T.J. Rushing: That definitely came from my parents. They stressed the importance of academics to me as I was growing up. They used to use the threat (laughs) -- I guess that's the right word to use -- that if I didn't keep my grades up, then I couldn't play. And that was the way to get to me. Because if they took the ball away from me or said I couldn't go to practice, that would kill me. So that's where it stemmed from.
Q: The fact that they were able to use that to motivate you obviously shows they knew you had a deep passion for the sport.
TJ: I've been loving this game for as long as I can remember. The opportunity to go out there and compete, it brings an excitement to me.
Q: You're a political science major. Any aspirations to be a politician someday?
TJ: I think so. Maybe when football's all said and done with. Maybe I'll go back and follow JC Watts in Oklahoma.
Q: What was it like trying to pick up the skill of being a punt returner last year?
TJ: It just reminded me of playing football as a kid when a friend would throw the ball up real high and then you or one of your friends would get it, and then you'd have to try to make everyone miss. (laughs) That's about how I would describe handling punt returns.
Q: That ball sails a little bit higher in college football though, doesn't it?
TJ: (laughs) Yeah, definitely.
Q: When you were trying to learn the skill, did you have some of your teammates harass you just so you could learn how to concentrate while you were waiting for that ball to come down?
TJ: Definitely. Our old special teams coach did a great job of getting me ready. He had guys stand in front of me, run around me, get up in my face, yell, whatever they wanted to do while I was trying to catch the ball. I even had to hold a ball in one hand and try to catch the punt one-handed, all kinds of different drills to help me learn how to catch the ball.
Q: At the pro level, you can make an immediate contribution on special teams. Do you also see yourself as an ideal nickel back as rookie?
TJ: Yes sir, I definitely do. I'm not afraid to mix it up in the box, I can make tackles. I can run with the slot receiver all over the field.
Q: What scouts interacted with you the most on your Pro Day?
TJ: The Cowboys scout and the Colts scout were showing good interest in me. The Rams, the Bengals, the Bills, the Browns, the Raiders, the 49ers, and Jacksonville were also showing pretty good interest. I had good conversations with about ten different scouts (including the Bears). But just about every scout at Pro Day stopped to at least introduce themselves and make sure they had some info on me.