Middle Linebacker Chat

A middle linebacker that had a formal interview with the Vikings at the NFL Scouting Combine recently had an interview with Scout.com as well. See what he had to say about his game, his upbringing and his combine experience.

Ed Thompson: Let's talk about your choice to go to Oklahoma, because your dad played football at Miami, right?

Zach Latimer: Basically, it was Oklahoma or Miami. Oklahoma was one of the top schools, had just won a National Championship a couple years prior to it. And Miami was a long ways away. I just felt more comfortable at Oklahoma than I did at Miami, so I went to Oklahoma.

ET: Your dad also played nose tackle for the Broncos. How much of an influence has he had on your football career?

ZL: Well, ever since Pop Warner. Just coming back and looking at film, breaking it down, helping me with stances, and how to get faster to the ball and do something better.

ET: How did you handle that as a youngster? That can be kind of intimidating to have your dad film you and evaluate you at that age.

ZL: I hated it. Because nine times out of ten, I was doing something wrong. Most of the time it was just "do this right, do this right, you aren't doing this." So it was one those kind of things you take in stride and get better from it.

ET: Do you think it helped you become a better player and a stronger person over the long haul?

ZL: Oh yeah, most definitely. It helped me read the opponent better than other people when I got to high school. And it really helped me learn how to break down film and what to look for. So it helped me be where I needed to be once I got to college.

ET: You've had to battle back from two shoulder injuries that required surgery...

ZL: Correct. It's something that I had to deal with. I believe everything happens for a reason, and luckily the second time I had it fixed up. I didn't have any problems with it all season. I just went out there and had a good time.

( (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

ET: You earned the starting role heading into your junior year. What did that mean to you when you knew you were going out for your first game as a starter?

ZL: It was just like "finally, it's here." And I just wanted to go out and show everyone what I was capable of doing.

ET: Well, you certainly did that. Your junior year you were second on your team in tackles.

ZL: I was just having fun out there with the rest of the guys. I was just glad to be out there.

ET: Is that your overall attitude out there on the field?

ZL: Yeah, because I know it's not going to last forever and there is going to come a day when I can't play anymore. You never know when your last game is, so when you are out there you might as well enjoy it and have fun.

ET: When you are out there as a middle linebacker and you see the quarterback come up to take that snap, you only have a few seconds to make some important decisions. What are you evaluating, where are you looking, and how are you making your decision about where you are going to take your first step?

ZL: First of all, it's down and distance, the personnel that they come out with. Then you break it down from there, the plays they like to run out of certain formations. That narrows it down, but like you said, you don't have much time before that snap. You try get it down to a couple of the plays you know they do out of that look, and once you get that, then hopefully you will be on top of what they do before they do it.

ET: What do you like most about the game?

ZL: On the field, it's about winning, but it's also the off-the-field things, like when you see kids who want to talk to you. They just really look up to you and anything you say to them, they really pay attention and listen to you because of what you do on the field. So really, that's the most important thing of what I get out of football right there.

ET: It's a lot of responsibility, isn't it?

ZL: Yeah, whether you like it or not, you are put into a leadership role where people are looking up to you and trying to do the things that you do. So you have to be aware of that at all times.

ET: Talk about your Combine experience, Zach. Did you manage to have some fun with it?

ZL: Yeah, I had a lot of fun meeting different players from schools all over the country. It was great meeting guys that you hear about all year long and to finally meet them face-to-face. I also enjoyed the interview process, but it was also a long wake-up-early-and-stay-up-late kind of deal.

ET: With all the sitting around and waiting, what did you do to pass the time? How did you keep yourself from going nuts?

ZL: Bring your Ipod. I had my Ipod with me listening to music during the down time.

ET: What do you like to listen to?

ZL: I got a little old-school flavor in me so, I got The Dells on there and some Temptations. But I also mix it in with a little rap here and there when I need to.

ET: Explain to me how a guy who likes to play chess is also into video games. That just doesn't seem to match up.

ZL: Oh, yeah. A lot of my partners like to play the video games so I've got to show these young whippersnappers that I've got it on with video games. But if you want to take it to that chessboard, I'm also a thinking man.

ET: Talk a little bit about your relationship with fellow linebacker Rufus Alexander, because you guys certainly worked well together.

ZL: We came in together and hung out together off the field. We had a good relationship and I think that is what really helped us on the field. I mean, I trusted him and he trusted me. We were always helping each other see things that were going on that would help us stay on the same page.

ET: How well do you think you'll be able to contribute to special teams at the next level?

ZL: At Oklahoma, that's all we harp on is special teams. It doesn't matter who you are, you are on special teams, where some other schools like to rest their players and put everyone else on special teams. We did all of them. I think that is one of my advantages heading into the NFL Draft.

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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