NFL Draft Q&A With Safety Josh Gattis

Josh Gattis talks about handling "hard coaching," what's helped him become a great leader on the field, why he did a full workout at his Pro Day even though his Combine numbers were strong, and the teams that have been showing interest in him. Check it out in this exclusive interview with's Ed Thompson.

ET: I saw an interesting comment about you, that you can handle "hard coaching."  I thought that was interesting because that's not something you see very often about a player...

JG: I think Coach Hood has had the biggest influence on me since I've been in college. The thing he really stresses as a coach is that he loves his players and he's always going to treat us like we're his kids and therefore he's always hard on us. I don't care what type of game I have, I can go out there and have two interceptions in the game, but I know the next day when I see my position coach he's going to treat me just like I was a freshman. That's the type of coaching he's always had and he's made the biggest improvements on my game and other guys in our secondary because he always pushes us to be the best. He takes our weaknesses and makes them our strengths. He tells us there's always something you can work on or get better at, even if it's just trying to be a better leader on the field or off the field--it doesn't always have to come in athletic ability. I think that's had a great impact on me as a player. With me, having to take that hard coaching has allowed me to push myself to become better and try to learn things to work on and make my game more complete.

ET: How has all that translated into the type of leader that you are on the field? You were indisputably one of the biggest leaders out there for your team this year…

JG: My coaches really taught me how to be a great leader. When it comes to leadership, guys don't follow those guys that do a lot of talking--they follow leaders by example. When you're able to go out there on Saturday, for example, for me, the younger guys within our program see me make plays on defense and at the same time they see me make plays on special teams. And after the game they see me in the film room every day during the week, breaking down film, trying to pick up on team's tendencies. They see that I go to class and make good grades and they also see I'm in the weight room giving it my all. And when guys see that, they tend to pick up on what a leader is all about and they follow those types of players. A leader is also--I learned this this year with my coaches--someone who can take criticism. Often times a guy makes the wrong play call and will say, 'I know, I know,' but a great leader is someone that will say, 'I made a mistake' and show everyone that you're not perfect. Nobody wants to follow someone that always thinks they're the best at everything but if somebody sees that you have flaws and work to try and correct them, they'll tend to follow you much better.

ET: You didn't miss a full game due to injury and yet you're a very physical player out there. What do you credit that to?

JG: That's just conditioning and really taking care of yourself, really attacking the weight room like you should. It's really big in the offseason because you're preparing your body for all the physical damage that you put on it during the season. During the season you're not allowed to lift as much because of the wear on your body. But you've got to be smart and really lift hard and make sure you're eating right and conditioning yourself right, because people often get hurt when they get tired, and that's something that's very critical in the game. Football is a tough game because injuries do happen, but I think I've been pretty much blessed not to have any major injuries.

ET: You had the one game, I think it was Florida State, where you didn't start because you had an ankle sprain. But you came into that game, didn't you?

JG: Yes. I had sprained my ankle at the end of the Boston College game the week before. It was a high ankle sprain and I didn't even think I was going to play. But it came at a time that was very critical to our season.  We were trying to accomplish so many things at Wake Forest that had never been done before. We knew we had a chance of winning an ACC Championship, we knew we had so many other chances of going to a bowl game that it was a time that I felt like, 'hey, you really couldn't sit out.' I wasn't scheduled to play against Florida State and I was going to try to rest it that week, but the guy that replaced me, he got dinged up and as soon as I saw him, my first reaction was to run out there onto the field. So I ran out there and luckily there was a timeout. Coach asked me if I was all right, but by then I had so much adrenaline pumping through my body that I wasn't going to tell him no. It was an injury you just had to put out of the back of your mind. You couldn't think about it because yes, it hurt, but at the same time you wanted to accomplish so many things for your team.

Josh Gattis grabs Louisville WR Trent Guy during Orange Bowl action (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
ET: When I saw you at your press conference at the Combine I was so impressed with your poise, the way you present yourself, how articulate you are and just the way you are able to express your thoughts so well. That had to be a huge asset when you got a chance to do some of the 15 minute formal interviews with the head coaches and general managers. Who did you get to talk to so that you could show them those skills?

JG: At the Combine I sat down with about all the teams. I had some great interviews with some GMs. I had a great interview with Atlanta and their GM; I had a great interview with (GM) Marty Hurney of the Panthers. Denver really expressed a lot of interest in me as well; I had a great interview with the Jets. I really enjoyed going to Seattle's interview because I got a chance to sit down with Coach Mora and we talked a lot of football.  And coming from his background as a head coach he really has a passion for defense. And I had a great interview with the Bears as well. I think all my interviews gave me a chance to show these teams the character that I have and the knowledge that I have of defenses that really gave me an advantage over some other guys.

ET: You also have a reputation for being a very smart guy, a guy who's not very easily fooled by play-action passes and misdirection. What do you credit that to?

JG: I credit that to my coaches at Wake Forest and my defensive coordinator. He's spent a lot of time with me, teaching me how to break down film, how to be smart on the field. It doesn't always come down to athletic ability. If you go out there and know what you're doing and what the defense is doing, you're putting yourself in a better position to make a lot more plays. With my coach having been a defensive coordinator, we're able to talk about a lot of schemes.  And since I call our defense, he puts a lot of responsibility on me. So whenever we're going over gameplans week-in and week-out, we sit down one-on-one and we talk a lot about if this is a good scheme for this team.

ET: You did another full workout again at your Pro Day; did you do that just because you wanted to repeat a good performance, or did you feel like you needed to go out there and do everything again?

JG: I wanted to repeat a good performance, but at the same time I wanted to compete because that's something I love to do. We had a lot of coaches here and a lot of scouts; it was probably the biggest Pro Day ever at Wake Forest. Going into it, I knew they were all coming and if you're going to come show your interest in me, I'm going to give you everything you want to see--I'm not going to back down from any kind of workout. I know when I told them I was going to workout, because they originally had me on the list as not working out, I had a lot of coaches and scouts come up and say, 'great decision, great job.' It's just something that I enjoyed doing, I was back on my own campus, back with my teammates and I just really enjoyed getting back out there.

ET: At your Pro Day, who were some of the teams you felt were really showing some strong interest in you?

JG: I spent all day with the Jacksonville secondary coach. They had their vice president of football operations here as well. There were about four different personnel from their organization here. I actually met with the secondary coach in the morning, we grabbed breakfast and I spent all afternoon with him. We had five defensive backs coaches here, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Chicago and Carolina… I think that's it. Between Jacksonville, Chicago and Carolina, they showed a tremendous amount of interest in me. They all have needs for a safety and I think it's looking really good. Denver is showing a tremendous amount of interest as well as the Jets. So I've been receiving a lot of phone calls from their coaches and they've been stressing to me that they really like the game I'm playing and the way I play it. It's going to be interesting on draft day because I think a lot of teams are looking for safeties and there's going to be an extreme need for versatile safeties that can play in the box and in the passing game as well and I think I'm one of those safeties that fit that category. I'm definitely excited for April 28.

ET: Have you had any personal workouts or visits yet?

JG: I had a personal workout with the Giants.  They came down and had a scout and secondary coach work me out. New England as well worked me out at school. I took a personal visit up to New England as well. I did the New England one right after my private workout; they did it right after my Pro Day. It was two days after my workout and then I went up there. I did one in Charlotte, but that didn't count as an official visit because I'm a local guy, but that was tight, I'm really interested in the Panthers--it's a great organization and it's literally 45 minutes from me. I was really excited about that.

ET: What was that like, walking around NFL facilities, seeing what life will be like just a couple months from now. What was going through your head?

JG: I was excited; it gave me another chance to sit down in front of the coaching staffs of each one of these teams, the GMs and staff. I didn't get a chance to meet with Coach Belichick at the Combine, I met with the secondary coach with New England. So it gave me a chance to meet more coaches. With Carolina, I think I have a great relationship with both of their secondary coaches. It was really intriguing to talk to Marty Hurney and John Fox.  I actually went to a few games during the season, so it was nice to get a look from the inside.

ET: Is there anything else that you'd like people to know about you?

JG:  I'm a guy that's going to work hard on the field, but also a guy that's going to represent any organization I go to well off the field.  And I think that's a key thing today, with the conduct issues in the NFL.

Since the completion of this interview, Josh Gattis relayed that he's been receiving strong interest in the past few days from the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons. Learn more about Josh at his player profile page.

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 network and syndicated through's NFL team pages.

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