Patriots Draft: Q&A With DB Donnie McCleskey

Cal defender Donnie McCleskey is on few teams' radar, but this outspoken, confident young defender isn't worried about the notoriety. He believes that through hard work and dedication he'll get a shot at the next level. Get inside to find out more about this Pac-10 defensive back including what he thinks about; safeties in the league, how he became a team captain as a sophomore and teams that he worked out for.

Question:  In this era of Hip Hop and Rap, I've heard that you like the Motown sound of the Temptations, is that right?

Donnie McCleskey:  That's very true man, I'm an old school cat.  Love the Temptations. They just mystify in their music, you just know it, their words and their songs. They're great.

Q:  As a true sophomore, you were named co-captain. How did you earn that level of respect so quickly?

DM:  Honestly I don't know. I was just being me. I wasn't doing anything different. I was like everybody else, I just wanted to win. When I speak about winning I speak with passion, because that's how I feel about the game. That's what the game brings out of me, that's what I love. I guess my love spread to the rest of my teammates; I'm not 100% sure. I was just being me, living my daily life. So I guess everybody felt the need to make me co-captain.

Q:  I saw that you were listed as the "rover." Can you explain that position in the Cal defense to us?

DM:  Everything, I'm a middle linebacker to outside linebacker; I'm a free safety and a strong safety to a corner. When you are a rover you are literally a defensive player. You go do everything they ask of you. You cover man-to-man, you cover the tight end, you cover the post, and you're asked to everything. So when you see rover, the equivalent is to go make plays.

Q:  During your senior year I saw that you had 62 tackles, 8.5 of them for a loss, 3 sacks, an interception. Were you pleased with your overall performance?

DM:  Happy because of coming off my junior year, but pleased? Not quite. I felt that I should have excelled a lot more, but I also I had to distribute a lot with our defense. We had a real fast defense so it was basically a race to the tackle. It was a lot of competition going on with the defensive side this last year. We had a lot of experience, so that also helped a lot. Completely satisfied, never. I wasn't satisfied my sophomore year.

Q:  You've got a great reputation as a special teams player. Tell us where you feel you'll add the best value to the special teams of an NFL club.

DM:  Anywhere they put me. If they want me to go break the wedge, I'll go break the wedge. If they want me to be a safety valve, I'll be a safety valve. If they want me to return, whatever. They should know that anywhere they put me on the field they'll know they'll get 110% plus out of me. This is what I do, I play ball, I live for it. Regardless of where they put me I'm going to be the best at it because that's what I live for.

Q:  You're not one of the taller safeties in this year's class, but like the Colts' Bob Sanders that hasn't impacted your ability to be a playmaker. Is Sanders a guy that you refer others to that might bring up that criticism. 

DM:  When you look at Bob Sanders, or Mike Doss who's on the same team, I look at them all. Troy Polamalu is only 5-10 or you look at Mike Brown. A lot of the better safeties in the league are what you would call "undersized." So that gives me a lot of hope. Because it says look, regardless of their size you've got a lot of playmakers. They're actually pushing harder than a lot of the taller safeties because they're trying to fight off that criticism very day. So they give me hope because I know that I could play as well as they can play as long as I keep going in life, keep trying to strive [to be that good].

Q:  While we're talking about Bob Sanders and Mike Doss, have you heard any interest from the Colts?

DM:  I've talked to them a couple times. I'm just looking for a chance. I would love to go play for them, but honestly I would love to go play for any team. The common question is "Where do you want to go?" It's not where I want to go, it's who wants me to go there because I want to play ball.

Q:  How does your playing style and Matt's compare to each other?

DM:  I don't think they really do. Matt, he's a hard hitter, he's going to come up and bring the pain on you. He has the "I'll bring the pain". I'm the tackler. I'm the dude that will do anything regardless. I'm not always looking for the knockout shot, I'm looking to take you down. So our defense can line up for another down or your offense is going to have to punt. I'm looking to make plays, like in coverage, which I love to do, or if you blitz me, I'm just looking to make plays. So I wouldn't really be able to compare our styles. I'm different than most safeties these days because I like to cover. Not all safeties like to cover. If you line me up off the slot I'll be happy.

Q:  What defensive scheme did you play at California? Did you have any Cover 2 experience?

DM:  We played somewhat Cover 2. When we play Cover 2, you would say (the first couple years) I played mostly outside linebacker when I would drop back into area 2. Then this past year, I would play mostly over the top. I do have experience in Cover 2.

Q:  Lets talk about your Pro Day. What do you think went well there and what do you wish had gone a little bit better there?

DM:  The first time we performed at Cal, it didn't go too well. It had been raining lightly. It rained that night then lightly throughout that day. Then I had been coming off the flu the week before and I had lost a lot of weight, and my weight is my strength. That didn't go too well for me. They agility drills went well, but everything else didn't go too well. 

I revived myself at the Home Depot Center. I weighed in what they wanted me to weigh in at. I weight in about 13 pounds heaver than I had about a week and a half before. I ran faster and improved on everything. So I showed them that at my proper weight I'm able to perform. Obviously it wasn't' my day that day (At the Pro Day), but I was able to rebound real quick. 

Q:  Have you had any personal workouts?

DM:  Yeah I had one for the Patriots... 

Q:  Is there anything else that I didn't ask you that you think is important for me to include in the article?

DM:  Let everybody know that I'm out here to play. If you want to count all the big safeties that are 6-2, 6-4, but you don't see them dudes covering on the slot. I have the same production as they do. They might be taller or they may faster in the straight-ahead forty, but when am I running a forty straight ahead? It's all about making plays. And you know what, if you look at the film you can see that I do.

Ed Thompson is the publisher for Colt Power, the Indianapolis Colts affiliate on the network.

Be sure to check the archives for Part One of this interview along with interviews from other prospects the Patriots worked out or have shown interest in.

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