Even though the Midway Monsters could use a new starter at strong-side linebacker next to Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, it would be difficult to justify a selection at that spot on Day 1 of the NFL Draft.
There are simply too many other positions that need to be addressed immediately, namely wide receiver and defensive end. More depth along the offensive line is also paramount, plus there is usually a few quality linebackers still available later on draft weekend – remember Briggs was just a third-rounder back in 2004. Clay Matthews of USC has generated some interest from the Bears but is likely a Round 2 choice, meaning a third- or fourth-round pick like Zack Follett of California might be the way to go for this defense.
Like Matthews, Follett was targeted by Chicago during preparations for the Senior Bowl and could be on the team's radar come April.
Ed Thompson: Usually a guy who is hitting people as hard as you do gets banged up himself. Take a guy like the Colts' Bob Sanders, who certainly knocks people around. But he also misses some time because of the way he uses his body. What has your injury history been like?
Zack Follett: I've had two shoulder surgeries, but I didn't miss any game time. In 2007, I had a neck stinger that sidelined me for two games. But those were the only games I missed during my career. My body's tolerance for pain is pretty high. I just got finished with a massage, and they were digging into me as hard as they could and they said, 'Man, anybody else would be screaming and squirming right now.' But over the years, I've built up a pretty high pain tolerance. That's just the way I grew up, with no fear, riding quads (four-wheeler ATVs). When I was a kid in junior high, I was stupid enough to let a girl who was my neighbor drive it. And I'm in the back of it, and she makes a sharp turn and my foot gets caught in the wheel. I started screaming, but she doesn't know how to stop. I got drug for about 20 feet on the asphalt. It ripped off my shoe, and when I looked down I had a big old hole in my foot and I could see the bone. All of a sudden, blood rushes out. Then I went to the doctor, and they put a needle right in the middle to numb it. I haven't experienced any other pain in my life that was like that. That was a tough one. It wasn't a fun time.
ET: Give me some insight on one of your teammates who is also a high-profile player in this draft, Alex Mack.
ZF: Oh man, Alex Mack. He's a pretty tough guy, man. He's a hard worker. He is 110 percent every play. He knows one speed, and those are the kind of guys we love at Cal. He goes hard in the weight room. He's a beast and doesn't take any shortcuts, and it shows in his game play. Even in the classroom, he won the Draddy Award. He's an all-around kind of guy.
ET: Share some of your thoughts on Senior Bowl week.
ZF: The whole experience was really good. But it did feel like a little bit of a chicken-coop type of thing in the beginning, being thrown in there while they were getting us going. For me, since they asked me to play middle linebacker instead of outside, I wasn't as comfortable at my position. But I just went in there and did the best I could. I knew that they wanted to know that I can play inside, so I was glad to show them that I was willing to play wherever they need me. I think it helped to show my marketability as a versatile linebacker. All of the guys I came across were good guys, and that's rare to find a group of all-stars who for the most part have a good head on their shoulders. That also made the trip worth it, having the chance to build some relationships with the nation's best players.
ET: What were some of your most memorable Senior Bowl interviews? And why?
ZF: It would have to be the Colts. They had us take a personality test, and then they had us sit down with a sports psychologist and go over our test. I think they got the best results because I sat there and talked to her about every aspect of my life outside of football, so I think she got the best read on me out of anybody. Two others that stood out were Carolina and the Seahawks. They sat you down in a room of about eight people, and you've got all eight people looking at you and asking you questions on videotape. So that was a little more high pressure in those rooms. The Kansas City scout was great. He does the West Coast. I went in there for maybe a 15-minute interview and ended up staying in there and talking to him for almost an hour.
ET: You told me that you had talked with the Bears and the Cowboys, but who were just a few of the other teams you met with and what did they tell you?
ZF: The Vikings sat me down and said I'd be playing the Will (weak side) back in their scheme if I ended up there. New England talked to me and said I'd probably be an inside 'backer for them and special-teams player. Green Bay talked to me. They're going to be switching to a 3-4 this year, so they're looking for linebackers. I talked to Pittsburgh. Our coach picked up our defense from San Diego and Pittsburgh, so I have one year of their defense under my belt. The Cleveland Browns called me. I guess they're going to be talking about me in their meetings the next couple of days, and he had more questions to ask me.
CLICK HERE for more on California linebacker Zack Follett from Scout.com.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.
NFL Draft Q&A: LB Zack Follett
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