You just finished your first NFL offseason. Looking back, how did it go?
It went well. It was a learning experience. I feel like I got thrown into the fire, but I rose to the occasion. I’ve always felt like I have a lot to improve on, which I do, and I’m nowhere near where I need to be to be successful and contribute, but I will continue to work at it.
You’ve been in the NFL for about two months now. Where do you feel better about things than you did, say, on draft night?
I think just the experience of going into OTAs and minicamps with the veterans. That helped me see where I am and the level of competition that there is on the NFL level. I was going into it blindly at first when I got drafted. I was just excited. I didn’t know what to expect. I see how to be professional now. I think that’s helping me a lot, to watch the other linebackers.
So, you saw enough in OTAs to say, ‘Yeah, I can get this done.'
You always hear people on draft day say, ‘I’ve always believe in you and I knew you could get it done.’ That sounds good, but to get in there and experience it is a whole different thing. Now, I feel like I can get it done and I’m glad to have had that experience.
What’s the biggest thing that stood out to you in OTAs?
(Laughing) The heat and the humidity. It was something I’d never experienced before. It was something way different. It was crazy. Every day I found myself losing energy so fast. Before, I could eat a little, go practice and perform, but in Jacksonville, you have to get your body right. You have to eat well or you’re going to pass out. There actually was one time I thought I was going to pass out. I got dizzy. I drank a couple of Gatorades and I was fine, but the humidity – it’s no joke. In college, I ate whatever – pizza, burgers. I could do that and do as well as if I had eaten a salad. They told us at the Rookie Symposium that there’s a fine line between good and great, and between who stays on a team and who doesn’t. Something like nutrition – you think it’s small, but it’s a big thing. That’s what I’m learning.
Have you always been the type to learn from that sort of experience, to listen to the sort of message you heard at the symposium?
Most definitely. I’ve always been the type to seek out advice and figure out how to do something better. I talked to (Jaguars linebacker)
Anything specific Daryl Smith said?
My coach in college told me to seek out a veteran or two, to see how they do things. He told me, ‘They’re in the league. They’ve been there. They know how to stay there. So, seek out a few vets and watch them and you’ll be able to do the same thing.’ Daryl just told me I got better from OTAs to minicamp. He said, ‘A lot of rookies want to get in and they want to move fast.’ He said it’s about moving fast, but it’s about being efficient as well. He just stressed to me to move more efficiently in my reads and my steps. He said, ‘You want to go fast, but you want to slow it down a little. You want to make the right moves, the right steps.’ That’s what he told me and I agree.
You talked about the conditions here in Jacksonville. How do you prepare for that? What are your next four weeks like?
I’m not going to come in out of shape, but there’s not that much you can do about it. I’ll be training in Las Vegas. I’ll train in the heat of the day to simulate it, but it’s a dry heat here – that humidity is tough to duplicate.
As you go into camp, what are your thoughts? What are your goals?
My mindset is to try to earn a spot. I’m not satisfied with being a backup, playing a role. I want to be that third or fourth linebacker. I know we have some great linebackers, but I’m here to compete. I want to keep learning. I want to play. I’ve never been the type to sit back and say, ‘I’m a rookie and we have these guys, so I’m going to take a backseat.’ That’s not in my genes, so I’m going to try to earn a spot. I want to play.