"Oh, it's been a great experience being around a group of first class athletes, Peyton Manning leading in every way and every aspect in lifting or on the field. On defense just learning from Walt Harris in the secondary and David Gibson, a former alumni from here, he's really taken me under his wing and helped me speed up the process to make it a smoother one.
Basically from the first three day minicamp through what we just completed, what we call summer school, is equivalent to college spring ball. It's four weeks of on the field work, learning details, what they've basically done is slowed everything down and walked us through it so that we could become acclimated. I had the privilege of being there not only with other rookies and free agents but the veteran guys were there so it was a great opportunity in 7 on 7's, 1 on 1's and some of the battles that go along with those. Every day was just a learning process and, I'll tell you, the average work day starts around 6:30am which is equivalent to 4:30 PST so that was an adjustment in itself, and it ends about 12 o'clock. It's mentally exhausting. Physically challenging but mentally exhausting. When you get off the field, you're body is just…you're exhausted. It comes from trying to play catch up the whole time. Coming from USC though I felt very prepared and I was able to tread water, so to speak."
To hear you say it was mentally exhausting means it must have been tough because you've always been a well-prepared player.
"It definitely was but it's because you're learning a different style of technique and you're incorporating it into a scheme that they are implementing every day. I've referenced this many times but it's like learning everything in a GTE phonebook, that's how thick the playbooks can become. The process, it was fast, but it slows down for you the more you watch the veteran guys in front of you so when you go in you tend to try and emulate what they do right and minimize the mistakes you make. For myself, I came in rotating with the fourth string and throughout the process I was able to mingle in with the 1's, the second group as well as the third. I'm currently playing left corner and as it stands I'm currently on every special team and I'm really battling for a kickoff return spot with fellow Pac-10 alum Troy Walters."
You've had some time in an NFL camp and now you're back on campus today. What are some of the quick thoughts that go through your mind as your return and look back on what happened over the past few years?
"You still get the chills being around here with the guys you went to war with. It's a humbling but yet a great feeling when you come back on campus and then you're embraced the way you are. You truly don't understand what the Trojan Family means until you leave and you come back. You're embraced and you're able to work out with those guys and share your experiences with them.
It's funny, I was talking to a guy named Brian Allen, he played at Stanford and now he's at the Colts with me, and he said "can you believe that you were on a team with 4 of the 5 fastest guys in California state history?" and to be a part of a special group last year that went on to win the Orange Bowl, you just think about the stories that all of you have encountered. I've had to sit back and reflect on some of the themes that were there with Carson coming back from his shoulder injury, Justin Fargas transferring in after his leg injury, my story with coming in heralded and going through the peaks and valleys. Whatever senior you talk to, all of us have traveled different roads but for us to put it together and really bring SC back to the standard that it belongs and to pass the torch to a group of hard-working underclassmen group, the sky's the limit for this group, I couldn't be more proud to call myself a Trojan."
Talk about what we're going to see this year in the secondary at USC.
"You're gonna see a bigger group. They're gonna be stronger, which will help in the run game, and not only that but they'll be more athletic than in years past. It's a great blend of young talent and experience led by Kevin Arbet. This group has the potential to be really stellar. At the bookends I see Poole really battling with Marcell Allmond and then Kevin Arbet with Ronald Nunn. However that works out, I don't know, but with any of that combination out there you have to like your chances. At the safety position, a young Darnell Bing who reminds me of the days of old with Ronnie Lott, Tim McDonald with the bigger frame. Then you have Jason Leach coming back after having some success at the end of the season and leading the team in interceptions. I love that group. It's gonna be very tough, the 1 on 1 competitions going on in summer are going to be very intense. There are gonna be some great match-ups all the way around. You can't count out William Buchanan. There's only four spots in the secondary and a lot of faces, a lot of new faces and a lot of old."
How did it help prepare you for the NFL to go up against a guy like Mike Williams every day in practice?
"I'll tell you (smiling), a guy of my stature going against a Mike Williams was the best preparation I could have ever asked for. I see the deviations at the next level so I'm able to reflect back on how I covered him to deal with some of the taller guys in practice and not only that but to remember how I was successful defending him. I remember not only the ways I was successful but the ways he used to use his body to shield me away. What I've done that has really helped me to this point is keep myself out of those situations where the receiver is between the ball and myself as the defender. The guys that are 6-3 and taller, I stay to their up-field shoulder so I can drive downhill and that's just something learned from covering guys like Mike Williams. Not only that but covering a Keary Colbert, a guy who I think has a chance to be a great USC receiver. He's in the frame of Marvin Harrison where anything in his grasp, he's catching. The speedster Troy Walters, the only thing I can compare him to is a Shaun McDonald from Arizona State or Kareem Kelly in practice who is just a potential deep threat. Guys like that have helped me prepare for what I'm facing today."
You talked about the peaks and valleys you saw in your career. What advice do you have for other players who are just getting ready to start their college careers?
"The first thing is you humble yourself and go up to one of the older guys who's been there and you say "look, I'm new at this" and you have to be honest with yourself, "I'm trying to learn the ropes, can you show me around?" because it's tough when you're young and there's a lot of things you're learning on the run. You're learning how to study, how to go to class, on the field you're trying to learn and perfect technique while at the same time trying to learn the system. My advice is to hook up with an older guy and have him teach you how to study, how to be a student. Once the foundation is laid, then your athletic abilities will take over. The advice I gave Will Poole was to hook up with a Kevin Arbet and really learn the system so that when camp comes around you're familiar with the terminology and you can execute the technique. Learn the system, learn what you're doing and the technique will come because in this game the higher you go the more mental it becomes. Like a coach once told me, "the game is played from the eyebrows up" and that's done before you step on the field. Once you step on the field then you allow your athletic ability to take over. More than anything else for a young kid is to not get discouraged, just to be patient and learn the system and the terminology."
Darrell Rideaux will be the guest speaker at the WeAreSC.com dinner next Wednesday, June 25th at Papadakis Taverna in San Pedro. For more information please call 310/543-5557.