What was your meeting like with the Bengals when you talked with them at the Senior Bowl? Did you suspect they had a lot of interest?
"I thought that they were interested in me, but it was hard to gauge from that specific meeting."
What led to your position switch from defensive back to linebacker? Did you simply physically outgrow the position?
"I think I always had the frame to put on weight. I just needed to get into a Division I weight program. But that was (Wyoming Head) Coach (Craig) Bohl's idea to switch me to linebacker, and I'm forever grateful he did that."
How much did playing receiver and defensive back help in your eventual switch to linebacker?
"It definitely helps — especially in terms of my ball skills — playing as a receiver and then as a corner. Just understanding how to read a quarterback's eyes and when to break, and things like that. I think those all helped make me into the linebacker that I am today."
You're coming to a team with a need at your position. How aware of their situation are you, and the fact that you could see significant playing time right away?
"I know they needed a linebacker, and I'm very (much) looking forward to the opportunity of coming in, earning the respect of the guys in the locker room, and then just being able to fly around and make some plays. I'm going to play at a very high (level of) effort. Bengals fans can count on that. I'm going to give Cincinnati everything I have."
Are there any NFL linebackers you have studied on tape and/or modeled your game after?
"I think Luke Kuechly is always a good one to watch. It's weird being asked that question, because I never used to watch linebackers growing up because I was a defensive back. I used to watch Champ Bailey as a corner. But in terms of linebackers, Luke Keuchly, Bobby Wagner is another good one, and so is Deon Jones of the Falcons."
How many times have you talked to Bengals senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner since the Senior Bowl?
"I don't know exactly. Probably three or four times."
How would you describe your style of play? What does being considered a three-down linebacker mean to you?
"I think that being a three-down linebacker just means you're able to play the run and you're able to play the pass. I think being able to play (in) coverage as a linebacker is something that NFL teams look for. In today's game, especially the NFL, where it's a big passing league, being able to play coverage is huge. I definitely think I can do that."
What was your thought process as you approached and went to the Senior Bowl? It seemed like a business trip for you more than anything else ...
"(I just told myself to) stick to everything that's gotten me to this point. That's just kind of how I roll. It wasn't like the way I carried myself at the Senior Bowl was different than how I carry myself when no one's watching. I always carry myself the same way. It's always a little (bit of a) business-like mentality in everything I do."
What has the draft process been like for you?
"It's been kind of hectic — as in, kind of planned, so to say. Through the whole pre-draft process, there have been a lot of interviews, medicals and physicals, psychological tests. But it's been good. I wouldn't have it any other way, and I'm very thankful and very happy to be a Cincinnati Bengal."
How familiar are you with the style of play in the AFC North, which is known as very physical division? Linebacker play is extremely important, and you have to play against Lamar Jackson, running out in space. It's physical, but teams try to spread you out and isolate you in space. Do you know much about the AFC North, and how big of a challenge do you think it might be?
"I think it's going to be a very competitive division. But I think that's what's going to make us better as a team, playing against those guys twice a year. I'm excited to have the opportunity to play against those teams in the AFC North, and I do know it's a tough division. It always has been. It's been the division that's always been tough on the AFC side of the NFL."
How does a 240-pound linebacker end up with 10 interceptions in his college career?
"That's just a credit to my ball skills background, just reading and reacting and making plays on the ball. I think that I do play coverage well, but that's because I grew up playing as a defensive back, playing safety and corner. I think that's helped me progress in the coverage aspect as a linebacker."
How much have you talked to Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, and what sense of the defense did you get from talking to him?
"I didn't really talk to him a whole lot. I talked more to (linebackers) Coach (Al) Golden. He's the one I talked to the most. We just talked about my defense and that kind of stuff. (They) were good conversations with them, though."
Are you rocking a Pearl Snaps shirt?
"Pearl snaps? I don't have any idea what that is (laughs)."
Which would you rather do — make an interception, stop a running back for a loss on third down, or sack a quarterback on a blitz? Which gives you the biggest thrill?
Did you ever return an interception for a touchdown in your career?
"Yeah, I had a couple."
Were you surprised to come off the board this early, or did you expect to go sooner?
"I wasn't really sure where I was going to go. I was expecting to go today at some point. (It) was just a matter of when. It's hard to say where you're going to go at a certain time, because there's so many things that can happen with the draft, but I'm very thankful to be a Bengal."
Have you ever experienced anything like this uncertainty as you waited to be called?
"No, I have not. It was definitely pretty stressful, just waiting around, waiting to get a phone call."
Head Coach Zac Taylor said they feel fortunate because they had you rated fairly high as a second round talent. Had you been contacted by any other teams?
"You know, it's hard to say. I wasn't really sure. I wasn't personally contacted by any other teams. My agent might have been, but like I said, it was hard to say. Everything has to fall together in certain ways, and there's so many different ways things can fall, so I wasn't sure who else exactly was in the mix."
What are you studying and how close are you to your degree?
"I graduated in December with a kinesiology degree."
Were you thinking about medical school?
"No. I just like health and fitness. I just got it so I can use that whenever I'm done playing football."
You're a rehab guy, huh?
"A little bit. I like to take care of myself."
Can you tell us a little about your upbringing in a rural environment? Did you have a lot of outdoor pursuits?
"I used to, a little bit. I used to go hunting with my dad growing up, but it was harder in college because the football season is in the fall, and so is hunting season, so it's hard to get away then. We'd occasionally go in the spring — I'd go turkey hunting with my dad — so that's always been good, but that was limited more once football came."
Growing up in Wyoming, who did you root for?
"I was a Denver Broncos fan growing up."
When did playing in the NFL start feeling like a realistic possibility?
"Toward the end of my junior year. We did a junior day where they measure your height and weight, and NFL scouts show up. That's when I realized I might have a shot."
When did you hit your growth spurt? Was it all at once or over time?
"It was over time. I gradually put on weight. I got to Wyoming at 195 pounds, and through the course of those five years there, I just continued to put on weight."
It's quite the honor to being elected a three-time captain ...
"For me, that was the best award I received while at Wyoming. It means the world to me because the guys that select you are the guys you go to battle with and grind with, day in and day out. I think that when they see the body of work you put in and look up to you as a leader, it's a very humbling feeling to get that respect from your teammates."
You had 34 tackles for losses. That total seems to indicate some instincts?
"I definitely have instincts. I think I read and react to plays very well, and that's why I have those stats."
What's the biggest thing you feel like you need to work on as you adjust to the NFL?
"The game will be another level. Everything is bigger, faster, and stronger. I want to make sure I work on my technique with hand placement, and understanding the defense. Being aware and learning — not just my position, but what's going on around me."
Were you close with Josh Allen at all?
"Yeah, we were pretty close. I talked to him before the pre-draft process started for me."
What kind of advice did he give you?
"It was pretty simple. He said, 'Be yourself.' And that's all I needed."
When did you learn how to really watch film?
"My sophomore year is when I really started to understand what to look for while watching film. Scottie Hazleton, my former linebackers coach. Before he came to us (at Wyoming), he was linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He would teach us how to watch film, what to look for, things like that. The way I watch film now is a credit to him."
What was the thought process behind picking Logan Wilson?
"He's a guy we had highly rated. Our defensive staff has certainly been holding their breath all day. We got to know this kid at the Senior Bowl. He really impressed us. He played on the other team there, but he certainly stood out and impressed us, and we got to know him. We followed him over the next four months, and really just felt like he was a great fit for all the things we've been talking about in this building. He's a three-down player, he's physical, he can run, he's got the right mentality. We're just excited to add him to that side of the ball."
Did you not expect him to be there in the third round?
"You just never know. You never know how these inside stack backers, and these outside linebackers are all going to shake out. We were certainly holding our breath there those last couple of picks, but ultimately he was there at 65, so we grabbed him, and we're very fired up about it."
He was a multi-year captain in college. How much did that weigh into your evaluation of him?
"Over the last two years, you've seen us add a lot of captains – guys who were well-thought of at their school. This kid has played a lot of football now, and played it at a high level. His teammates and coaches obviously think very highly of him, so we're just fired up to get him."
He's 23 years old, so he's got some maturity to him. At the Senior Bowl, he seemed like he was all business…
"There's no doubt about it. He's had the right mentality every step of the way. I know that's one of the things that Al Golden loves about him. As he's gotten to know him over this process with Lou (defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo) and all those guys on the defensive side of the ball. Again, we're really excited about the pick."
Did you feel like you had to come out of today or early tomorrow with a linebacker that you could plug in and play right away?
"Again, we wanted to find the right value. There were some great players that were there. We felt like he certainly fit. Like I said, it was all about Tee Higgins at 33, and it was all about Logan Wilson here at 65. We certainly identified linebacker as a position of need, and something we needed to add at some point. If the right person wasn't there, we were comfortable taking another position if we needed to. Fortunately, Logan was there, and we jumped all over it. It worked out well for us."
He was a wide receiver and defensive back in high school. How do you think playing those positions in high school translate and helped him at the linebacker position?
"Yeah, he can run, and he's done a lot of things. You like the guys that have done some of those things, and then they move over and play their final position. He was in a passing conference, so this guy's had to drop back in coverage, be able to cover guys in space, and then be able to go tackle guys in space. There's some pretty good space players in our division right now, so you need a linebacker like this."
Is it becoming a necessity for linebackers in the NFL to be that hybrid and be able to play both the run and the pass well?
"You like to find a guy that can play all three downs for you. Sometimes you get later in the draft and those guys aren't available, but Logan is a guy that fits that profile. We identified him as a three-down player right from the get-go, and so we expect him to play multiple roles for us in that regard. Yeah, of course you want them. There's not a ton of guys that can do that, but you're always looking for those guys that can be just as good defending the run as they do the pass, and Logan is one of those guys that we feel good about."
Does he have position versatility where you can play him on the edge in a pinch?
"We see him a little bit more as a stack backer – just playing inside."
You passed on taking an offensive tackle again. Did you give that a hard look at all, or did you decide at pick No. 65 that's it's not a position you want?
"Again, this guy was the top player on our board for a while now. As every pick ticks off, and he remains there at the top of your board, at that point it doesn't matter so much what the other positions were that you liked, because here's an area of need that we identified, here's a player we targeted from the get-go as today started. So when he stays there on the board all the way to 65, you take him. And it was an easy conversation at that point; (actually) there was no conversation at that point — it was, 'How quickly can I make the phone call?' We knew who we were taking. It's more so to do with Logan Wilson than the other positions."
Is he more of a mid-second round guy than a third-round guy?
"We certainly felt that he could've gone much higher than he did."
How much did your Senior Bowl experience help you?
"Yeah, it helps with a guy like Logan Wilson, because really what you walk away from the Senior Bowl with is guys you really like. it's a no-brainer — (you see) character, work ethic, intangibles because you've got a chance to spend time with them. Even though we didn't coach him, you were around him enough and you watch all of their practices. We got to interview those guys because we swapped (players) with the Lions (for one day). You can start to hold some players and say, 'This is an A-list guy. He's a Bengal.' Then there's guys that you can check right off. They don't have the work ethic, and they've proven that to us. Then there's some guys that fit in the middle that you need to do a ton more research on. Logan was certainly one of those guys we put in that top tier right away. As long as the tape from his college days fits what we saw at the Senior Bowl and the interviews, then this is a guy that we can target and go after."
Do the coaches exchange information, or is that kind of taboo at the Senior Bowl?
"You like not to. Because if there's a guy you love, and maybe another team doesn't spend a lot of time with him, you hate to share that. We do our best to protect that information."
Did you figure from the meetings and time spent with him that he was a good learner?
"Yeah, and you do get a chance to swap (rosters) with (the other team) the Friday before the game, so we got to spend more time with the North team than, say, the Seahawks or the 49ers, and teams that weren't there. We got a chance to spend a lot of time with him as a coaching staff, and he's one of the guys we walked away from saying, 'Let's make sure the tape matches what we feel this week, but he's a guy that can really help us.'"
When you do that swap, obviously you can't spend time with everyone in the interviews. Was Wilson an interview that you were involved with?
"No. It was tricky with the timing, so our coaches kind of had to catch him right as the time was concluding. I didn't get to spend time with him there, because I couldn't get with everybody. Those guys walked away, and that was a very meaningful interview to them. We all sat down the Monday after the game, and took notes on every player from the game so we didn't forget. He was one of the guys that really stuck out that we had high regard for."
You're still pretty thin at that position. Do you still view linebacker as a position of need?
"Yeah, it's an option for us. Again, we're looking for value. We signed Josh Bynes in free agency, so we feel like we've added players there that are going to help us, and it takes the stress off of that need to an extent. Now that we're in the fourth, fifth, sixth round, if the right player is there at the position that we have value for, we feel comfortable taking him."
How do you see him fitting in from a leadership standpoint? It seems like he's a three-down linebacker...
"That's how we wrote him up. When you're a captain, and you've played in that many football games... I can't say that I know him too well. You've got to go off of what the coaches at Wyoming have told us, and what our own coaches have learned of him through their conversations. But when a guy is a captain as many times as he is and has played as many football games as he has at a high level, you've got a pretty good sense that you're adding the right type of leader to your building."
Would you say he's your only three-down linebacker right now?
"I wouldn't go that far. We'll get a chance to watch these guys compete, and we'll see how it shakes out for us."
Based on this pick, was it worthwhile coaching in the Senior Bowl just to uncover a guy like this and get extra time with him?
"Yeah. If you get a guy that you're willing to stand on the table for, and it all started there in January, then absolutely that process was worthwhile. We've got four more rounds to go, so we'll see how it all shakes out."
Do you think you're done making picks for the day?
"(Laughs) I feel like anything I say is about to be twisted right now. We'll sit back and enjoy and see what happens."
Do you want to move back up into the third round?
"I don't think we ever want to take any of our options off the table. We've got the first pick in the fourth round, and we'll spend time talking through it. We'll sit around and see what happens."
After the first round, the fact that you could come out of the next two picks with a highly rated receiver and linebacker, could you have envisioned that last night when you went to bed?
"Best case scenario – truthfully. This was the best-case scenario. As we came into today, if you said that we were going to get a receiver and a linebacker that we had at the top of our board, and we're going to get both of them, I would've thought you were crazy. I thought you probably would've had to trade back and then up, but the way it happened for us today staying firm at 33 and 65, it's surprising that it worked out for us. But nonetheless, we're thrilled."
Was there any nervousness on your end when Mississippi State LB Willie Gay Jr. and a few other linebackers got selected a couple picks before?
"Seattle was right in front of us, and they already took a linebacker so they had a good crew there. We were hopeful that they were going to stand firm. Then they traded to Carolina right before us. With Kansas City, we thought there'd be a chance (that Wilson would be taken). We were waiting for Logan, so to see another one come off the board was exciting for us. You guys should sit in this room with me and feel the excitement as the five minutes are counting down (laughs). It's me and Wilson (Bengals network analyst Wilson Medder) hanging out here, so I don't get to enjoy it with anyone else. But there are some pretty tense moments here."
Were both Higgins and Wilson the top rated players at their positions when you selected?
"I don't want to go too into detail with the actual draft slots we had them in. We felt Tee Higgins was a first-round pick, so him being there at 33 was really exciting for us. We think he's fit going to fit in with what we do well. With Logan Wilson, we walked into the first day of the draft and said, 'Somehow, someway we're going to end up with him on our team.' You don't really care where you take him, because you're planning on him coming in and playing a big role. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what round you get him. We're just thrilled to add Joe, Tee, and Logan. To us, this is as good as it could have gone up to this point."
Is there a feeling that there are some still highly rated picks on the board?
"There's no question. There will be some guys that we'll have higher than fourth-round grades on (when we pick in the fourth round), the way it's shaking out. I can't wait to get caught up when this (news conference) ends. That's my favorite part: to run through and see what picks I missed. I'm sure there's going to be some good value at the top of the fourth round."
With Wilson not playing linebacker until college, how far back do you go when looking at a player's development?
"There's plenty to watch from this year and last year. I can't speak for our defensive coaches about how far back they go. We have a lot of prospects we watch. These guys have certainly done a thorough evaluation of watching every single piece of tape they can get their hands on. This is a position that (linebackers coach) Al Golden and (senior defensive assistant) Mark Duffner did a ton of work on in this draft. Between our scouting department and Duke, it was a great job by everyone in the building to rank these linebackers. We got one we're really excited about."
Is there an emphasis to add to your defense when you see a team in your division like Baltimore load up on offensive pieces?
"No. We don't let that impact us right now. Certainly you have to be thinking throughout this process about what it takes to win this division. There's no question about that, because it does factor into a lot of things. But we do not react to what's happening over this three-day period with other teams."
Was Wilson or anyone else in consideration at pick No. 33?
"It really doesn't matter at the end of the day where they got picked. If we took him at 33, we would have all been very happy about it. They all have to come in and prove themselves. We identified a guy we think can come in and do a great job for us."
Is it fair to say that you feel much better about the team on and off the field this year than you did last year?
"I think that's fair to say. You do your best to research certain players and watch all of the tape of your current roster. Until you get your hands on them, spend a whole year with them and go through adversity with them, it's impossible to have the same sense then that you do now of what you need, what guys do best, and what pieces of the puzzle to add. The people that have been in the building previously have done a great job of communicating all of that to us. Certainly since the season ended, we've been on the same page about how we need to attack this offseason. So far, we've been really excited about it."
How did Wilson play in the Senior Bowl? How do you evaluate that?
"There are times in the Senior Bowl you try not to overreact to what you see. Things are pretty regulated and simple, especially if you watch tackles or defensive ends. There's no games. With linebackers, it's a little generic — there's no pressures, no coverages to go through. You're looking for traits, a chance to see a guy up close and what his reaction skills are. How quickly can they retain a playbook and that information over the course of the week? We didn't get to do that with Logan, but we got to ask questions about it. That's one of the tools of the process you utilize. You go back and reference the game tape from the course of their season. That's what we want. Then we get a chance to interview them and get a sense of their personality and football IQ. Then you use all the tools — all-star games, the combine, the pro days — as references to check the boxes. You try not to overreact to any of them."
If there are other players you see sliding, how tempted will you you be to move back into the third round tonight and grab them?
"That's one way to look at it. Or you can stay firm like you have, and guys have fallen to us that we've been excited about. You guys are going to have to stay up all night and see what happens."
You guys haven't spent a pick on an offensive lineman yet. Does that show confidence in your current offensive line?
"We're confident in the guys in this building. There have been two players today that were there for us that can help us in different ways. We're counting on those offensive linemen that are here to continue to improve. Some other guys are getting healthy. The second year in a scheme will certainly do wonders for a lot of those young guys as well. There's no question we have to make improvement there. We're not going to hide from that."
Has there been any dialogue in terms of trading back?
"It's very similar to identifying who we're going to take with the first pick in the draft. We didn't rush the decision. We had time, so we might as well use it. You don't have to hurry up and make a decision by noon today. But ultimately, we started today with Tee Higgins, who's an unbelievable pick at 33. Then we end the day with Logan, so that's something we're all on board with. Even if you know that the guy is the pick, you still don't want to rush the decision and make sure you take on all the information."