Hot Prospect Q&A: Damien Rhodes

In Part Two of our exclusive interview with Syracuse's Damien Rhodes, Damien talks about his special teams abilities, his Pro Day, which NFL teams have contacted him, and what he loves most about the game.

Q: You’re one of the better kick returners in the history of Syracuse. Are you prepared to play a significant role on special teams in the NFL if that’s what’s asked of you at first?

A: There’s no question whatsoever. Special teams is a great way to get into the NFL. Some people who play special teams stick around for a long time because everybody needs special teams players.

Being a kick returner is something I’ve been good at since high school and then in college a little bit, I just think I have the knack for understanding how to return a kickoff. I had the chance to do that on a Sunday, I would love to do that, and if that’s how I can get my foot in the door and stay around for a while and for the first couple of years, I don’t have any problem doing that.

Q: What do you like most about special teams?

A: A lot of people say that special teams is just as important as offense and defense. A big special teams play can turn the whole game around. Like (Kansas City Chiefs return man) Dante Hall a couple of years ago - he changed almost every game he played in for the Chiefs that year.

Every time he touched the ball, the other team was at his mercy and he could do what he wanted - that could change the whole game. You take a big kickoff return and your team comes down and scores, kick it right back and you take it back - that could take the momentum right back.

Syracuse tailback Damien Rhodes (1) leaves Rutgers' defenders behind on his way to a second quarter touchdown in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2004. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)

Q: What’s the strongest part of your game, and what’s the one thing you feel you most need to work on?

A: I think my speed is deceiving because I have a long stride, but when I go out there and run against somebody I don’t think anyone’s going to run with me. Also, my ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. I like to think of myself as another receiver that plays running back - I can catch the ball pretty easily. I think I’m a very explosive type of a player than has deceptive speed that can catch a defense off-guard.

You can always work to get better. I would never say that any person, regardless of what you do, you never should be satisfied with what you do. Anytime you’re satisfied with the type of player that you are, whether it’s as a person or a businessman - if you’re satisfied then you can never get better. You can only get better or go down and I think if you don’t try to work on things, then you get worse. I always want to work on all aspects of my game.

Q: Are you focusing on anything specifically in your workouts?

A: I’m just trying to get myself stronger, mentally and physically, for camps. The rigors of the NFL camp probably aren’t going to be much different than a college camp. So I’m just trying to prepare myself for the worst-case scenario as in how hard it’s going to be and then prepare my body so I can go out every time I get a rep I can go full-speed and come back and do it again.

Q: We you invited to the combine?

A: No, I wasn’t.

Q: Were you surprised you weren’t invited?

A: Actually, I was surprised, but at the same time I wasn’t down about it. I used it as motivation to continue to work harder and focus on my Pro Day.

Q: Now, at your Pro Day, on the 21st of March, you did the full workout and you had a 4.49 in the forty?

A: Well, the NFL site messed up on my numbers, but that’s alright. I actually ran a 4.42 and a 4.45.

Q: Were you happy with your performance on your Pro Day?

A: I was. I was glad I stayed healthy and was able to go out there and give it all I had and I left it all out there. I think I left a good impression on the coaches and scouts that came.

Q: How many teams were at your Pro Day?

A: I want to say…about 20 to 25.

Q: Have specific teams asked you to visit their facilities or set up private workouts with you?

A: I’ve worked out for the Giants already, and now I’m just waiting.

Q: Have any other teams shown interest?

A: A lot of teams have contacted my agent. Atlanta, the Colts, some Redskins people, and I’ve talked to the Browns a little bit.

Q: Have the Seahawks shown any interest?

A: They’ve talked to my agent.

Q: How do you visualize you future in the NFL?

A: I just pray that I get the chance. I believe that if I get the chance, I can hang around because I think I’ve been blessed with enough ability to play in the NFL.

Q: What do you love most about the game?

A: Just the chance to compete both physically and mentally. I think it’s a game that, unlike baseball, where anybody can go out and play, you have to be a special breed of a person to play football. Every play is a competition with yourself and against the person across from you. The physical and mental mindset that you have to have for every play is something you don’t get in anything else.

Q: Syracuse has a really amazing tradition of running backs going back to Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, Larry Czonka, Joe Morris - the list goes on and on. Is that something that you’re conscious of as you prepare to make your way to the NFL? Being the next guy in that line?

A: I want to be able to follow that running back tradition at Syracuse, and partly that’s why I came to Syracuse - because I wanted to carry that on. It’s something I’ve dreamed about, and to have my name mentioned with those names is something I want to live up to.

Q: Where will you be for the Draft?

A: Probably at my house, who knows - maybe I’ll be at the golf course (laughs). I really don’t know yet.

Q: Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you want people to know about you?

A: That I’m a Christian athlete, and I’m a man of the Lord, and I just want to play the game of football.

Thanks to Seahawks.NET's Scott Eklund for transcribing this interview. Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him here.

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