Given your path, are your surprised to be here?
“Not surprising. The recruiting that I got in high school, I’d show up at a camp, whether it be Bowling Green, Northern Illinois or Ohio State and everyone would pull me aside and was like, ‘Who are you? What high school did you come from? Especially some of the schools because they had recruited one of my teammates. So my dad was like, ‘I know you’re going to do great. This is what you’ve been doing, being an athlete, competing, doing the little drills, changing directions. That’s the stuff that got your foot in the door in the first place.”
What would you like to run in the 40?
“5.0 Be happy with that.”
When you look at your path, what do you take from that?
“I’ve learned a lot. There may be times that whatever experience you’re having may not be the most fun in the world and people may be pushing you all different types of directions, keep calm and stick with it, not complain and make faces like you don’t want to be there. Junior college and all the experiences helped me learn and be more mature. They were very valuable for me to grow as a person and not just a football player.”
Does it help to have some teammates here?
“I think so. Lot of guys, not just Cody Core and Laquon (Treadwell) and Robert (Nkemdiche), C.J. (Johnson) and Laremy (Tunsil). I worked out at EXOS in San Diego so I feel like I have a bunch of teammates. I was training with Jack Conklin and Josh Garnett, Dominick Roberts and Alex Redmond, those are my guys. Those are as much my teammates as Laremy and those guys.”
Who is the best defensive lineman you faced while at Ole Miss?
“There are always three guys that I bring up. I like Carl Lawson the best because he was a very well-rounded player, pretty solid in the run game, nice pass rusher. Myles Garrett’s probably the best pure pass rusher. In the run game, A’Shawn Robinson was a real strong dude. He’s probably the best interior d-lineman I played, those three guys.”
What about Robert Nkemdiche?
“Robert Nkemdiche? He’s up there. I would always tell people I played with a guy named Chris Jones up at Bowling Green. He got off the ball faster than anybody I ever played until I got to Ole Miss. Robert Nkemdiche’s got the nicest get-off I’ve seen. It makes it real difficult. I feel bad for the guards and center trying to come back off a power play because he’s boom, lightning off the ball.”
You’ve played left tackle and right. How does that help you handle the speed off the edge?
“I feel it gives you more confidence, whether I have to be stuck in at left or stuck in at right. I played left tackle for three years before I came to Ole Miss. I feel like in our offense I got used to a lot of one-on-one pass rushing. I got a lot of reps against it. Even in practice Marquise Haynes, No. 27, he’s one of the best pass rushers I’ve played against too. I’d be remiss not to bring his name up. I practiced with him every single day, so I was always with him, the good and the bad. In the next couple of years I feel like he’s going to turn a lot of people’s heads.”
What are the big differences between playing left and right tackle?
“It’s distinctly different. When you’re playing left tackle there’s always more pressure no matter who you are. When you’re playing left tackle it’s kind of like you’re the guy. When I was at Bowling Green before I was about to start my first game my offensive line coach was like, ‘OK, I’m going to give you the keys to the car.’ He kept saying that to me because if a left tackle gets beat, it’s bad. You’re not just talking about a sack. You’re talking about a strip fumble. I feel like both tackles are important, but left kind of has that stigma.”
What did you think of Chad Kelly as a leader?
“There are a lot of misconceptions about his character. One thing I will say about him, he’s one of the hardest-working guys we had. The last season I played at Ole Miss was my fifth season. I worked a lot harder than I ever had. When I left college I wanted to leave no stone unturned. Whenever I came in to do extra stuff, more stretch, more strength whatever, he was always there. He was always on his iPad looking at film. He’d be telling me about d-lineman we were going to play against in the game before we’d play them. He puts in a lot of work. I feel like that’s why he performed as well as he did because he put in the preparation that I guess other guys didn’t.”
Were you surprised he went back to school considering half the offense is here at the combine?
“No, because there are some really good guys that are still there that people haven’t really ... people got a chance to see, but they just got to see in flashes. This year a lot of other guys are going to get the chance to stand out. I feel like he’s a guy too where there’s unfinished business. We won the Sugar Bowl and it was a big deal, but I know Chad Kelly has much bigger goals than the stuff he accomplished last year.”
What is Hugh Freeze telling people that all of the sudden makes Ole Miss a premier destination?
“Just what we’re building. That was something that I saw when I was in junior college. One thing about me is leaving a school like Bowling Green when I was starting was that I wanted to go to a school that I could take a whole bunch of pride in. When I went there I felt the same pride was there. Guys were fired up about football. When I was there I got this vibe and this feeling. ‘These guys are going to beat Alabama, beat LSU, and I’m going to watch it on TV on game day and be like, ‘man I could have been down there.’ It was a can’t-miss for me, and we ended up doing just that.”
How does your athleticism help you for zone blocking schemes, cutting on back side?
“The speed in the NFL is the fastest football there is. I pulled up some film one time when I was with some of my guys one time watching. I pulled up games of some teams playing, like a Big 10 game, I put up an SEC game like us vs. Auburn, then I put up a game of like the Eagles and the Redskins and said, ‘Look at how fast this is. Look at how fast guys are playing.’ I feel like being athletic helps you out. You’ve got to get off the ball. You’ve got to be fast with your hands and your feet, and you’ve got to be fast with your mind too. It’s just invaluable.”
What does it mean for you to be here?
“It means a lot. It means a lot to a lot of guys. One of my buddies texted me the other day. He said, ‘You’ve already made it to me.’ It motivates a lot of guys, me knowing where I was coming from, being in junior college, eating dry Ramen Noodles and stuff like that, having my pads in the trunk of my car because we didn’t have a locker room, stuff like that. Then being in the combine, it’s motivation for a lot of other guys who may be discouraged to say, ‘Hey if you push though it you can make something happen with yourself.’”