7 Points With LB Justin Durant

One of the risers in this year's draft is Hampton LB Justin Durant, the only player to ever be named Defensive Player of the Year three times in his conference. He talked to Scout.com's Ed Thompson about his approach to football, his amazing stats, and his future in the NFL.

Ed Thompson: One thing that jumps out at me right away about you, Justin, is that you're a really well-rounded individual, including your academic achievements…

Justin Durant: My mother and father raised me that way. School was always important, if I didn't have good grades I couldn't do certain things. I came out of high school in the National Honors Society, I had a 1000 SAT, 3.7 (Grade Point Average).

ET: You were the only player who has been named Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year three times. And you were a Sheridan Broadcasting Network All-American performer three times. So you share that honor with guys like Steve McNair, Antoine Bethea, and Shannon Sharpe. Not to disparage anyone you played with, but did you ever feel like a man among boys out there with the level of performance you were able to put out?

JD: No I don't really think that. I just work hard each year to get better at what I did. I watch a lot of tape and try to excel my game to the next level each year. I think we have some great players in the MEAC, I can't really talk down about anybody because I feel like I've played against some great players and some of the best players I've seen.

(Mark Sutton/Mark's Digital Photography)
ET: You posted 124 tackles, 5 sacks, 15 tackles for a loss in 2005. Is that when you felt like you started to make a statement that the NFL scouts should start paying attention to you?

JD: I wasn't really trying to get any attention; I was just trying to work hard. Especially being at a smaller school, I know that they will probably see that and say "oh well he's just playing in the MEAC" or something. So I just try to go out and play my best and hardest every game and not really pay any attention to what the scouts were saying about what I was doing.

ET: When you finished your college career, you had 47 tackles for a loss. Pretty amazing...

JD: Our scheme set us up to make a lot of tackles for losses. I think we were one of the top-ten teams in the league. We did a lot of blitzing, a lot of stunts with the defensive line and linebackers. I used my instincts just to see where the play was going and read my keys. And then I'd try to break it up in the backfield.

ET: Where do you get the discipline to sit and break down game film so you can read pre-snap movement well?

JD: Our coaches preached it each and every week. We have to know our opponents basically to the same level that we know ourselves. They preached getting in there and watching the tape and learning everything you possibly can to give you an advantage. That's just something I started doing a lot of. Me and some of the other guys on the team would get together and notice different things and write everything down and take it to practice to show the coaches.

ET: Is it fair to say with your academic background that you almost treated football as another classroom activity?

JD: It was, it really was. I go to class with my books and stuff and then I'd go straight to the football office for another couple hours, so it was like another class for me.

ET: Your speed is another thing that really makes you stand out and makes you a great fit for the Cover-2, especially the Tampa-2…

JD: Yeah, I think I could fit in well to basically any scheme, but some schemes probably cater to my abilities than others with me being a smaller guy. I don't think my size really has anything to do with it; it's just my drive and my will to be better than everyone else who's out there with me and compete I think that's something that's helped me out a lot.

Check back this weekend for the second half of this exclusive interview with Justin Durant where he talks about his meetings at the Combine with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. And find out where he believes he fits in at the pro level and why he stays so hungry for success.

A member of the Professional Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's NFL and college football player interviews and features have been published across the Scout.com network and syndicated through FoxSports.com's NFL team pages.

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