NFL Draft Q&A With FB Jason Snelling

Virginia's Jason Snelling has the advantage of having extensive experience at both tailback and fullback, the type of back that can be valuable to a West Coast offense like the Vikings. And he's heading into the Combine ranked amongst the top players in this draft at both positions. Learn more about this highly versatile and punishing runner in this exclusive interview.

Ed Thompson: Tell us a little bit about your hometown and family.

Jason Snelling: Originally I'm from Toms River, New Jersey. It's in the central part of New Jersey. I lived there most of my life up until high school. When I was a junior I went to high school in a little place outside of Richmond called Chesterfield County. I grew up in a two parent home, two great parents and I had two great brothers. I've been playing football all of my life from the time I played Pop Warner in New Jersey all the way up to before I moved to Richmond.

ET: You had a terrific high school career from the numbers I saw.

JS: I was pretty much always tops in rushing in not only the areas that I played in, but also in the state. It was a time when I feel like I really developed and came into my own as a football player.

ET: In high school you were more of a traditional tailback, but at Virginia you got some time at both fullback and tailback, right?

JS: Yeah, that's correct. In high school I was the traditional tailback, an every-down running back. At Virginia, there were a lot of good running backs when I arrived and coach came to me and said he wanted to get me on the field early, so he moved me to fullback. It was an adjustment because even though I had played running back all my life, I wasn't used to blocking as much, so moving to fullback was really different for me. But I was able to get on the field early and make a lot of plays and learn the position; and I became really comfortable with it and excelled at it in my college career. During my junior year I played fullback and I started to play a lot of running back in the Single-I backfield, splitting my time. After the season was over, coach came to me and told me he was moving me to tailback for the next season which I was very happy about. He told me he felt that I deserved it and he thought that I was ready to be a feature back.

ET: What do you feel you've gained going from tailback to fullback that might give you an edge in this draft?

JS: I've become a more complete player. Before I came to college I was just a pure running back and I wasn't used to pass protection as much and I wasn't used to throwing a lot of blocks until I was a fullback. Now, I'm very comfortable doing both positions which is going to give me an edge over a lot guys.  If I get to a team and they want me to play fullback I'm very comfortable in that role. And if they want me to play running back I can do that too -- or I can do both. Not many other guys have that ability and experience heading into the draft.

ET: You saw action as a freshman, catching 31 passes and making 12 special teams tackles in just nine games.  How did you get noticed, because that's going to be important at the next level in training camp?

JS: I just seized the moment when there was an opportunity whether it was catching the ball in the backfield or making a block for my teammate or just running down there on a kick-off.  I knew I had to make the most of my opportunities to excel at the college level. I was taught that as a kid from my father, when you get an opportunity make the most of it, and that was my mindset coming in.

ET: What types of special teams work do you have under your belt and where do you feel like you excel?

JS: Other than field goal teams, I've played on every special team. I've played on kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt return, and punt. On punt I played right guard and tackle. I was on the front line on kickoff return, and I've played the back line on kickoff return. I've done it all and I can play punt return too. I've done them all and I've been able to be successful because anything I do I'm going to work hard to try and be the best at it.

(Getty Images/Doug Benc)
ET: You're referred to as a "ferocious, downhill runner" do you see yourself as a north-south, bruising type of runner?

JS: I'm definitely a downhill runner, and me being my size, I'm a bruising running back. There's not an abundance of 230-pound running backs on our team.  I'm not really a flashy kind of guy, so I would have to say that all that is true, but cut-backs are still a part of the game, so I use that to my advantage as well.

ET: What do you take the most pride in as a running back?

JS: I feel like I see things and I get up field. I'm a hard runner, the type of runner that might not always break a fifty or sixty yard run, but I move the chains.  I have a lot of success with that. And I feel like in the fourth quarter I come on really strong, I bruise the defense up and I get stronger as the game goes on.

ET: Your head coach, Al Groh, said "he finds the openings and when he takes on tacklers, he uses his size." Tell us what you try to do when you go up against a tackler.

JS: Well, like I said, I'm 230 pounds so I use all of my gifts and opportunities, so I run through tacklers. A lot of linebackers and safeties like to take a shot at the running back and I like to run through people and deliver the blow. Sometimes guys say I'm an offensive player playing defense out there. As the running back you take a lot of shots, so when opportunities come I like to deliver the blow on them first. And it also gets me more yards, that two or three extra yards or the first down. That's definitely the mentality of my game

ET: How has your time with Al Groh, a former NFL head coach who was your college head coach, helped you prepare for the next level?

JS: I think it's a great advantage. He really kept an NFL-run team in how we practice and how we play. With our offense and the way he set things up and his play-calling, he prepares you to move on to the next level. He also always stressed that special teams was so important, and when I got scouts around he said "that's where you're going to make your mark, playing special teams" and that's why anytime I'd go out there on special teams I tried to make a great play so I could put it all back into the game.

ET: Going into your senior year, he said "to a large extent, his dreams and aspirations of his college career are going to be packed into one season." Talk a little bit about that statement.

JS: My college career hasn't always been what I wanted it to be. The first couple years I had health issues that kept me off the field and kept me from doing the thing I love - playing football. Coming into this last season completely healthy, not missing any practice, not missing any games, he thought it was an opportunity not only for him, but myself to prove how good of a player I was because I could go full-time one hundred percent and I was able to pack all of that into one season.

ET: Those early problems involved severe headaches, talk a little bit about that and what the outlook for the future is for you.

JS: Early in high school I had difficulty with epilepsy which really wasn't the cause of the problems, but I had it which caused me to have seizures. And during my college career I was going through a process where I was trying to get them under control. It was a tough transition for me and sometimes I couldn't perform at my best and I would have to miss practice. At times I felt like it kept me from doing certain things, I couldn't progress because I was just trying to get healthy so it was a battle I had to go through. I had a lot of support from my family, my extended family, my teammates, and my coaches. Coach Groh was really supportive and really stuck by me. He told me I was going to get through it and I was going to be successful and be able to play at the next level. So I stuck with it, and my during my sophomore year, my doctor found a medication that worked for me. From that point on, I haven't had any problems and didn't miss any games because of it during my junior or senior year. So it won't be a problem at the next level either.

ET: Your first college touchdown was a one yard reception thrown by Matt Schaub who's now with the Falcons. Tell us a little bit about that play.

JS: It was just a basic flare route where I would cut away and beat my guy. It was funny because all year he had the confidence in me as a freshman, he believed in me because he had confidence that I was going to catch it. On that play he saw me, hit me and I caught it. It was so funny because I was so excited I got up to celebrate and fell back down (laughs). He was the first guy to come congratulate me on my first college career touchdown and even after the game he was congratulating me. It was just a great moment being at this next level and in this environment to score and hear everyone cheering for you and doing it in front of your family. That was one of my greatest moments in college.

ET: Where did you develop your skills that make you such a good pass receiver?

JS: I've always had good hands in high school, and honestly I didn't really catch all that much in high school. In college, it was the situation where the coach told me my role and he gave me opportunities to catch the ball and I just worked really hard to be that kind of player. It was pretty much a situation where I had an opportunity and I worked really hard to be good at it.

ET: Why did you choose anthropology as a major?

JS: I like social psychology and the study of humans and it was kind of putting both of them together. Part of the thing I wanted to pursue further with forensic anthropology was to become a forensic scientist. I'd like to pursue it later on in my career if possible.

ET: What drew you to become involved with the Big Brother Program?

JS: A lot of our coaches urged us to go do community work and give back to the community and the people who supported us. And that sounded like a great opportunity to help out some of these kids who looked up to us. It was fun and once I started I was really drawn to it. Just going and talking to kids and doing activities with them, I realized how much it means to a kid who doesn't have advantages they should have. I look around and I'm blessed to be in college and getting an education and playing football. So I just wanted to give back and I think I learned just as much from the kids as I tried to give to them when I was doing it.

ET: If you were standing in front of a group of NFL scouts and they asked you "why should we add you to our team?" what would you tell them?

JS: I would tell them I'm a smart, dependable player you can count on. I feel like I'm a student of the game and I bring a lot of good qualities to the game -- I can run the ball, block really well in pass protection, I can also come in and play fullback for you, as well as running the ball and putting on lead blocks. I've been doing that for four years so I'm very comfortable and confident in my ability. I'm sort of a triple-threat: a powerful runner, a strong blocker, and I'm great at catching the ball out of the backfield. I can also give you 20 plays on special teams and do very well on that.

Click this link to learn more about Jason Snelling through his Scout.com player profile page.

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


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