T.J. Rushing: That definitely came from my parents. They stressed the importance of academics to me as I was growing up. They used to use the threat (laughs) -- I guess that's the right word to use -- that if I didn't keep my grades up, then I couldn't play. And that was the way to get to me. Because if they took the ball away from me or said I coudn't go to practice, that would kill me. So that's where it stemmed from.
Q: The fact that they were able to use that to motivate you obviously shows they knew you had a deep passion for the sport.
TJ: I've been loving this game for as long as I can remember. The opportunity to go out there and compete, it brings an excitement to me.
Q: You're a political science major. Any aspirations to be a politician someday?
TJ: I think so. Maybe when football's all said and done with. Maybe I'll go back and follow JC Watts in Oklahoma.
Q: What was it like trying to pick up the skill of being a punt returner last year?
TJ: It just reminded me of playing football as a kid when a friend would throw the ball up real high and then you or one of your friends would get it, and then you'd have to try to make everyone miss. (laughs) That's about how I would describe handling punt returns.
Q: That ball sails a little bit higher in college football though, doesn't it?
TJ: (laughs) Yeah, definitely.
Q: When you were trying to learn the skill, did you have some of your teammates harass you just so you could learn how to concentrate while you were waiting for that ball to come down?
TJ: Definitely. Our old special teams coach did a great job of getting me ready. He had guys stand in front of me, run around me, get up in my face, yell, whatever they wanted to do while I was trying to catch the ball. I even had to hold a ball in one hand and try to catch the punt one-handed, all kinds of different drills to help me learn how to catch the ball.
Q: At the pro level, you can make an immediate contribution on special teams. Do you also see yourself as an ideal nickel back as rookie?
TJ: Yes sir, I definitely do. I'm not afraid to mix it up in the box, I can make tackles. I can run with the slot receiver all over the field.
Q: What scouts interacted with you the most on your Pro Day?
TJ: The Cowboys scout and the Colts scout were showing good interest in me. The Rams, the Bengals, the Bills, the Browns, the Raiders, the 49ers, and Jacksonville were also showing pretty good interest. I had good conversations with about ten different scouts. But just about every scout at Pro Day stopped to at least introduce themselves and make sure they had some info on me.
Q: Walk us through your day visiting with the Colts.....
TJ: I woke up Tuesday morning at about six, and went over to the medical clinic at about 6:30 and did a full physical, took x-rays to make sure everything looks good and everything's intact. After about two and a half hours at the hospital, I went over to the team's facility. I met with the trainer and did the CYBEX test that tests your quads and and hamstrings. Then I did the test they administer to all their players to test flexibility and balance -- real simple things to see if you're deficient anywhere. Then I finally got to sit down and meet with the assistant GM. And then I had the opportunity to briefly interrupt the coaches' meeting and go say hello to all the coaches.
Q: Did you get a sense from those conversations that returns work is their primary interest at this point?
TJ: Yeah, I think so. It's helped a lot. They can definitely see my ability to help right away.
Q: Did you get to meet Coach Dungy and Coach Meeks?
TJ: Yes, they were all sitting around doing a little board work. So we went in and I shook everyone's hand and they introduced themselves.
Q: Did they have any specific questions for you while you were there?
TJ: One of them asked me if I thought I was fast. And I laughed and said "Yes sir, I do believe so." And then he said, "How fast did you run your forty the other day?" I had run for the Raiders and the 49ers who were out here to work me out and see me run. My fastest was a 4.31 and my slowest was a 4.36. I told them that and they started laughing and said, "You obviously can run."
Ed Thompson is the publisher of ColtPower.com, our Colts affiliate on the Scout.com network.
Note: Patriots Insider first reported the team's interest in Rushing in March "Patriots Draft: Targeting a Burner". Rushing is one of a number of versatile players the team is taking a closer look at before the draft. For more draft prospects the team has expressed interest in, visit the Insider's Lounge where PatriotsInsider is keeping a list of draft prospects who have spend time with the team either at the facilities in Foxboro or another location with Patriots Scouting staff in attendance.