This week’s edition of Backdraft profiles Philadelphia Eagles third-year DT Mike Patterson. While at USC, Patterson earned the nickname “Baby Sapp” because of his similar playing style to the player he patterned his game after, Warren Sapp. Patterson was the Eagles' first-round selection (31st overall) in 2005 and has been a mainstay on Philadelphia’s defensive line since entering the league.
Patterson played well for the Eagles in his first two seasons, but he’s emerged as a consistent force this season. He’s developed into a great all-around defender and commands respect from the opposition in the trenches. I recently talked with Patterson during this exclusive interview to look back at how his NFL journey began.
Chris Steuber: What were your expectations entering the draft?
Mike Patterson: I didn’t really have any to tell you the truth. When I was coming out I just went into it with an open mind, because you never know what team you’re going to end up with. But once you find out what team you’re going to, you just hope everything turns out well.
CS: What was your experience at the Scouting Combine like?
Patterson: I had a good experience. I didn’t do everything [workouts] there, but the things I did turned out well for me. All the bad things I heard about the combine — how cold it was, how bad the turf was for guys to run on, waking up early in the morning and start lifting weights and run — overall it wasn’t too bad.
CS: Was there anything at the Combine you weren’t ready for or didn’t expect?
Patterson: Not really… I’m trying to think. I think everything we did was what I expected.
CS: What was the Wonderlic test like for you?
Patterson: [Laughs]… [Laughs]…. I guess it’s cool, I guess? I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I didn’t think it was all that. [Laughs]…
CS: Did you think to yourself, “Man, what does this have to do with football”?
Patterson: Yeah, there were some crazy questions. I remember one question, “Would you rather be a cat or a dog?” I was thinking, “What kind of question is that?” [Laughs]…
CS: You had 12 minutes to answer 50 questions right?
Patterson: Yeah… wait. I don’t think it was that many. I think it was like 30 questions, but I don’t remember. I just remember we had a short amount of time to answer all the questions on the test.
CS: How many players are in the room with you at one time?
Patterson: There were a lot of guys. I think there were between 10–15 guys in the room. Everybody had a test and you weren’t allowed to talk or anything like that. It was like the SAT’s.
CS: Were you all spread out throughout the room?
Patterson: Yeah, everybody was spread out across the table. Everyone had a paper and a pencil and that’s it.
CS: Did you guys have monitors in the room as well?
Patterson: [Laughs]… No, but I’m sure they were looking at everybody. They weren’t walking around to make sure nobody was talking. We were all in the front [of the room], so they could easily see what was going on.
CS: What was the Bod Pod like?
Patterson: Oh, for the body test? It was kind of weird. You go in there and it makes all these noises. It’s just used to measure your body mass.
CS: What was the strangest part about the combine, if there was one?
Patterson: The strangest thing is how everything is done in the morning. It’s kind of crazy that guys have to wake up at 6 a.m. to talk to coaches and undergo tests. That was the craziest thing to me.
CS: How did you feel about standing in front of a crowded room in your underwear being weighed?
Patterson: I think by that time you’re used to it… [Laughs]. It’s kind of weird thinking about it now. As soon as they call your name, everybody is flipping papers. It sounded weird.
CS: You said you didn’t do everything at the combine. While you were there, what did you participate in?
Patterson: I did the bench press. Everything else I did was at my Pro Day at USC. But I watched all the drills that all the other players participated in.
CS: Was there any particular reason why you decided to workout at your Pro Day instead of at the combine?
Patterson: I just felt more comfortable at USC. I didn’t really want to push myself, especially if I wasn’t ready [at the combine].
CS: Talk to me about some of the interviews you went in on. Did some teams show more interest than another?
Patterson: Yeah, actually there were teams. Teams talk to you, especially the position coaches. Some coaches like you more than another coach on the same team. I remember I went up to an interview with the Panthers and Giants, and both of their D-line coaches were really cool.
CS: Describe to me how the interviews are conducted. Do they have you draw up plays?
Patterson: You come into the room. Everybody is there; the head coach, position coaches, sometimes the team owner, they have you come in and draw up formations on the board. They’ll give you some questions and you have to fill in the blanks.
CS: How intense is the scene during the interviews?
Patterson: It’s pretty intense, especially when everybody is watching you. But as long as you go in there and stay focused and be comfortable you’ll be fine.
CS: I’ve talked to a lot of players and they said the one thing they don’t like about the combine is the lack of sleep. What are your thoughts?
Patterson: It’s true. Usually at nighttime, when you get done with all the tests and things like that, that’s when all the coaches talk to you. Guys are moving from room to room, interview to interview, and when it’s all said and done you probably don’t get back to your room until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. And the next morning you have to wake up at 6 a.m.; you kind of have to make yourself sleep.
CS: What kind of feedback did you get from all the NFL teams personnel?
Patterson: All the people I talked to they said, “You did really great,” and then they would talk to you about things you did during the season. But that’s about it.
CS: At your Pro Day, did you get a sense of who was interested in you by the teams that were in attendance?
Patterson: You want to say yes, but there were so many rumors going on. Everybody always says that the team that’s going to draft you is the team that never talked to you. After you talk to some teams, you kind of get comfortable and you want to assume that they might select you. But it doesn’t always work out like that.
CS: What was draft day like for you?
Patterson: I kept myself busy, I didn’t want to sit there and watch TV all day.
CS: Was there any point during that day that you said, “Ok, I’m going to watch this until I get drafted?”
Patterson: No, I actually didn’t. I was always up moving and talking to somebody. Once the time got closer and closer, I started to watch it a little bit. But through it all, I tried to move around, so I wouldn’t get anxious about it.
CS: Did you go on the Internet and look at the mock drafts so you had an idea of where you may land?
Patterson: No, I tried to listen to what my coaches at USC were saying and what people at the combine were discussing. Nothing is guaranteed.
CS: Did you think you were going to be a first round pick?
Patterson: Actually, yeah. There were a lot of rumors saying that I was going to get selected by Carolina. But when they passed me up, I didn’t know what was going on. Then the Eagles called me…
CS: Were the Eagles big players in courting you during the whole process?
Patterson: I didn’t even talk to them.
CS: You didn’t talk to the Eagles at all?
Patterson: I think I caught up with them during the combine for a little bit, but it wasn’t like my other interviews I had there.
CS: Were you in shock when the Eagles draft you?
Patterson: I was shocked, because I didn’t really know what to expect… [Laughs].
CS: I’m sure Andy Reid talked to you when the Eagles drafted you. What was that conversation like?
Patterson: I was in shock. I was thinking, “Wow, I’m talking to coach on the phone right now.” He said, “Hang on for a minute, we’re about to take you here.” I was just like, wow.
CS: Looking back at everything you went through leading up to the draft, what’s your overview of everything you went through?
Patterson: It’s a circus. There are a lot of things going on. You’re moving around a lot, you’re talking to a lot of people; you have to keep yourself fresh. There was a lot that went on.
CS: How big is it for your development to have a player like Brodrick Bunkley next to you on the Eagles defensive line?
Patterson: It’s great. Knowing you have someone next to you that can play, you get comfortable and you don’t have to worry about anything on the field.
CS: You were considered an undersized DT coming out of USC. The Trojans have a top DT this year, and he’s a bit undersized. What is it about these undersized DT’s from USC?
Patterson: Hey, anything is possible. Some coaches like that [undersized tackles]. We can move around and do some good things. I think it’s a bit overrated when people think undersized guys can’t play.
CS: Do you think your size was a knock on you coming out of college?
Patterson: I don’t think so, but I’ve always heard it. I just ignored it and didn’t really worry about it.
CS: Coming from California to Philadelphia, I’m sure there was a bit of culture shock. When you arrived in Philadelphia, what were your thoughts?
Patterson: [Laughs]… The fan base is completely different. I remember when I first came to Philly and I just got off the plane there were two Eagles fans waiting in the terminal when I arrived. They said, “Hey, you’re Patterson right; we just picked you up.” I said, “Yeah, how are you doing.” They said, “The first thing you have to know is we’re either going to love you or hate you, so welcome to the city.” [Laughs]…
CS: I have to say that’s an interesting introduction.
Patterson: That was my introduction. That’s the first thing that happened to me when I got off the plane. [Laughs]…
CS: You were thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into, right?”
Patterson: [Laughs]… Something like that, but after I got to the practice facility and met all the coaches, everything felt good. It all fell into place.
CS: What was your biggest transition from the college game to the professional ranks, besides the whole speed factor?
Patterson: The biggest thing for me was to learn the plays. Playing in one defense in college for four years and learning a new system in the NFL was the biggest thing for me.
CS: After signing your rookie contract with the Eagles in 2005, it didn’t take them long to show you some love. They signed you to a seven-year extension worth $32 million after playing just 24 career games, and you’re under contract until 2016. How did that feel?
Patterson: I was happy. It makes things easier for me from the standpoint of not having to worry about my contract during the season and just concentrate on football.
CS: Does Philly feel like home to you?
Patterson: Oh definitely. I play here and this is where I make my home.
CS: Do you stay in Philadelphia during the offseason?
CS: What’s your favorite hangout?
Patterson: My house… [Laughs].
CS: Do you have any hobbies and if so what are they?
Patterson: Going to Best Buy. I enjoy watching movies, playing with remote control cars; things like that.
CS: This is your third season in the NFL. What do you expect out of yourself the rest of this season and into the future?
Patterson: I just want to continue to work hard. We’re going to go out on the field and try to win as many games as we can. Hopefully we can go out here and do well and make the playoffs.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.