Running back, Louisiana State
How are you? Congratulations ...
“I’m great, I appreciate that. I’m blessed to be a part of this organization and I’m looking forward to it.”
How much do you know about the Bengals and what they’re going to ask you to do?
“My first experience was my team visit a few weeks ago, and I didn’t realize it was that close to Kentucky. I thought, ‘Why am I in Kentucky?,’ and I thought I had gotten on the wrong flight. I was freaking out for a second. That was the first thing. Then I saw what a tight-knit group everyone is. It’s such a down-to-earth city with hard-working, blue-collar people. I should be able to fit right in. I met with Coach Caskey and Coach Jackson. I wasn’t able to meet with Coach Lewis, due to the passing of his father, but I’m definitely looking forward to meeting him. Like I said, I’m so blessed and happy to be a part of the organization.”
Did you have a feeling the Bengals were high on you?
“It’s so tricky now with the running back situation. They drafted a running back last year in the second round, so I was thinking that if they did pull the trigger, it wouldn’t be until the third or fourth round. I didn’t know they were that high on me. I know Coach Jackson loves big backs — he told me that I play like Le’Veon Bell, which was a guy they were very interested in last year but ended up going with Giovanni (Bernard). I didn’t know. I got the call from Coach Lewis and I was trembling and couldn’t put together the right words. It was an out-of-body experience for me. It was so amazing.”
Describe your running style ...
“I think I’m the most complete back in the draft. I can do it all. I’m a bigger back, but I can also score 50-yard touchdowns and make long runs and accelerate and finish runs. I can do the short-yardage stuff and get the tough yardage. I’m a great pass catcher. I catch the ball very well, actually. The best way to describe my game is ‘complete’. I think that by being a complete guy, the team can create multiple roles for me. I don’t have to be only a third-down or a short-yardage back. I can find my role, rather than other guys who can only do one or two things.”
What do you think of Giovanni Bernard?
“I was watching ‘Rookie Welcome to the NFL,’ and I became such a huge fan of him while I was training before the combine. I just loved his work ethic and his story about driving a van. He didn’t care about other stuff — he just wanted to get to work. I think I bring that same mentality to the organization. I became a big fan of Giovanni. I love the way he pass-protected and stuck his head in there — even with his (smaller) size. He’s going to be a huge part of the team next year. I’m sure Coach Jackson has a big plan for him and the rest of the running backs. I’m excited. I’ll take everything I can from him as far as advice, work ethic and practice habits. I’m definitely excited to be in the same room as him.”
Did you send a lengthy and detailed letter to every team in the NFL?
“That’s the first thing I did. With my history, I wanted to jump in front of it before it hurt me. A lot of analysts had me going fourth and fifth round and said I had off-the-field character issues. I know I don’t have any character issues, and if you talk to people who know me well, they know I don’t have any character issues. It was just a matter of letting the teams know what kind of person I am and what kind of man I am. I gave character references from people who have known me my whole life, and I think it was very important. I’m sure Coach Lewis read it in detail and saw what kind of man I am, rather than reading articles that the media had written.”
How long was it?
“It was very lengthy.”
You asked them to check your references?
“Yes. And they do that anyway, but I wanted to let them know that I wasn’t trying to hide anything, and let them know that anything that is out there is open game and I’m not afraid of it. I was a young man who made mistakes and I don’t know too many young men who haven’t made mistakes. I wanted to let them know that I’m normal, like everyone else, and that I’ve matured and all that stuff is in the past. Anyone who comes in contact with me on a daily basis — equipment managers, coaches, trainers — they know what kind of person I am. Once I get into the locker room, they’ll see that and they’ll see my leadership skills and how I work day in and day out. I think they’ll be happy with it.”
Coach Lewis and Coach Jackson said they didn’t read the letter because they know enough people at LSU who they trust ...
“The people at LSU are very honest people and they have jobs on the line. They have a lot of respect in the NFL and if you follow our program, there have been a lot of people from LSU drafted. Their opinions on people and players are very important to the NFL coaches and GM’s who make important decisions.”
Do you know current Bengal and former LSU player,
“I met him on my team visit. He knew who I was, which was very cool. He’s a fine character, and I’m definitely excited to reunite with him.”
How much did you share carries at LSU and how do you think that will help you in the NFL?
“That’s just what we’ve done. That’s the way of the land for us, and that’s how we’ve gone about things here. I think that’s where the NFL is going as well, and Cincinnati did it last year a lot. It’s nothing new to me. I know a lot of guys who were bell cows in college, and it will be a shock to them to split carries and not be the guy. But for me, it’s something I’m accustomed to and something I can jump right in and fill whatever role they have for me and perform well.”
How frustrating was it to watch 53 picks go by before a running back was taken?
“I was starting to think, ‘Maybe one of the teams will take a running back in the third.’ My first idea was that a running back would be taken in the top of the second, but as it went on, I thought, ‘Jeez, maybe they won’t.’ That’s just the way the league is now. The value is decreasing, which I don’t know why, because the production of the position is at an all time high when you look at an Adrian Peterson or Marshawn Lynch. I think the position is very valuable, so I don’t understand the decrease in value, but that’s the way it’s going.”
The AFC North seems to fit your style ...
“I’m very familiar with the division. It’s tough AFC football, especially when it’s cold weather. You have to be able to cram it in there and get yardage. I think that’s the vision the coaches had, especially around playoff time, to have a back that can get the tough yardage and finish runs late in the game and that’s something I’m very excited to do.”
Have you ever played in cold weather?
“The coldest I’ve played in was probably about 30 degrees my freshman year at Arkansas. It will definitely be a unique experience to play in something that cold. There’s a lot of guys from the SEC — I know there are a lot of Georgia players. It’s something that every player has to adjust to. It’s your job. You have to be able to adapt.”
Where are you right now?
“I’m in Baton Rouge. I was born and raised here. I played high school and college ball here. All of my family members are here and we’re enjoying the process.”
Did you get invited to New York?
“No. I don’t think any of the running backs got invited to New York.”
How do you feel about being part of a running back crew with Giovanni Bernard and
“I’m honored to be a part of that room with an experienced guy like Green-Ellis, and Gio, who had a great rookie year. I’ll take everything I can and learn from them. The league is going with multiple backs, so everyone will need each other to finish a 16-game schedule, plus the playoffs. In a physical division, it would be tough for one guy to carry the load by himself. We’ll all need each other and we’ll compete and make each other better, and I’m very excited for it.”
Do you fly in today or tomorrow?
“I fly in tomorrow. They told me to pack heavy because I’ll be there for a month. I’m excited to get there and meet
Don’t get nervous when you land in Kentucky ...
“I think I know the ropes now. I’ll definitely know what’s going on this time.”
Do you have a connection at all with BenJarvus Green-Ellis?
“His coach, Frank Wilson, was my running back at LSU. He coached him in New Orleans and at Ole Miss and coached me at LSU. I don’t know him professionally, but we’ve both been coached by the same running back coach, so the principles he brings with ball security and running sound are the same things I can bring to the table by having the same coach.”
Are you sound with ball security?
“Yes, I’ve had one career fumble at LSU and it wasn’t lost. I haven’t ever lost a fumble in college. I think I was pretty good. I wish I could take that one back, but it happened.”