What about Mike Iupati at 29?

The best guard in the NFL draft is Idaho's Mike Iupati. He's a 6-5, 331-pound athletic, wrecking ball, who is really good at pulling. He's the kind of run-blocker the Jets love. He fits in around the 29th pick of the first round. And perhaps, some 3-4 team might want to try him on defense. He could be a terrific 3-4 end or nose tackle, and would love to give it a try. Here is a chat with Mike . .

Q)You played guard in college, but some think you are athletic enough for left tackle. It's been reported you have been doing so training at the position . . .

Iupati: Yes. It's coming along. Trying to fine tune it a little bit.

Q)Was the Senior Bowl your first exposure to it?

Iupati: Yes. That was my first set at tackle or right guard. I've just got to get it down. I'll be fine.

I'm very quick setting up on the left side. But I need a little time with it and I know I'll be fine. You've got to give me time.

Q)Are you being encouraged to try other positions?

Iupati: Yes. A lot of people told me that I have to be versatile. They know that I am a pretty good athlete. It'll come natural to me. I just have to learn it.

Q)But most teams probably want to keep you at guard . . .

Iupati: Yes. I'm very aggressive off the ball, come off very fast. And I open some holes for some running backs. I've been playing left guard my whole career.

Q)How were you used at the Senior Bowl?

Iupati: I played right guard. They wanted to see me there. It felt weird the first time, then I kind of got used to it. When I played left guard I was very comfortable. I played one series at left tackle in practice. I thought I did pretty guard.

Q)Why did they you a left guard at Idaho and not a left tackle?

Iupati: Because I was quick and I like to pull and kick out those linebackers and defensive ends. That's pretty much the main reason why. I like to pull.

Q)Steve Hutchinson one of your idols?

Iupati: I admire him a lot. I want to be like him. Gotta keep working hard.

Q)How would you fit a zone blocking team?

Iupati: I would fit that well. It's very simple to zone block.

Q)Any teams concerned about your weight?

Iupati: No. I move very well at 330 pounds. So I think a lot of teams will keep me there (at 330).

Q)What led to your families move to the United States from Somoa when you were 14?

Iupati: My family decided they wanted us to have a good education. They sacrificed a lot to move from Samoa because we were very well off. Coming to the U.S. and realizing it's very difficult financially. We moved into my Auntie's house and stayed there for a whole year. Then my parents both had jobs and were able to support us financially so we moved to a small apartment in Anaheim and lived there paycheck to paycheck. It's been hard. That's why I want take advantage of every opportunity I get to have a better future for myself and my family.

Q)Is it true your family lived in a garage?

Iupati: Yes, my Auntie offered the house, but we decided, since there were five of us, to live in the garage.

Q)When did you realize you had a chance to do something in football?

Iupati: It was in my high school career. I realized I was an alright athlete and I knew if I worked hard at getting better I knew I would do a lot of amazing things.

Q)You seem so laid back, but on the field you really get after people . . .

Iupati: It's very natural to me because I'm very competitive. That's my nature. When it comes to football, I like to destroy a lot of people. As big as I am I do not want to get beat.

Q)What about the criticism at the Senior Bowl that you were holding a lot?

Iupati: Yes, I realized that at the Senior (Bowl) game. I don't know why I did that. I have a short punch and I come off the ball very physical, sometimes too aggressive. I didn't want to get beat.

Q)How did you end up at Idaho?

Iupati: I was a non-qualifier from high school. I decided to go to a junior college. I was at a barbecue function at a junior college and Idaho was there recruiting JC players. They saw me there and went to my high school the next day and offered me a Prop 48 deal. I refused it, but my parents were the reason I took the offer because they took out a loan and paid for my first year (at Idaho).

Q)When you say you family was well off in Somoa, what do you mean?

Iupati: In Samoa, we had a house, had our own land. My dad was working as a mechanic at a company called C.P.T. and he was probably the highest paid mechanic there and my mom was helping out at my cousin's restaurant, so we were decently well off family in Samoa. My parents knew there was nothing there, the opportunities were limited (for their kids), so they wanted us to excel in the U.S., so they just dropped everything and moved here.

Q)What are you going to do with your first NFL paycheck?

Iupati: My parents want to go back (to Somoa) some day. They want to have their own house and live there. To build a house for them would be the biggest thing I would ever want to do for them.

Q)Have teams talked to you about playing on the defensive line?

Iupati: I really love defense. That's my favorite passion in the game of football. I know I'm very physical and can holdup two gaps and take double teams, stuff like that. I always try to push my coach to make me a defensive player because I know I am pretty good at that. But they like me at offensive line. It's kind of hard in college to play both ways. They did put me on the goal line (defense).


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