NFL Draft Q&A: Zak DeOssie

The Ivy League isn't exactly known as a football factory, but Brown linebacker Zak DeOssie has deep NFL roots. His father, Steve, played 12 seasons in the NFL as a linebacker and long-snapper, and his best friend at Phillips Academy in Andover was Bill Belichick's daughter, Amanda. Find out more about DeOssie in this exclusive interview with's Ed Thompson.

Ed Thompson:  When you talk to coaches and scouts, has the word 'playmaker' come out of their mouths? I see you blocked a kick, had four interceptions, caused fumbles, deflected passes ... I mean, you're all over the place.

Zak DeOssie:  They're aware of my production, and I'm sure they're happy with it. I've heard everything from outside, inside linebacker in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. My play speaks for itself.

ET:  Anybody talking to you about possibly adding weight and trying out the DE position?

ZD:  The Vikings were entertaining that, but that's the only time I ever heard it. It was just a casual conversation. They were just entertaining the thought. But I've heard from everywhere that the size is perfect. In fact, some said you should be able to put on a little more weight and still run at linebacker.

ET:  From a technical standpoint, what are your strengths as a linebacker?

ZD:  Well, I run sideline to sideline and I can run down running backs and receivers, whoever it may be. I've got great speed, and I've got a nose for the ball. I'm able to drop back in coverage and break on the ball. The thing I need the most improvement on, I believe, is just getting off blocks. I tend to stalemate with linemen and try to figure out where the play's going instead of just getting rid of them and getting them off me. Because if they take me out of the play, they've succeeded. However, it's a learning curve, and I feel I've gotten a lot better in past years.

(David Silverman,
ET:  Let's talk about special teams because I could see you as a rookie taking on the crazy assignment of wedge-buster. Is that the kind of mentality you have out there?

ZD:  My thought is whatever helps. It's football, you know (laughs). Special teams start the game and potentially swing everything, and that's a role that I love and I've embraced from the first time I stepped on the field. It's just part of the game, and I love it.

ET:  We talked extensively at the Combine about the Bill Belichick connection. You want to tell the fans about that and what his interest has been so far?

ZD:  I haven't heard much from their end. There is a connection there, as in I am best friends with his daughter, Amanda, who I graduated with from Phillips Academy in Andover. Mr. Belichick went to Andover as a post-graduate, and he invited me to be a ball boy for two years in high school. The first year was the first year they won the Super Bowl. It was just a great experience. I like to think of Mr. Belichick as a best friend's father and nothing more and try to keep it as professional as possible on top of that.

ET:  You saw first-hand what it was like to be in the family of a professional football player, the travel and the schedule and everything. Was that in any way a deterrent at all during your life as far as whether you wanted to have the same lifestyle?

ZD:  No, it was intriguing. It was part of my life. When you're around it so much, you get used to it and it just becomes a way of life. It's the status quo in my family. I watched my father play, and I was fortunate enough to be old enough to remember. That's just how it is for me and my family, and I'm completely aware of what's going to happen there. It's not an issue at all or a deterrent by any means.

ET:  When you were at the Combine, did you have an opportunity to do some formal 15-minute interviews?

ZD:  I had two of them, actually. Jets and Chicago Bears.

ET:  How about at your Pro Day at Boston College? Did some specific teams show interest in you?

ZD:  I went to BC, and Cleveland came the night before and I went out to dinner with the linebacker coach. Cincinnati, I sat down with them. And there was a whole slew of coaches watching, but nothing too unusual after that.

ET:  Any private workouts or visits?

ZD:  Yeah, Philadelphia came to work me out. I'm scheduled to visit the Giants.

ET:  What do you think you love most about the game of football?

ZD:  Just getting out there and running around. It's just very competitive. Everybody is just doing everything they can to win. I just love the nature of the game.

ET:  How much of a help has your Ivy League education been an asset to you in this process?

ZD:  It's rare, and I think it does work to my advantage. You've seen it first-hand. Some guys like to just leave school and go workout and just leave and drop everything, whereas I'm still taking four courses, training, driving up to Boston – doing the best of both worlds. It's been tough, but it's certainly worth it. I think it's just a commitment that I've chosen to take, and I'm proud of it.

If you missed the first half of this interview with DeOssie, click here to read it.

A member of the Professional Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's NFL and college football player interviews and features have been published across the network and syndicated through's NFL team pages.

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