Josh Gattis: There was an opportunity for me to play football, and regardless if it was defense or special teams, I'm going to go out and give it the best of my ability, compete and play hard. I didn't really have a chance to come in and make an immediate impact on defense my freshman year, but the coaching staff knew that I had a lot of athletic ability, so they played me on all the special teams. And once I got out there and started making plays, it showed the coaching staff they could believe in me as a defensive player and I started getting more playing time as a safety.
ET: You lettered in track four times in high school and competed for Wake Forest your freshman year. What role did your track experience play in your special teams success? Or is there something else about special teams that just clicks with you?
JG: I love doing it. It's a phase of the game that is often overlooked. I think it's a very critical part of the game because statistics will show teams often win games off of special teams. If you're downing punts within the five, you put yourself in an advantage to win the game. With the speed coming from track and being able to have the athletic ability to get away from blocks to run down on kicks or the punt team, it really gives me an advantage as well. I consider it another part of the game like defense. A lot of times, guys don't approach it with the same attitude so I think that my attitude towards it also gives me an advantage.
ET: If I told you could only play on one special teams unit, which one would you pick?
JG: I would pick the punt team, I love it. I challenge myself to beat the ball every time to the punt returner. That's my biggest thing. When I go out there on punt team, I know I have to block first, disengage from the guy who's trying to block me and get to the ball as fast as I can. And there's nothing like a returner looking up and as soon as he catches it, he looks right ahead--and it's you and you're making that contact. It's some of the best hits you can make in college football.
|(Doug Benc/Getty Images)|
JG: There were a lot of wide eyes, and I've seen a lot of fair catches [laughs].
ET: I'd imagine special teams has been a big topic between you and scouts and coaches over these last couple months.
JG: It has. They really like my special teams play because not often do you see a guy that goes out and puts up the numbers that I have on defense and plays special teams as well--and puts up the same impressive numbers. A lot of times on teams, you have guys that are starters on defense and once they become starters, they're immediately pulled from special teams play. With me at Wake Forest, I was always a starter on defense, but I continued to stay on special teams. I think it really shows the coaches and scouts the dedication and the love for the game that I have.
ET: You're defensive coordinator Dean Hood was quoted as saying that you are "the most mentally sharp kid I've ever coached." What goes through your head when you hear something like that?
JG: It's something that I really take a lot of pride in. I'm really a product of him, he's a great coach, very smart and I think we're kind of on the same level. Some day I want to be a defensive coordinator at the college level, so I really take pride in knowing defenses and knowing everyone else's responsibilities as well as my own. I can tell you where the weakside linebacker is supposed to be as well as where I am. That's something as a player you have to take a lot of pride in because whenever you're able to know your defense, know what you have to do and guys around you have to do, it enables you to be more flexible out there in coverage and make more plays for yourself. If I don't have to worry about another player making a mistake because I know what he has, then I can just focus on my job and doing my job best.
ET: I don't think anyone could look at what you accomplished at Wake Forest without the word 'playmaker' coming to mind. You look at your 12 interceptions during your career, forced fumbles not only every year, but you forced one on special teams and half a dozen or so as a defensive player. Those can be game-changing moments. How much do you think that's making an impression on pro scouts and coaches?
JG: That's big, I hear that a lot. Every coaching staff and scout that I've talked to, they always talk about my playmaking ability. They talk about how consistent my game is as well, you know, me having five interceptions my junior year and having five my senior year, the coaching staffs really like that because they're seeing something a lot of players don't do--capitalizing on a lot of plays.
Learn more about Josh Gattis at his player profile page. And Scout.com subscribers can enjoy the second half of our interview with Josh where he talks about his field intelligence, durability, leadership style, and the teams that have been showing interest in him.
|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.|