You're really hanging onto this WILL deal with everything you've got …
‘'I've been doing well through camp. It's one of those things, and Glenn Love, unfortunately he's in a red jersey right now, and so it's given me more opportunities. Our whole defense has been playing really well, so it hasn't been too hard for me to run around and make plays.''
What's been the key in that? The defense playing well, but how do you flow through that?
‘'The last two years, I've done really well at learning my material as far as fits go and so on and so forth. I'd say my football IQ is pretty strong, and I've been working on my reads all last year, waiting for my opportunity to fight for this spot. And then on top of that, I got to play behind (Kyle Bosworth) last year and that was, I mean, I learned from him every day. I asked him questions all the time – he probably got a little sick of it. But he really helped me out as far as learning the fits, learning how to play football, too.
''He was a big, strong guy, but he had really good technique and he taught me a lot of little things that have really helped me out, him and on top of that Coach (Clark) Lea has done a good job of teaching me techniques of basically holding my ground in the box at my size. It's a lot of technique, so if you can get the technique right … I'm a powerful guy, so if I'm able to hold my own in the box then on the plays that I don't have to then I get to go run around and make plays. It's just a matter of being patient and waiting for those, and then making them when they're presented.''
I'm thinking there are a lot of people concerned about the lack of size … you're not one of them I take it.
‘'Our coaches were concerned, but they said if I get up to 220 then they're totally comfortable with me playing, and I don't think anyone knows this game better than our coaches. If they're comfortable with me playing, then of course I'm comfortable, then I think everyone else should be comfortable, too. If they give me the spot, then I think people should understand that they know what they're doing. They're very intelligent people. If they're not worried, then I don't think anyone else should be.''
You mentioned the technique in that, being able to hold in there. What are some of the things you want to use in there?
‘'Last year I tried to use my momentum a lot. But this year it's been all about using my hands. Yes, I'm really quick and explosive with all of my hits and my movements, so that helps. If I get inside of them, because I'm a shorter guy, I can extend and then I can move. Linemen aren't used to getting hit by you, like, you're delivering a hit to them when you're making a play. So, that's one thing I've done. I've gotten real good with my hands, and body positioning. Our special teams coach says every day football is a game of leverage and angles, and it really is. Get the right leverage and the right angle on a guy, then you're going to win. Even 300-pound guys, if you've the right angle and the right leverage, you've got them.''
It's been a process just getting to this point, getting bigger, getting stronger … I guess 220 was the magic number. How was it getting up there?
‘'It was hard. It really was. I was 195 pounds last year and gaining 25 pounds … at first it took a toll on my back. I didn't gain it the right way. I was just eating all the time. I just gained the weight. I lost that pretty quick, then I had to gain it again. It was a process. Instead of putting it all on at once, I had to do it almost like each five pounds was an increment. I would say, if I get to the next five, like if I got to 210, I'm going to say I was 205, because you're going to lose a little bit. So I would go up to the next one down. That's how it was. And I've been as high as 220, 222 a little bit. So, I'm like, right between 220 and 215, solid, and if you're at the lower five you can still move and it doesn't affect your body. That's what I learned. It was a process. I had to learn that, too, over the past three years.''
Do you have trouble keeping it on through the course of a season?
‘'I usually lose it in camp. That's what I've done the last couple of years. I came in at 205 last year and got down to 195, plus I also had a problem getting sick. But I've been preemptive on all that and I've actually gained weight during camp.''
How do you do that?
‘'Just, uh, tenacity.''
Tenacity at the training table?
‘'It's hard to eat that much, especially when you're tired and the food isn't always amazing. I mean, the food is good. But two weeks in the dorms, it starts to get repetitive, some of it. You really have to have your mind into it. It's not easy. I mean, you've just got to understand, you're doing this for another purpose. I'm not just eating because I'm hungry. I have to. If you get the right mentality it's not as hard.''