WHY DID HE GO TO PITT INSTEAD OF MIAMI, WHERE HIS FATHER AND UNCLES PLAYED?
"I just wanted to start a legacy of my own. My father and my uncles went to Miami and played a part in building that program from the ground up … but I just felt like the University of Pittsburgh was the place for me because it fit my personality – blue collar and bring your hard hat to work."
HOW DID HIS FATHER TAKE THE NEWS WHEN HE DECIDED TO GO TO PITT?
"It was tough for my family. I'm the first in my family to ever leave the state to go to school … so of course I was nervous at first. After they saw me doing well during my true freshman year, everything was all right after that."
PLAN ON WORKING OUT HERE?
"I tweaked my hamstring on Thursday working on my starts, so I'm going to see how that feels on Monday. I'm going to lift definitely, but on the running I'm going to wait and see how it feels."
WHAT DOES HE NEED TO WORK ON?
"I have to work on every aspect of my game and get better as an overall football player. The guys that are already there, they're trying to keep their jobs. They don't want me to come in and take their jobs, so I have to keep working hard at every aspect of my game."
WHAT ADVICE DID COACH DAVE WANNSTEDT GIVE HIM ABOUT THE NFL?
"Coach Wannstedt just told me not to stress about things that I have no control over. I can't control that I'm short. God made me this tall and this is what I am. What I can control is how hard I work and how hard I play and the intensity that I bring to the game."
YOUR DAD PLAYED SAFETY AND WAS ABOUT YOUR SAME SIZE, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THAT?
"No, I haven't really thought about that. Like I said before, it's something I really can't control. I'm this size. Zach Thomas is around my size, London Fletcher is around my size and those guys have been pretty successful and have opened the door for linebackers like myself … to get a little more attention."
HOW OFTEN WOULD WANNSTEDT MENTION HIS FATHER SINCE HE COACHED HIM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI?
"He'd talked about it a little bit because you see some similarities. We look the same … and our styles of play are kind of similar. We're both very physical. My dad was a little more athletic than I was, which is why he played safety. He was a big guy and he was a physical guy and I'm physical myself even though I'm one of the smaller linebackers we have coming out this year."
HOW MUCH DID WANNSTEDT MENTION ZACH THOMAS?
"A lot. I watched a lot of film of Zach. I admire the way he plays – his intensity and his heart. He takes on 350 pounders at his size. He goes out and plays banged up and leaves his heart on the field, so I learned a lot just by watching film of him."
WHAT ARE THE FAMILY FOOTBALL GAMES LIKE IN THE BLADES HOUSE?
"When we get together, we don't talk about football much. We just talk about family. I have twin girls (two years old), so when my dad calls me he wants to know how his granddaughters are doing more than anything else. Football comes second when it comes to that. He asks me how I'm doing and how my body is doing. He wants to make sure that I do everything possible to make sure that I'm one of the best linebackers in the draft."
DOES HAVING TWO DAUGHTERS MAKE YOU TAKE YOUR JOB OF PLAYING FOOTBALL MORE SERIOUS?
"It makes it a lot more serious. I've been playing this game since I was six years old, so the love has always been there. But when you're responsible for two other lives, it makes it that much bigger and it makes it even that more special when I can come up here and do things like this. Not too many people get a chance to do this and get an opportunity to be financially stable. Having a family makes me work even harder."
WHAT'S IT LIKE HAVING BEEN AROUND THE GAME YOUR ENTIRE LIFE?
"I've been around the game my whole life and have been in and out of locker rooms and seen players like Dan Morgan, Barry Sanders and how they carried themselves. I don't make complaints about how tall I am or how big I am. I'm going to go out there and sacrifice my body for my teammates."
WHERE DOES THE PASSION FOR THE GAME COME FROM?
"I think it's something you're born with. Some people have that desire, that heart and that drive and some people just don't. It doesn't matter how big you are, to me it's how big your heart is out there on the field."
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT BEING IN THE LOCKER ROOM IN DETROIT?
"I remember it a lot. I used to sit at my dad's locker as they'd go into meetings. I remember Chris Spielman's locker was of the messiest I've ever seen. Also Barry Sanders and the way he carried himself off the field and on the field. He was a great sportsman. Just sitting back and watching all those guys, I got to learn a lot."
HOW FRUSTRATING WAS IT THAT PITT STRUGGLED THE LAST TWO YEARS AFTER BEING IN A BCS BOWL GAME AS A SOPHOMORE?
"Personally, it was heartbreaking. You play this game to win, especially as much as you put into it through spring ball and winter conditioning and the summer camp, then to go .500 or don't even make a bowl game, it's heartbreaking. It was one of those things that just happened. There was adversity, so I appreciate things a little bit more when they happen. We went to the BCS game my sophomore and then we got kind of complacent. It was one of those things where we had guys that weren't thinking about the games. They were thinking about what they were going to do after college football."
WHO HAD THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOU?
"The biggest influence on me was my uncle Al. Al Blades, he played down at the University of Miami with Santana (Moss) and Dan (Morgan). I used to spend every summer down there with those guys and being around (Al) just made me a better person. He died in a car accident (March, 2003) right before I went to the University of Pittsburgh. He's actually the only one in my family that told me to leave (Florida). He supported me in everything I did in life and his memory is still with me. I thought it was a sign of good luck when I came (to the scouting combine) with the number seven. I was like, ‘He's taking care of me right now,' because that's the number he wore in college, so I know he's looking down on me right now."
WHY DID HIS UNCLE AL TELL HIM TO GO TO LEAVE FLORIDA?
"Just so I could start a legacy of my own. It was hard for him down at the University of Miami playing safety after my dad was down there. It was kind of hard for him, so he wanted me to leave to make a name for myself and that was my goal to try to be the best linebacker at the university I attended."
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PAUL RHOADS AND CURTIS BRAY?
"Coach Rhoads is very intense. He will be there for us, he will cry with us, he will make you want to play for him. Coach Bray was more humble and laid back."
YOU HAVE ESTABLISHED A REPUTATION AS THE TEAM LEADER AND A TIRELESS
WORKER. WHO DO YOU THINK WILL CARRY ON YOUR LEGACY NOW?
"Scott McKillop is my roommate and we have done everything together. I think he'll take over and become the leader of the defense."