It may have been a surprise to some draftniks that I have had Cal Bears defensive end Tully Banta-Cain rated higher than some bigger names, but Banta-Cain's All-Star performances at the East West Shrine game, where he was game MVP, and the Senior Bowl, where he had one of the three North team sacks in the contest, has caused NFL scouts to really take a long hard look at the Mountain View, Ca. native.
Banta-Cain has continued to rise up the draft boards after his combine and "Pro Day" workouts in
Certainly, coming out of
Banta-Cain certainly has the numbers to be a first day selection, possibly in round two, no matter what college he attended. He finished sixth in the nation in sacks this past season with 13, and his 22 TFL, for 126 yards in losses, were 7th best nationally, following a junior campaign of 8 sacks and 17 TFL. His 2002 performance earned Tully a second team All-American spot by CNN/SI, All-PAC-10 honors, along with the team MVP award.
Tully played five different positions at
Banta-Cain is another smart, mature player who is majoring in American Studies at
Banta-Cain is a cousin of former S.F. Giant outfielder Jeffrey Leonard, and also Reggie Rogers of the NBA, so if the Rams draft him, St. Louis fans will have to forgive his relation to Leonard, who drew the ire of St. Louis fans in the 1987 NL playoffs by calling St. Louis a "Cow Town".
Should the Rams somehow land this hard working, talented pass rusher late this April, his play will allow the
Twenty Questions (OR MORE) For Tully Banta-Cain
University of California- Defensive End #48
BW- Cal has produced an inordinate number of pass rushers in recent years, including top first rounders and present NFL stars Andre Carter (2001), Regan Upshaw (1996) and Duane Clemons (1996), who followed past top picks such as Sherman White (1972) and Ken Harvey (1988) out of Berkeley. Some others ex-Bears who have had good careers after being selected after round one are Reggie Camp (1983), and recently Brandon Whiting and ex-Ram Chidi Ahanotu. To what, if anything, do you attribute the run of pass rush talent out of
TBC-Well, being a D-end at
BW-The big concern about you as a player is your lack of height. Many times pass rushers who lack the height to get considerably bigger in the pros, are switched to 3-4 outside linebackers, and drafted by teams who play that scheme, or become situational pass rush LB/DE with 4-3 teams. How do you feel about the possibility of that sort of move for you? Have you ever played with your hand "off the ground" in college, and did the pro scouts or coaches work you at that position at all in the All-Star practices?
TBC-In certain defensive packages in college I did stand up. In the Senior Bowl, I was asked to do some LB drills to test my movements and I got positive feedback. I think I have natural linebacker abilities and could play and make a difference at the next level in either position. Originally, I came to
BW-The height and weight and forty time combine measurements are huge factors that can really move a player up the draft boards, like it did the last three top #1 picks who were
TBC-You never know what your 40 time is going to be each time you make the run, but I know that its going to be faster than projected. I know I'll run in the 4.6s maybe the 4.5s. I'll still be 6'2, of course, and I'll weigh in at least 260. I've been working on my strength and speed since the season ended. I've been training in
BW-Your performance in the East West Shrine game in front of the home folks earned MVP honors, and you also had a sack in the Senior Bowl. How has the positive play changed the interest from NFL teams? Has any team or teams really seemed to be extremely interested in you so far? What pro coaches or assistants did you work with at the All Star games, and what were their comments as to where you could be drafted and where you fit in the NFL? In general, what was the whole All-Star experience like, including visiting the
TBC-You can never really get a clear idea of interest level; you just try to do your best. You can tell by how you perform whether you will get noticed. But the evaluation period is still going on. You still have to factor what I did in the combine and pro day to get a sense of where I'm sitting. Coach Pat Hill of Fresno State and the Texan coaches worked with me in the all-star games. It's hard to tell from talking and interviewing with them about how you match up with the other prospects. I don't really think about that. I just do my job and be myself and I know the rest will take care of itself. Because I was in the Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl and at the combine, I've had a chance to talk with most of the teams and they've had a chance to know me better. I'm hearing that I'll go somewhere in the first day...as for what round, its speculation and the teams don't tip their hands. My interviews and performance are the parts of the process that I can control. Most teams talk to me about d-end and some want to see how I feel about dropping back at LB. It all depends on the team needs.
As far as the all-star experience is concerned, the visit to the hospital really made me count my blessings and it felt good try to shine some light in some less fortunate children's hearts that are really faced with some painful and tough challenges. It makes you stop and think about how blessed we are to be able to play this game and gives that all-star game more meaning. I'm grateful to have had that opportunity.
BW-Did those All-Star weeks really boost your confidence, playing so well against much of the best college football has to offer? How do you feel you compared with many of the more high profile DE expected to be first round picks in April?
TBC- I enjoyed being a part of the Shrine Game and then getting that invite to come to the Senior Bowl. It gave me a chance to meet a lot of the players I had heard about from around the country. Even though some of the other guys went to what are considered the big time "football" schools, my playing at Cal put me against the cream of the crop Pac-10 talent for the past 5 years and our defensive coordinator had a complex system. I believe our schedules were ranked as one of the toughest schedules around the country during the time I was there. We played against non-conference powerhouses as well as ranked teams in the Pac 10 schools with top talent. I guess my answer is that I don't feel as if they have better experience or training than we did. It was great to get on the field with name players and match up.
BW- You played with Andre Carter in 1999 and 2000. Has he or any of the other NFL stars from Cal been able to help you as far as advice on what you may expect this year, even in the weeks leading up to the draft?
TBC-Not really. They've been busy with their own careers – though I've seen Andre a couple of times during the season and he gave me positive feedback. I'm sure I can count on his advice once I get into the NFL if I needed it. As far as any of the other guys, we seen each other but we're usually just catching up and not really talking about the NFL thing.
BW-What do you feel are your biggest assets as a player?
TBC-Versatility, motor, attitude, love of the game, athleticism, and coachability – I'm capable to adjust to any coaching style. Also, I've played quite a few different positions on both sides of the ball.
BW-What area do you feel will need the most work in order to improve your game to excel in the NFL?
TBC-I'll have to continue getting better with my hands while improving my strength.
BW-You won numerous awards as a player in college. Which means the most to you?
TBC-I appreciate all of them, but I have to say that the MVP for this last season meant a lot because it came from the other players on the team.
BW-What is your most memorable moment on the football field ?
TBC-That is a hard question because I've been playing football since I was in 5th grade and there are a lot of memorable moments. It would have to be winning the Big Game this year (
BW-What is you most memorable moment OFF the field?
TBC-There are a lot of things I have good memories about. Just living in
BW-You wore jersey #48 in college. Any significance to that number, and how long has it been your number? As a pro, you will probably have to change, due to the numbering rules in the pros. If you change, what would be your preference for a pro number if any?
TBC-I wore #33 in high school because of Roger Craig. I played tight end, outside linebacker and running back. 33 was taken and they gave me #48 when I got to
BW-The two Bay Area teams are both in need of pass rushers this off-season, since Upshaw is expected to be released by
TBC-No doubt it would be a dream come true to play for either one of the Bay Area teams and have a chance to play for hometown fans and have family and friends close by. I also know that if Andre and I were to play on the same team together and on the same line we would definitely wreak havoc on the field and take care of business.
BW-Do you have any preference as to which side of the line you occupy as a pro, and which side if any is your best in your opinion? What is your experience at each end?
TBC-I like playing both sides, but really as long as I'm on the field in any position I'm going to make plays. I like playing on the right side because you're usually matched up against the best o-lineman.
BW-The Rams also need defensive end help, with Grant Wistrom a free agent in 2004. Any thought about the Rams as a possible NFL career. Have you met anyone from the Rams as of yet?
TBC-I don't think I've met with anybody from the Rams. Sure, I'd love to be a Ram – it's a great team.
BW-I understand your cousin is former Giant outfielder Jeffrey Leonard. Are you aware of the feud between him and
TBC-You know I hadn't heard that story. I met Jeffrey a few years back at a family reunion. I knew he was my cousin, but I have a lot of relatives on the Cain side of the family and they're all over the country. When he was playing with
BW-You have your own Website and appear to be very interested in the graphic arts. Please explain your interests there and any other off the field pursuits and hobbies that you really enjoy. Will the Website remain as a pro, and do you have aspirations as a media member some day? Your degree is in American Studies. Is there some area within that major that interests you as a career someday? What have you learned about the 1960s events at
TBC-The website is a thing my mom put together a few years back as a place for family and friends to see the latest that was going on with me while I was in college. There's a lot of information on there. I wouldn't have the time to do that kind of work. I've been kind of busy with school and football. We go over stuff throughout the week. As I said before, I have family all over the country and in
I'm into art, but I'm more into music like rap, hip-hop, jazz and I'm actually getting into rock now. I like to create computer music and I jam with friends.
I think my major gives me a lot of possibilities to do different things beyond football either with the media, community or business. Right now I'm focusing on a career in the NFL.
BW- Parents try to instill about a million life lessons in their kids as they raise them, but a few really stick. What main part of YOUR makeup, and core beliefs, comes you're your parents, Adam and Joya.
TBC-They taught me to believe in myself. Since they both have worked for themselves I've seen how hard work pays off and also not to always take no for answer. My mom always says "Action speaks louder than words" and my Dad's favorite thing to say is "A man that never took a chance, never had a chance."
BW-You have consistently improved year to year at
TBC-Determination. I definitely feel that my best years in football are at the next level. I'm just getting warmed up.
BW- Will you be doing any private workouts for the scouts or coaches in addition to the combine?
TBC-My workout day at
BW- Tully is an unusual name. Any significance to it, is it short for something else, and do you have any nicknames?
TBC-While my mom was pregnant with me she had a recurring dream where I was already born and my name was Tully. It means "walk with God" and "mighty people" in Gaelic. So that was it. My mom, grandmother and aunt are all redheads and there's a definitely a lot of Scottish and Irish blood on that side of the family. I don't really go by a nickname except people sometimes call me TBC.
BW-When you get that first big NFL paycheck, what will be the first thing you spend some of it on?
TBC-That's something I'll really have to give some thought to when the time comes and I know exactly what that paycheck looks like. You know, the usual stuff like some nice wheels and a house for my mom. I really want to be smart about it so that I'll have something down the road. I'm not trying to count my chickens before they're hatched – if you know what I mean. Having a shot a getting paid for playing football is a dream come true, but really right now my main focus is actually getting on a team. I'm sure I'll know what to do with the paycheck when it comes to that time.