Defensive end, Tulane
What was your initial reaction to getting the call by the Bengals that you were their next selection?
"Man, it's just exciting. I'm just so blessed to be in this situation. I'm blessed to get picked up. It's just a bunch of emotion."
Did you have a lot of conversations with the Bengals before today? You won Defensive MVP at the Senior Bowl. Did you talk to them there?
"Yes sir. I talked to Coach Duffner (Bengals senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner) a bunch of times — about two or three times — after the Senior Bowl. We stayed in contact throughout the whole process."
What are the Bengals getting in you as a player and person?
"As a player, I give my all. I think I'm versatile. I can sack the quarterback from a variant of alignments, and I'm pretty good against the run. But as a person, they're getting a guy that's all in with the city. I'm just happy to be a part of the organization."
Some of the words scouts used to describe you are "bully," "violent" and "loves to hit." Is that a fair description of you as a player?
"Yeah, definitely. Football is a violent sport. That's the only way to play it. So I'm going to be a big bully, I'm going to be nasty and I'm going to hit people, for sure."
What did the Senior Bowl do for your confidence? Did you need that confidence booster?
"I'm very confident in my ability. I think it just reassured things for some other people, but not necessarily myself. It was definitely good to get out there and compete against very highly regarded guys from 'power-five' conferences, just to know how my game translates at that level."
What did you want to specifically show scouts at the Senior Bowl?
"The main questions coming in were, 'Does my game transfer to a 'power-five' level?' And, 'How would I fare against the big offensive linemen?' I just feel like me coming in and checking those boxes, showing I can play with those guys did it for me."
Have you ever met DE Joseph Ossai, whom the Bengals selected before you yesterday in the third round?
"No, I've never met him. I'm sure we'll be in contact soon, though."
People have talked about your outside rush ability, but how often did you rush from inside at both Tulane and the Senior Bowl?
"At Tulane, I stated off my first 2.5 or three years playing an inside, far-right technique. It wasn't really until my senior year I switched out. But at the Senior Bowl, they kind of moved me up and down the line. I don't back away from a challenge, so if that's where they wanted to put me, that's where I was going to work at."
Do you have a preference?
"No sir. I feel like I can get to the quarterback from anywhere."
Do you feel your position versatility is your biggest strength?
"Yes sir, definitely."
What do you feel your other strengths are?
"I'm good with my hands, play with good leverage and just play hard from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. I'm just constantly coming at you."
What was your recruiting story like coming into Tulane?
"I think I was a two-star recruit on one website, and a three-star on another. But at the end of my senior year, my three biggest offers were Tulane, Georgia Southern and Western Kentucky. So with Tulane being in the biggest football conference and offering the best education, I just felt it was a no-brainer."
Were there any players as you progressed in football you either admired or emulated on the defensive line?
"Yeah definitely. I kind of watched a lot of guys. Aaron Donald is one of the best, so I always studied him. But I like those versatile guys who can move up and down the line like Cam Jordan, Jason Pierre-Paul, the guys like that. I just study a lot."
How many meetings did you have with the Bengals, and did anything stand out in talking with them?
"I'd probably say about two or three with Coach Duff, and just how genuine he is about the game of football. He's real intentional. You can tell he knows a lot about the game and, the team seems to have a great atmosphere up there. I'm just blessed to be a part of the organization."
What do you need to work on in terms of your game?
"I'm far from a finished product, so I'm looking to get better in every regard. You can always grow as a pass rusher, so that's kind of been the main thing I've been working on."
Your eyes seem to light up at every mention of Coach Duffner. Did you make a connection with him in your meetings?
"Yeah, I think we hit it off well. We talked a bunch on Zoom or on the phone, so we definitely hit it off well."
What's more relentless: Your motor on the field ,or Coach Duffner's pursuit of you as a prospect?
"(Laughs). I'm going to have to go with me, but it's a close second with Coach Duff."
Where are you now?
"I'm home in Atlanta, Ga. with some family."
Do you currently have any friends or guys you know in the NFL?
"Honestly, I'm drawing a blank, but there's a lot of guys in this class that I grew up with. For me, being at Tulane, Darnell Mooney — he went with the Bears. That's probably one of the people I'm closest to in the league."
Did you get the impression from Coach Duffner that some of the things you did at Tulane are going to transfer to the NFL, or is it going to be a big learning curve?
"I think some of the things are going to translate. Coach Duff talked about doing some of the same things I did this year, whether it's maybe dropping (in coverage) a little bit, or rushing from various techniques. I think a lot of the things I did this year will transfer over."
You've gone from two- or three-star recruit to NFL draft pick. What does that rise mean to you?
"It means everything, man. There's been a lot of long, hard days put in on and off the field. It's a blessing to be here but it's just the beginning. I've got my head down, and I'm working for more."
Was there any anxiety for your parents waiting for you to be called and drafted over these past few days?
"Hats off to them. They did a great job raising me. This just as much of their accomplishment as it is mine. I mean, they were there waiting with me and doing all of that, so I'm happy for them. They did a great job raising me."
Defensive tackle, Louisiana State
How do you feel about reuniting with some of your National Championship teammates?
"I feel great. It's getting back to the basics with my brothers."
Did they text you already?
"I talked to Ja'Marr (Chase), not Joe yet. I know Joe is probably busy somewhere. Me and Ja'Marr are very close. We're ready to get to work down there."
What did LSU do for you to prepare you to become an NFL player?
"They taught me well on and off the field. That's what I appreciate about them."
What was the biggest difference between the 2019 season and previous years?
"After the 2018 season, I understood the standards they wanted me to meet. I matured during the spring before the 2019 season. We set our standards on the defensive side. That's why we made it all the way to championship."
What was it like talking to Bengals coaches in the pre-draft process? Did you know they were interested?
"I really didn't. This really shocked and surprised me. But its great to be back with Ja'Marr and Joe. I'm highly blessed and excited to start a new family over there."
How beneficial will it be to have some familiar faces?
"It will be very beneficial seeing their faces and knowing we came from the same place. Getting to work out together, spend more time together, and get more familiar. Hopefully, we can win a lot of games."
Do you consider yourself a nose tackle?
"Yes, but I am universal, so I could also play outside and pass rush. I can bring a lot of traits to Cincinnati."
What techniques do you feel comfortable with?
"From zero to three. I'm universal, so most of the time at LSU I was known for taking up double or triple teams. As long as my linebackers and edges eat, I'm OK. I'm a team player, so that's what counts. But I'm also trying to get some stats for myself too."
Was there a period of soul searching for you after your first few years of college?
"Honestly, yes. It was a time I had to mature. That's when Coach O, Verge Ausberry, and all the staff members locked in with me. I appreciate them for that. It was me being young and they had standards they wanted me to reach. I ended up reaching them halfway through my time there. That's what really helped me out, maturing through the 2019 season."
You have a reputation for showing up in big games. What challenge did the Alabama game present?
"Yes sir. We prepared ourselves throughout the week and weeks before. We had it on our mind when we played Alabama, we were going to bring everything on the table. One thing we for sure prepared for was the defensive line. We knew they were going to try a lot of things against us. When I go into big games, I have a big mindset. A big mindset makes big plays and takes advantage of big opportunities. We got the job done."
Do you know much about the Bengals and the AFC North?
"Not really, but I'm ready to learn. I'm ready to start something new."
Do you remember carrying Joe Burrow off your shoulders?
"Yes sir I remember that."
What's it like to play down in the dirt? What joy do you get from that?
"Ever since a kid, that's all I learned how to do. I played multiple sports such as basketball and baseball, but I fell in love with football at young age. So I stuck with that, played in middle school, (then) high school. Then I had a blessed opportunity to go to any school I wanted. I chose LSU, and it's a blessing now to watch myself grow and take over the leadership of my dad and uncles who played football and now get to go watch me in the next level."
How hard was it to sit out as your friends were playing?
"When I opted out, there were a lot of things I needed to work on. Before I training started, me and my agent sat down and mapped out the things I needed to work out. For myself personally, it was another tab I needed to work on — my maturity. My work ethic, and everything (else), I really worked on. I say to myself, 'you went through the roof.'"
What was your reason for opting out?
"Covid-19. I wanted to play it safe and stay healthy. My grandmother and a few other family members got it. I'm highly blessed they're here with me today, still rolling."
What kind of t-shirt are you wearing?
"NFL-SU. Yes sir."
How important is managing your weight?
"It is very important. Coming in as a freshman in late-April, I went in at 380. I worked my tail off. That's the same time Breiden Fehoko came in as a transfer from Texas Tech. I leaned on him as an older guy. He showed me the ropes, we worked day-in and day-out. By 2019, I dropped my weight down to 346. That's a tremendous goal I set for myself."
What was it like to see your family members react to you getting the call?
"Yes sir, it was very special. We shed a few tears — watched all my family members cry. It shows me I have a huge support system, and I appreciate them for that."
Offensive tackle, East Carolina
Describe your journey from suffering a season-ending injury last year to becoming a Cincinnati Bengal today ...
"For me, first off, getting drafted feels crazy. You get nervous — it's a nerve-racking process. I'm just happy to be a Bengal. The Bengals will get the best of me."
What do you like about the opportunity to play for a team like the Cincinnati Bengals, and how do you see that working well with your skillset?
"This is a great, up-and-coming team (with a) great new, young quarterback. I feel like I can do what I can to just play a part and to help us improve. Anything I can do. I'm going to try and get on the field. I just want to play my part and do what I can as a rookie to be better for the years to come."
You went down to the Senior Bowl and performed at a really high level. Do you think your Senior Bowl week was a big factor in you getting drafted?
"Most definitely. That's what I planned on showing during this 2020 season. Although I didn't get a chance to do that, I got to show a glimpse of it at the Senior Bowl."
What were you dealing with in 2020? You were injured in 2016 as well. Can you tell us about both of those injuries, and what the recovery process was like for each of them?
"In what year also, you said?"
In 2016, if I'm not mistaken ...
"In 2016, I just had an undisclosed injury. Nothing really crazy. I just had to go through the recovery process. In 2020, I had a concussion, and I had to get my knee scoped. So, that's why my season ended prematurely."
How long did it for you during the pre-draft process to start to feel back to form? I know you had a run of consecutive starts for ECU before that ...
"I was good to go with the surgery. I was just having to get to the point where I was recovered to where I could run and do my thing. But that didn't take long at all. Mentally, I was ready to go. I had been preparing myself mentally. That's another thing that hurt me. I had my streak of starts and that ended. But everything worked out in the end."
What was the level of communication with the Bengals like before the draft?
"I talked to the Bengals a good bit during the (process). They came out to our pro day also. I'm just happy they gave me an opportunity, and I'm going to make the best of it."
Do you consider yourself a left tackle? Can you play right tackle? What kind of position versatility are we talking about?
"I'm a lineman. So, I feel like I can play any position, but I feel like I play tackle best."
Sounds like you have quite the celebration going on. Can you talk about what's going on where you are?
"Yeah, so I'm with my family. We've been out here waiting. We're just happy. We've been waiting, so I'm just happy to be here."
Speaking of the waiting, how did you handle all of this time waiting to hear your name called? What did you do to stay busy?
"For me, it's just all about staying positive. I knew my hard work was going to pay off, and I knew whoever got me was going to get a good player and I was going to make the best of it."
Didn't you work with Paul Alexander as well to get ready for this? Obviously, you know the second-round pick (Jackson Carman) pretty well. You guys both worked out with Paul Alexander together?
"I'm not sure. I don't think I worked out with Paul Alexander."
You didn't work out with him?
"No, sir. I worked out at Phase 1 (Phase 1 Sports in Las Vegas, Nevada) and my trainer was Trippe Hale."
The Bengals drafted Cam Sample earlier today. How often did you guys match up in the AAC?
"I matched up with him a few times at the Senior Bowl. I like Cam Sample a lot. He has a high motor. Somebody that's like me who likes to play with a high motor. So, that's someone who's going to push to keep me better every day and he's a great player at that."
I think you have the loudest celebration we've heard through the first four rounds. How many people do you have out there? And you said you've been waiting a long time. Is this what you thought it would feel like when you got the call?
"It is. I'd say there's about 50 people here — friends and family. This is the first time since I've been out of high school, since when I graduated really, where all of these people have come together as one. So, it feels good."
Are you all having a cookout? What's on the menu?
"Fish fries, the cookout. It's crazy. When he called me, I had just sat down with some fish and chicken, some rice and everything. And I'm getting ready to eat."
I hope you have some hot sauce on that fish ...
"Most definitely, and some bread to go with it."
Is your plate in good hands while you do this interview?
"It is. My momma is probably standing right over it."
What do you like out of Cam Sample and Tyler Shelvin?
"I'll start with Cam first. He's a two-time captain with great makeup. He handles his business on the field; he's a disruptive guy. I think he had 40-something pressures last year, which was third, I think, in all of college football. I like the way he goes about it. He can roll in there on the edge and has some flex to move on third downs. We're excited to get him. Tyler is just a big human being who's a very good athlete for a guy that big. Go back and watch some of his play from a couple years ago — he opted out this year. The way he plays, and his physical presence for as athletic and big as he is, we're just super excited to get him. He's going to really help us in the run game."
You must have a theme of taking players from LSU ...
"Well ,they've won a few games. We're excited about those guys. Tyler said he can't wait to get back with Joe (Burrow) and Ja'Marr (Chase)."
Do you feel like you've gotten everything you need this offseason?
"It's very exciting. The organization did a tremendous job in free agency of adding players and depth in the back end. And now in the draft, addressing the front. Last year we did a great job with the linebackers we drafted, so now we're full steam ahead and ready to go. I can't wait to get to work."
How important is flexibility with some of these guys?
"It's huge. It allows you to do different things. We present the offense with different challenges like, 'No. 98 won't always line up on the left side, he moves around.' The more flexibility we have, the more room we have to be creative."
Talk about Shelvin's unique size and skills ...
"If you didn't know how big he was and watched the tape, he looks so light on his feet for a big guy. He has great short-area quickness and excellent strength. Turn on the Georgia game, and he displays that. His rare trait is his movement for his size. He's a physical, tough man."
Sounds like a classic AFC North pick ...
"Sounds good to me."
Is there something about defensive tackles you that you really like guys that excel at stopping the run?
"It starts with that. We have to improve in that area. When you get a guy who's as big as Tyler is, and you can pair him with D.J. Reader, Larry Ogunjobi, Mike Daniels, Renell Wren, Josh Tupou and the rest, you have a formidable front there."
What does D'Ante Smith bring to the table, and was his 2020 injury a concern in selecting him?
"To answer your first question first, he brings length and athleticism with 35-inch arms. He's a really nimble athlete (with) great feet. He's got all the traits you would look for in a tackle, and he's a true tackle. When you get to this point in the draft, you're trying to find things that translate (to the NFL) and things you can work with — (things) you can't teach. You know, 35-inch arms and athleticism are things that guys possess naturally. It's not something (where) you can really just make somebody (have) longer (arms). So (I'm) really excited about that part of his game. Injury-wise, we had no concerns. Everything checked out for us."
Did his strong week at the Senior Bowl convince you of his ability to play in the NFL?
"He had a really, really nice week down at the Senior Bowl. I thought there were a couple of guys that stood out. I spent most of my time down there watching the offensive line, and the two guys that really stood out the most to me were guys that fit us — him and Sample, the defensive end we just took. Those two guys just flashed, and that's probably the best way to put it. He flashed. He flashed all the things you like to see in a tackle and is a guy I'm really excited about adding to the competition of that group."
When you look at the full complement of players you now have on offense, do you feel like you have everything you need to accomplish what you want this upcoming season?
"Absolutely. I love what we have on our roster on offense right now, and I'm really, really excited about what we can do. I think we had a great core of young players, and then you add Ja'Marr Chase into that mix, now we have an element of explosiveness.
"To me, Joe Mixon is one of the best running backs in football. You bring in Reilly Reiff, the veteran tackle, you bring in D'Ante as a guy that's trying to get developed there, and you have great competition with Fred Johnson and Isiah Prince. Jackson Carman jumps inside, and now you've got great competition inside. There's a bunch of guys in there that I feel really good about, and I'm excited about the direction that we can go. The core of it all centers around No. 9. That's exciting to me."
With many of the players at his position having shorter arms, how concerned were you that D'Ante might not make it to where you were able to draft him?
"You know, we had some pretty good grades on him going into this day. We thought that he'd be someone we'd be targeting early, and you never know how each team sees him, especially in this draft. But (given) where the rest of the offensive line ranked across the league, there was a variance of opinions as you talked to guys you know. So there was always a chance that he could go pretty quickly, just because of the of his physical traits that he has — those guys don't usually last really long when it comes down to it. We were thrilled that he was there when he was. We had the chance to get two really good players on defense on the interior, and then (D'Ante) was there for that third pick. We couldn't have been happier."
There has been a lot of chatter about arm length. How much does that matter for tackles? What's your take on what length is required for that position in the NFL?
"It's a good question. Ultimately, you're going to find guys that can succeed (within) the 33-inch range. I think if you start dipping under 30 — 33 inches as a tackle — you lack the length to recover on the edge. Guys get into your chest and you get to pocket collapse. That's generally where the the biggest parts of it are — they don't have the ability to stick their arms out and keep a guy off. And especially with most defensive ends, they give you that long-arm speed-to-power move and it's hard to get him off if you don't have enough length to match it.
"I will say you can match 33-inch arm length with your technique, and that goes a long way as well. It's not a total failure if you have 33-inch arms, but when you see guys with 35- and 36-inch arms, you see the difference on tape. You see their ability to recover faster — their ability to get people off of them and be able to create the space between the quarterback and the rush. So it does matter. It's a factor."
Points matter on offense, obviously. How exciting is it that you landed a kicker like Evan McPherson from Florida?
"Just as an offensive coach, you're (happy) — especially with guys that can hit from long distance. ... I was fortunate I was with Matt Prater in Denver and Detroit, and I think Matt Prater is one of the best kind of plus-50 kickers in football over the last couple of years. It was a huge difference when your field goal range started creeping closer to the 40-yard line (rather) than the 35. That does make a difference. And at the end of the day, if you can move yourself into scoring position and win a game that matters, kickers can win you games. So, anytime we add players that can help us win games immediately, I think, is a great thing for us all the way around. ... Kickers can get much maligned ... it's just just the way it goes for specialists. But any guy that can come in and score points for us, I'm all for (them)."
Assistant head coach/special teams coordinator
Drafting kicker usually means that you expect him to be the starter right away. Is that the case with Evan McPherson?
"Yeah, I think that's why you put draft picks on these guys like this. You expect them to come in and play for you right away. That's what I fully expect with him."
When you look at some of the players drafted this year, do any of them pop off in terms of you're excited to get them on special teams?
"I'm excited with a lot of guys we've taken. I think they've hit us in some good spots, whether it's with (Joseph) Ossai (or whoever), and we're still not done. We've drafted a lot of big guys, so far. I think we've improved the size of our team. So, I don't know how many punts that Jackson Carman is going to cover, but Ossai will help us. We'll give it a shot with Cam Sample, too. Like I said, we're not done yet. We still have several picks to go. That's the beauty of Day 3 for me. We have a heck of a lot of picks; I think seven picks today. We're not done yet."
Evan was pretty much money from inside 40 yards in his career. He kind of struggled in that 40-49 range and made a handful over 50. Is that correctable in your opinion? That 40-49 stuff ...
"Yeah, I think so. When you look at what he did as a freshman (at Florida), he was 89 percent as a freshman. He was 89 percent as a sophomore. This year was actually the worst year of his career, but he made more longer ones. I think he was asked to attempt more longer ones than he had in those other two years. I think those are all correctable things. You have to remember, we're still getting a young guy here. He's a junior who came out early. One of the few pro days that I went to was at Florida. He had a fabulous day down there. He was 21 of 22, with one miss being from 58, I think it was. He has a big leg. He has a lot of positive traits to work with, one of which is that he's super competitive. He rises up in critical spots and tough spots. You want a kicker to obviously be good in clutch situations, and I think that he will show that."
What did you learn from the 2017 battle with Jake Elliot and Randy Bullock that you may take into this one?
"Well, I think the thing that comes into play there is that you can never underestimate the competitiveness of people, and how competitive situations make guys rise up. I think that brings out the best in everybody. I still think — and I know everyone wants to hammer the fact that we didn't keep Jake that year — but even when you look at it statistically, Randy has still as well, if not better, than what Jake has over the course of the same four-year stretch. And that's not a knock on Jake. I think Jake is still going to have a great career. I still think he is a good kicker, but I think it also speaks to the competitiveness of somebody what Randy Bullock is. When you push a veteran player back and you push him into a corner, he's going to come out swinging and he's going to come out fighting. That was a positive thing for him."
Will there be a kicking competition like that? Or is this McPherson's job to lose?
"I think that's something we'll talk about in the coming days. We haven't completely decided on that yet, but I think it's a good conversation to have in the coming days. We just haven't had that yet. There's a lot going on up there right now."
When you're looking at drafting a kicker in the fifth round with some other positions still on the board, what goes into the conversation of making the decision to pull the trigger that early in the fifth, as opposed to waiting?
"It depends on what my position evaluations are of that guy, and how many guys do I think are draftable, and how many guys do I think can improve our situation. There are 32 special teams coaches, and if we're all saying the same thing, it depends on when we pick in that specific round. I've always felt that you have to take a kicker or punter a round higher than what you believe their ability is. I've always felt that way, and I still feel that way. When we had our conversations up there, you have your choice between several different players, and one of them could potentially come in and fight for a backup spot. Or you're talking about drafting a kicker who's potentially your starter, who plays on Sunday and affects the game, and which one has more value. To me, it's the guy that's going to come in and play and start and do those things. So, I think that comes into play there. But like I said before, I think you have to take these guys one round higher. If I believe a guy was a sixth-round talent and all 32 teams in the league believe he is a sixth-round talent, that means for us to have accessibility, you have to take him a round higher than that. There are some teams that I've identified that have a need at kicker, some of which had multiple picks in this round. We felt like we had to stay out in front of those that way, if this is the route we wanted to go to try and bring Evan on."
What is his personality like? I've been teammates with kickers who weren't football guys and teammates with kickers who were football guys. It was just vastly different. What's his range of personality like?
"So, you're saying that Jim Breech is not a football guy? (joking)"
That's definitely a football guy ...
"No, I know he was. I was just giving you a hard time. I think Evan is a really competitive guy. He rises up in tough situations, and that's what you want. You want guys to be competitive. You want good athletes. Let's face it, a lot of these guys are soccer players. They grew up being soccer players. But I think Evan has enough competitiveness to him. Like I said, the pro day at Florida, he had an exceptional day. There were five or six different special teams coaches there watching him. We put him in some tough spots, and I thought he did really well there. He never blinked. I put him through a couple things to try and break his concentration, and it never phased him at all. And so, like I said, I'm hopeful that's what we will get on Sundays."
Has the expectation for a kicker's ability to hit from 50-plus yards dramatically changed over the years? How significant is that in the selection of Evan?
"I think it's a big factor. It's a really big factor. I can remember days back at the Combine when we would finish up hitting field goals from 50 yards. They got three attempts, and if they could make one of the three, you felt pretty damn good that guy was strong. Now, these guys are hitting it over the top of the uprights from 50 yards. And so, 50 yards is the old 40. His long as a freshman was 49, and his long as a sophomore was over 50. I think he made one from 55 this year. I think he missed one from 58 this year that I think he'd tell you was a poor hit. He hit from over 60 at his pro day at Florida. I believe he has enough leg to do the things we'll ask him to do. But it has changed over time for sure."
Do you have a shot at getting your returner in the next couple of rounds?
"Yeah, I think there's one or two left who could help us up there. One specific guy I have my eye on. When this drafting thing comes around, there's so many things that have to fall your way. It's the luck of the draw in some situations like this. Or in situations like with Evan, we felt the need to go up and get the guy we wanted. We did that, and I think it's going to bode well for us in the future."
Do you get a sense of pride being the first kicker off the board?
"I'm super blessed and fortunate for this opportunity. The first kicker off the board means a lot to me. I'm ready to get to Cincinnati, be with the team, and get to work."
You came in as a freshman and made an impact. What gave you the confidence to go out and compete?
"It's all the practice I've put in throughout my whole career. I feel that I'm ready for the next step in my career. I'm kicking the best I ever have right now. I feel really confident going into OTAs and training camps. I'm excited for the opportunity. I feel confident with what I'm doing right now."
Can you walk us through your Pro Day?
"Pro Day was super fun. It was my first interaction with the coaches in person. I knew that day was pretty big, with the coaches seeing me kick in person. I knew I needed to make a good impression. I kicked really well. I talked to Coach Simmons (Bengals assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons) and was super happy with how I performed that day."
You've now been drafted and thus put yourself in position to get the one of only 32 NFL kicker jobs in the world. How does that feel?
"Words can't describe how I feel about it. It's been a dream of mine since I started kicking, and now its here. I'm fired up. I won't stop training until I get that starting spot. I know there's 32 jobs in the world for what I want to do, but it's a goal of mine. To have that opportunity to compete for it, I don't think anything can stop me from getting it."
You put up some ridiculous field goal numbers in college at Florida. What about kicking off? Is that in your repertoire?
"It's what a lot of teams wanted to see from me. Not just leg strength or accuracy, but what can I bring to the table on kickoffs. Can I hit a touchback whenever I needed to? The adjustments I made from the end of the season to now have really helped me. It shows teams I can do that, and it was big for me to show that at my pro day."
Do you have a favorite kicker?
"I watch a lot of guys in the NFL for multiple reasons. A lot of people's favorite kicker is Justin Tucker or Harrison Butker. Justin Tucker is someone everyone looks up to in the kicking world."
There's a video of you online doing the "bottle cap challenge," where you kick a ball from a distance and make the cap of a Gatorade bottle fall off. That looked pretty difficult ...
"The 'bottle cap challenge' was going around at that time. I knew snappers and kickers were doing it. I wanted to do something that topped all of that and get people's attention. It took me around 30 or 40 tries. But as a kicker, you're taught to 'aim small, miss small.' I knew it was just a matter of time until it happened."
Darrin Simmons really liked your clutch nature. Did you have any game-winners in college? Or any favorite kicks that you've had?
"Some of the biggest kicks I had at Florida, they came in the later minutes (of the game). No walk-offs. Either that or at halftime to go up and carry the momentum. But I'm excited for my first walk-off, whenever that will be."
What's the lousiest weather you've kicked in?
"I knew that was something being talked about (laughs). Being from Alabama, it gets kind of cold here in October to December. I played football in those months. Training on my own, I've kicked in January in Alabama when its 35, 40 degrees. I know it gets colder than that in Cincinnati, but I don't think the cold weather will affect me that much. I'm sure I'll adapt to it like anything else. I will say I was spoiled down there in Florida with 70-degree weather year round. I'm excited to get to Cincinnati and get things going."