Center, North Carolina
Congratulations, the Bengals moved up 12 spots to get you. What’s your reaction?
“To be honest, I wasn’t even watching the TV. I couldn’t sit there and watch and drive myself crazy. Obviously I’m excited about the opportunity, and I can’t wait to get there and get started.”
How did you find out, just when the phone rang?
“Yes, I just kept my phone with me and found out when the phone rang.”
Was it Coach Lewis, was it Paul Alexander? Who called?
“It was Coach Lewis.”
Paul Alexander was just part of a news conference and he said that you will compete to start in Year One. What’s your reaction?
“Absolutely I want to come in and compete and give everything I can to the team. I have high expectations for myself, so obviously it will take a lot of work to transition, and any starting spot will take just as much work to earn that. I’m definitely looking forward to getting in there and giving it my best and seeing what happens.”
Did you suspect that the Bengals were one of the teams that would be after you?
“I had meetings with them at the Combine, and with Coach Alexander at Pro Day, so I knew I was at least on the radar. I didn’t really have a whole lot of expectations. I didn’t want to drive myself crazy. I just sat back and waited for it to happen, and I’m definitely glad that it did.”
How often did you have to play straight up with a nose guard right over top of you?
“Not a whole lot this year. We definitely encountered a little more of that last year than we did this year. It hasn’t been a whole lot. I think that’s always a challenge for a center. You get in there and work hard, and do what you need to do and do your best.”
Are you familiar with the behemoths that play nose tackle in the Bengals’ division?
“(Laughs) I have heard some lore, yes I have.”
Who have you heard it from?
“(Laughs) A lot of people. It’s pretty well-known.”
You ran a high-tempo style of offense in college, but you’ll run more of a traditional tempo here where your intellectual side will be needed. Are you ready for the adjustment?
“It’s just a matter of getting in your playbook and making sure you know your assignments and responsibilities. I had a little bit more experience my first two years of college, when we were a pro-style team, so it’s not a totally foreign concept. I definitely look to transition that knowledge over. Like I said, just get in your playbook, learn your responsibilities and go out there and do your best.”
You are coming out after your junior season. Why was it time for you to do that?
“I asked around and talked to people I trusted. This is kind of where I was expecting to go — third, fourth round. For a center, I think that’s pretty good. It’s a position that’s locked, and not a whole lot of guys move up past that third round. I felt confident in my abilities, and I’m ready to get in there and do things at the next level.”
Do you feel that you could play guard if you have to? Have you done it before?
“I definitely feel like I can play guard and contribute as a guard. Obviously I’ll do anything they ask me to do. I’ve played my fair share of guard. I played some my redshirt freshman year, and a lot more again this year. We had an injury to our left guard, so I kind of got forced into playing a little bit. So I’m definitely comfortable playing both spots, and I’m ready to get out there and compete and help the team win.”
Is it true that you had 43 reps of 225 on the bench press at your pro day?
“I didn’t bench at my pro day, but I did 42 at the combine.”
Is your strength your biggest asset?
“I definitely think that it contributes, but I think that to some degree that my nastiness is my strength. As an I interior lineman, you’ve got to have a little bit of a mean streak. You’ve got to go out there and enjoy the competition, and it’s going to be a competition on every snap. There’s nowhere to hide in there, you’re going to hit somebody on every play, so you have to enjoy that.”
Are you looking forward to reuniting with your old college teammate,
“Yeah, that’s definitely exciting. Gio is a great guy. I can’t wait to get up there and hopefully have him make me look good again (laughs). He sure did that when he was at UNC.”
You said you weren’t watching the draft. What were you doing?
“I was watching earlier, but I was just kind of hanging out on the back porch (when I was picked). I had just walked away from the TV for a little while.”
Have you heard from Gio Bernard since you were picked?
“Yeah. He actually texted me right after.”
What did he say?
“Just, ‘Welcome to the family,’ and that it was a great city, a great organization and that you’ll enjoy it. And, ‘See you on Monday.’ ”