Stoops: I'll tell you what: You can't go wrong with Mike. You've got a great one there. He's the ultimate team player. He comes to work every day. I can honestly say that about Mike. Every single day, every practice, every play, he tries to get better. I mean, I love Mike. He's going to be a great player for you.
Q: His statistics as a senior say that only five passes were caught on him the whole season and he didn't allow even one reception in seven games. How did he keep from getting bored?
Stoops: That's a good question. And with the other secondary members, a lot of (media) guys give the hype to some of the other guys. But I'll tell you, Mike just went out there and didn't say a word. He just grinded it out every day. I think he just took it upon himself just to try to totally eliminate the receivers and be a dominant player. He didn't want to be just OK. He wanted to dominate his guys. And it showed.
Q: Was it pure bump-and-run coverage for the most part for him?
Stoops: There was a lot of that. We pressed every snap, so they're pressing whether we're playing zone or man, and we'll play a variety of coverages. But he's up on the line of scrimmage, pressing them and moving his feet, bumping them. And of course, that plays into his hands with his long arms and his size and everything. He was very good at zone and man. He was good at both.
Q: Just exactly how dominant a player would you say Mike was at the college level?
Stoops: I'd say he was very dominant. I'll tell you, as we went back and watched all of our cutups from the year, it is almost amazing how, like you said, how does Mike keep from getting bored. But almost, as a coach, you have to make sure you don't take him for granted, either. Because you sit there, and he just does his job, does his job, does his job every play. And then you go back and watch the cutups, and you just realize just how valuable he was. Because he executed his assignments in there every snap. So he was always trying to do the right thing.
Q: What's it going to take for him to attain that dominance at the NFL level?
Stoops: I think he's going to be a dominant player in the NFL. I just think he's going to be a solid pro, because of his work ethic, because of the type of person he is and what he cares about. He wants to be a good player, he wants to live right, he wants to do things right. Therefore, you can't go wrong. He has the size, he has the speed, the ability, and he has the heart. So when you've got a guy with those qualities, I don't think you can go wrong with him. That's why I think you've got a great pick in Mike, and he's going to play in the league a long time.
Q: In your mind, is there much separation between Mike and Phillip Buchanon, your other starting corner selected No. 17 overall by Oakland in the first round?
Stoops: No, there's not a lot of separation. They're different players. Phillip's a little bit quicker, a little bit lighter on his feet. But he's smaller. Phillip was a little flashier, he was willing to take more chances, he gambled a little bit, he would come up with big plays. And Mike would just constantly do his job and do what you coached him to do. Phillip was also a great player and a great person - don't get me wrong, I love both of those guys - but Mike was just different. And I think the thing that really stands out with Mike was that he wanted to execute his assignment, he wanted to do the right thing. He didn't worry about personal glory or statistics. He just went out there and shut his guys down every snap.
Q: Besides comparisons with Buchanon, what else sets Mike apart from other cornerbacks you've coached during your college career?
Stoops: I just think he's just got a great body for a corner. I mean, he's got that size and the speed. I mean, Mike's got great speed to go with his size. I don't think people really realize just how fast he is. He gets those arms on you, and he can cover a lot of ground. I think his physical abilities obviously are the size and the speed. But what I love about Mike, which I think can't go unrecognized, is just how important the game is to him and how hard he works at it and what it means to him. He goes out there, he tries to do the best he can. In the meeting rooms, he's on the edge of his seat. A lot of the guys - all of the guys - paid attention and it was important to them and they wanted to get better. But Mike was really on the edge of his seat. He was really studying the game. He really wanted to be a dominant player and I think he's got great years ahead of him. He's going to get better and better. With that attitude and that work ethic, that's what's going to separate Mike from a lot of people.
Q: What's the most amazing thing you've ever seen Mike do?
Stoops: Oh, shoot. I don't know if any one play just really stands out. Again, Mike wasn't the real flashy type player. What stood out for me, and what I liked about him, is he just loved to compete every day. He competed and got physical and he wanted to be dominant. It wasn't good enough around here just to be a good player or a good team. They wanted to be a great team and a great player. That's Mike. And I just think that consistency. I've seen Mike get up there in one-and-ones and just battle, and get right back on the line and do it and do it again. I think he can do it all day long. I've never seen a guy with that much stamina, that could battle the good receivers play in and play out consistently all year long. I think he could do one-on-ones and play football all day without getting tired, just like it's coming easy to him.
Q: What kind of person is he off the field?
Stoops: He's a little more quiet than some of the other guys we had, but he's by no means in a shell or anything like that. Mike just kind of sticks to himself and, of course, spends time with his baby and his girlfriend. He's a great person off the field, I think. He really tries to live his life right and do the right things. He's a lot of fun to be around. He's always smiling and he loves playing the game. Any time he was around the offices or stopped in, he always had a great attitude. You've just got to love a guy like that.