a great year as well."

JH: Do you think Pendleton and Bennett need to get bigger? Or is that stuff overrated?

DD: "I think it is different for everybody. I played some of my best football at 285 to 290. I definitely can feel when I am 300 pounds, it feels different. It is harder for guys to move me around and it is easier for me to get push on people.

"I think the key is when you put weight on that you put good weight on and you make sure that you can still move. The biggest key in our defense is that you have to be able to move up front. You have to be able to get movement, get penetration and be quick off the ball. Running to the football is the biggest thing. If you can put pounds on and stay the same speed or get a little faster, that is what you are looking for.

"If 285 to 290 is all you can weigh to be able to move, then that is all you need to weigh. There is not a certain weight for anybody. When I came in at 265 and played with Kory Klein, he weighed 260 pounds in the 2000 National Championship game. So there is not a set weight, but it helps the player and they can be more successful the bigger they get. But they have to be able to still move, be active and stay mobile."

JH: What do you hope to accomplish at Pro Day at OU?

DD: "I am going to run my 40 again. I plan on getting my 40 down into the low 4.8 range, or mid to low 4.8 range. I did real well on my shuttle, but I am going to run my shuttle again because I can run faster.

"I am just going to do some small things to try to impress these scouts and these teams, just to see if I can't my status up a little bit more. I just want to show these guys that I am always going to compete and that I am not scared.

"I have nothing to hide and I am going to go through all my defensive line drills. With me, what you see is what you get. I am going to go out there and make them draft me high."

JH: What do you think of the whole draft process?

DD: "It is an interesting process. You have a chance to make a lot of money in a short amount of time. You just have to put yourself in the best situation to do that. I think if you have an attitude, you embrace it and enjoy it as opposed to saying, 'Oh my gosh, I have to do this?'

"I think it makes the time pass a lot quicker and it makes you do better. It is a fun time and I feel a little stressed, because it is a lot of work. You start thinking where am I going to go, what round, and who am I going too? You just need to focus on what you have to run because you are working out and you see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"It is a lot of fun. It is a long process, but really it is a short process that just seems long at the time so you try to embrace it and make the most of it."

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