I've talked to Seattle's offensive line coach on multiple occasions, and I'm actually familiar with him. He was the offensive line coach at Vanderbilt when I visited coming out of high school, so I guess it's a small world. I really like him a lot – he's a great guy. Seattle's offensive line is arguably the best in the NFL. They did an incredible job last year blocking for Shaun Alexander and keeping [Matt] Hasselbeck clean back in the pocket, so I'm really proud of the fact that they want me to come out there and give it a shot and try to join the organization. I think it's a great opportunity for me and I'm thankful for that opportunity. I'm going to go out there and give it my best to make the team, and to show the teams that passed on me that they should have taken me when they had the chance.
I've signed a two-year contract. According to my agent, it's actually a very good contract. It's a rare contract for undrafted free agents. It's one of those things that doesn't come around too often, as far as contracts go, especially one as developed as this. So I'm really happy with that. They really made me a very nice offer, so I just have to go out there and show them why they should want me on the team and not disappoint them.
I'm heading out to Seattle this week for the rookie camp. It's a three-day camp, so I'll fly out on Thursday and work out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then I'll have a week or so off, and then I'll turn around and head back to Seattle. I'm going to do the voluntary workouts that are optional for most players. I've decided that it's something very important for me to do – to be out there and do the rookie workouts and things like that. I want to try to get familiar with some of the players and get into their program as fast as I can and start to prove myself. It's like being a freshman in college again. You have to work your way up through the ranks. I understand the role as a rookie, and I'm willing to accept that again. I'm really excited to go and work out with those guys and try to prove early that I definitely deserve to be there. It's something that I really want to do.
I haven't had a chance to talk with my teammates, as it was a little intense at my house this weekend. I've heard through the grapevine about some of the guys getting picked up. When I saw Chase's name get taken off the board, I was incredibly happy for him. I think as soon as I saw his name called, I grabbed my phone and sent him a text message telling him congratulations. I was sure his phone was going to be ringing off the hook, so I didn't want to bother him. Tommy Davis actually called me a little bit after the draft was over, after I had just signed with Seattle, and told me that he had just signed with New Orleans. We've been workout buddies, so I was really excited for him. He's worked as hard as anybody for this thing, so I think he's going to do a great job for the Saints. I've also heard that Matt [Baker] signed with Houston, but I haven't had a chance to talk with him. He's a good friend as well, so I'm sure he's excited and I'm looking forward to talking with him about it.
I signed with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. They called pretty much right after the draft was over.
Going into the draft, there was a lot of speculation as to where I would go and how things would work and what teams were interested. There were a lot of projections that had me going in this round to this team, some of which were projecting me as high as the third round. Most of the sites had me going anywhere from the fourth round to the sixth, and a few even had me in the seventh. There was a lot of hype surrounding me heading into the draft. I had some really good showings at the Bengals pro day and the pro day here at UNC, so going into it there were a lot of expectations. I was really looking for some good things and not necessarily to hear my name called early. I was more expecting second day news. Oddly enough, I had talked to my mom on Friday and I told her that I had a really weird feeling and suspicion that I wasn't going to get drafted. Kind of an unexplainable thing, I guess. It's a feeling I've had a few times before, and usually I've been right. One of them was that I wasn't going to get invited to the combine, and then I wasn't invited. So I guess I'm two-for-two on the strange premonitions. Unfortunately, they're not good premonitions, but that's just the way it goes.
But despite the strange feeling I had, we still kept a lot of good faith, and we were looking for the best out of it. We sat there watching pick-by-pick, and my dad had prepared a lot of charts that had the teams mapped out that were interested in me and teams that had called me on the phone and told me that I was high on their draft boards. You go pick-by-pick and watch and just hope your phone rings, but the phone never rang during the draft. That's just one of those things I had to sit there and deal with. You hear the picks announced and your phone never rings, and all you can do is deal with it. It was tortuous on Day 2 having to watch and see it, especially having the feeling that I was one of the better guards in the draft. It wasn't a very enjoyable thing, to be quite honest, to watch those things go on. You're just kind of helpless.
But as we sat there as a family and discussed it, I would have rather not been selected in the seventh round and just be picked up as a free agent because then I would at least have some sort of choice as to where I could go. At that point, I would know that the team that called me on the phone as a free agent would be interested in me legitimately joining their team, instead of just pulling my name off their draft board as the next best option that they had.
I'm very fortunate in the fact that I got my wish. The Bengals called me during the seventh round and said that they may take me with their last pick or that they would look at me in free agency, and then immediately following the draft, Seattle called and expressed great interest in me. They had drafted one guard, and that was all the room they had at that position, but they definitely wanted me and would have possibly drafted me, if they had another slot available. But they had other needs that had to be filled, which I understood. They were excited to have me possibly joining their team, and they made the best offer and provided the best opportunity, as far as numbers on the depth chart and potentially making the team, so that's what I chose to do.
There have been a few families that I just want to say thank you to for their kindness and support. In particular, all of the families that tailgate with my parents before and after the games. They've been really great to my family. And we just want to give a personal thank you to all of those families, as they've really done a great job of making me and my family feel comfortable and welcome down here. It's been a pleasure knowing those people. It's made this whole experience a lot easier with all of their support. And I especially have to give a shout out to Corey Willis, who is in high school and a member of one of these families. He and his family are huge Carolina fans and he's also a big fan of Inside Carolina.
I've talked with Chase [Page] a little bit about the process. He and I are on different schedules because he had a second chance at a pro day last week, so we haven't talked much recently. I know he got up with the Chargers last week, and apparently that went very well.
In his article on IC last week, he made a comment abut how he wanted to make sure to see where some of his teammates go if they get picked. I'm the same way -- I'm really pulling for those guys. They make good impressions. I've been with those guys for four years and have seen how hard they work, and I know there is no one else in the country that's worked as hard as they have. We've had a really hard-working team, so I hope the best for those guys. They're the same way, as well. Everyone has talked about the draft to each other and about succeeding at the next level. I think they'll do great, no matter where they end up, but at this point no one knows if we'll be drafted or not. We're all hopeful heading into the weekend.
I'm going to be at my house with my family in Cincinnati to watch the draft. A couple of my friends are going to be there, too. Some guys from school, and then a couple of friends from back home in high school that have been my best friends for a long time. We've all kept in touch and stuff, so it's important to them, as well. They've always kept up with my career no matter where I was at, so they're going to be there along with my family. It should be a really good time and it should be a lot of fun.
There are a lot of good things going on this week. A bunch of teams have actually called me and told me that I'm high up on their draft boards, and that they've got my contact information if they need it. They've also said to be ready to show up at their training camp if they call my name out. The Seattle Seahawks called on Monday, and San Diego and the New York Giants have also called. My agent has been in contact with the Bears and the Saints, and now possibly the Titans, too. And I think the Bengals came away with a good impression after the workout last week, so there are a lot of teams that have interest in me. Hopefully a few more will call and let me know that I'm up on their boards and that they're looking hard at me. So we'll see how it goes, but it's been a real positive week.
It's an exciting time for everybody. I'm personally going to be glued into the draft on both days this weekend. I've loved watching the draft since I was a kid. I remember, even before I knew what the draft was about, sitting down with my brother pretty much the entire first day and writing down every single team and who they picked, and what school they were from and what position they played. So we've really been into the draft since we were kids. It doesn't matter which day I'm picked on. A lot of people have me as a Day 2 guy, while some people have me as early on as a late first day choice in the third round. It doesn't matter to me whether or not I was guaranteed a Day 2 pick and there was no chance of me being a first day pick -- I'd still watch the first day action.
The workout with the Bengals went very well. It went 100 times better than anybody could have expected. I think for as well as I feel like I did at our pro day, [Tuesday's] workout went much better.
We showed up at about 7:30 in the morning. We went in and they showed us a little bit of the facilities, and let us meet some of the guys that we were going to be working out with that day. There were about 15-20 prospects there for the workout, including three other offensive linemen – Pat Ross from Boston College, Zach Strief from Northwestern and Rob Smith from Tennessee. Family and agents were not allowed at the workout, so it was just the players and the coaches. After getting dressed, we went straight into a medical type thing, where the trainers checked out previous injuries, x-rays and things like that. They were just making sure that everyone was in shape and that no one was hiding any injuries that had not been reported earlier. That probably took up at least an hour or hour-and-a-half-plus of time, just getting the medical side of things taken care of. That's something that you know is going to happen, so it's not a big deal.
After that, we got about an hour-and-a-half off, during which we took another quick tour of the facility, and actually got to meet Marvin Lewis, which was great. I hear a lot about him, being from Cincinnati, and with him being the head coach. So it was good to meet him and shake his hand, and to put a body with a face that you always see on TV, so that was a reward to meet him. You can just feel the power that he has when he walks into a room. I got a really good vibe from him as a coach. Now I understand all the media reports about him taking control of the team. I can really understand what it is that they are talking about.
Following that, we hung out and sat in the players' lounge, just goofing off and playing video games, watching TV, shooting pool – whatever it was that you wanted to do. Then we went outside and performed the position drills for the coaches, which was one of the primary reasons that we were there – to show off our football skills. That was a really important part of the day. I think I did a good job doing the drills. I definitely can't complain about how I did. I received a lot of compliments from the offensive line coach. It was only about a 20-25 minute workout, so it wasn't too hard, but it was really physical for the time we were out there doing it. It got tough in stretches, but nothing overwhelming.
After that, we came back inside and had lunch with the coaches. We sat around and talked, and they asked if we wanted to meet with the position coaches, provided those coaches wanted to meet with us. The offensive line coach did want to meet with us, and that's when we did the other part of football evaluation, which is understanding the football smarts that you have. To see what it really is that you know about the game, and I think that was one of my strong points. We had to go and sit down in the meeting room with the coach, and he went through what they called their defenses and how they labeled their defenses. He expected us to memorize them in less than probably two minutes. We had to memorize multiple defenses, basically three defenses with four variations each, so it was up to 12 different combinations. It was a tough test. But I did really well. As a matter of fact, I believe I was the first one to finish each of the defenses when he told us to write them on the board. I wrote the defenses perfect each time, and each time they were correct. So I came out of that meeting feeling like I did a nice job. I really showed my understanding of the game of football. Instead of just being able to play the game well, I showed that I understand what the game is about. That was basically the full day, as we were released shortly after that.
One of Coach Bunting's things when he first came back to North Carolina was to change the culture around here, and I think he's doing a fantastic job in that regard. The fans have really come alive here in the last year or so, probably starting with the Miami game [in 2004]. They came alive for that one. I've felt that game was one of the big turning points when fans started getting back on the bandwagon. A lot of people were criticizing us for fan support, but that was one of the best games that I've ever been a part of as a player, in terms of fans being part of the game. I think that's a credit to Coach Bunting and the staff, as well as the players. Everyone around here has bought into the thinking that we're going to get this thing turned around, and it starts with the head coach. He's done a great job of leading and believing and doing what he says. And, I think he has some great assistant coaches around him that believe in it, too.
My family is doing fine with this process. I think my dad is a little nervous about it. This is a really big deal for me and my family, and rightfully so that they're nervous about it. This is obviously a once-in-a-lifetime situation – it's not like everyone has a son or a brother that has an opportunity to play in the NFL. They're really proud of me, and they can feel some of the same pressures that I'm feeling. It's tough, but we're going through this whole thing together, so I can understand and sympathize with their concerns as well. They've been great. They stop by and visit whenever they have time and they are very supportive of me, so that's all I can ask.
I come from a very athletic family. My dad was a good athlete, both in high school and in college. He played three sports in high school – wrestling, baseball and track. He dabbled a little in football, but he didn't like it quite as much as the other ones. My mom is also a good athlete, although back then there were not as many opportunities for women to play sports. She played recreational softball, and my dad actually coached one of her teams in college, so that's kind of a funny story. They are both very active.
Same thing with my brother. He played football all through high school, and received a partial scholarship to play at Whittenburg University in Ohio. Unfortunately, he blew his knee out during training camp before he was heading into what was apparently a starting spot. And my grandfather on my mom's side actually played baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization, so there are athletes all throughout this family.
My brother will appreciate me saying this – he's just about as good as any of the websites and stuff out there about people projecting and being up on their information. He calls me on a daily basis with the updates on how everyone did at workouts and what everyone was doing, and how things are looking. He's really into this stuff, and he has been very supportive. I think he knows how much I appreciate him doing those things for me. It's been really fun to have him seriously into this, and to have him along for the ride.
There's been a lot of good things going around the rumor mill about my stock
moving up, so that's encouraging to me as a player and to my family and
agent. But as far as workout invites go, it's still just the Bengals that have
extended one. I go up next Tuesday to work out for them. I'll actually fly
home on Monday to visit my family, and then meet the team officials on
I guess it's surprising [that more teams haven't contacted me]. You always
think that when you receive accolades that things will happen for you. You
work hard to earn honors and then when opportunities don't come along, it's kind of
discouraging, but you can't get down about it. I'm proud of the fact that I
was first-team All-ACC this past season and second-team the year before, but
I've always gone with the belief that you don't deserve anything. Just
because I made those teams doesn't mean that I deserve to be invited to
these workouts, as it is the teams' decisions. It's one of those things that if I
earn a spot to workout, then I'm going to go there and do my best, and try
to show them that it was a good choice to extend me a personal invite. So
it's a little discouraging, but you've got to keep working and moving
One thing I would tell the readers is that the team really appreciates the interest, especially with the recent changes in the coaching staff. I'm on IC pretty regularly – just about every day during the season. Most of the guys are. It gives us confidence to know that people are following every little detail that's going on with the team so closely.
For the next few weeks, it's going to be keeping up with my schoolwork and I've got to keep working in the weight room to stay in shape. Hopefully, some of the teams will invite me to their individual workouts. The Cincinnati Bengals have already invited me to workout on April 18th, so I'll have to fly home for that one. There's been a lot of good news from a lot of teams, so we're hoping that when all of the Division I-A schools' pro days are over, and the teams begin handing out personal invites for workouts, I'll get a few calls. But in the meantime, I'm going to keep working hard and keep myself strong in case I'm invited. My agent is keeping me up-to-date on what teams are making contact about me, so that helps to build up confidence.
Each team has its workouts at different times, and apparently they'll work the times out for whenever you can get out there. That's easiest so that none are conflicting. I think each team only gets about 20 invites, so you have to be one of those 20 that they want to look at a little more closely. The college pro days are the scouts' first look at the players, so they'll take that information and break it down, and say "Well, this kid did real well, let's get a closer look at him" or maybe "This guy didn't look so good, so let's not invite him." I'm not sure when the last pro day will be, but I think here at the start of April will be when the invites go out.
I've heard there were scouts from every NFL team at our pro day. A couple of us tried to count them, but they were all packed in there together, so we couldn't count them up too well. From what the reports are, though, there was a scout from every NFL team present, which is fantastic.
The pro day is set up as a personal interview with these NFL scouts. They're talking to you – they are around you for three-and-a-half hours plus at this thing, and they want to see what kind of person you are. They want to pick your brain a little bit, and on top of that, they want to see you perform well in these drills, to see if you can perform under pressure and to see if you can do the job that you're supposed to do.
The most important measurable for offensive linemen is actually something that cannot be measured, and that is performance in the position drills. I was fortunate enough that I tested well in the other things, like the forty and shuttle. However, I was disappointed in my bench press. I got 28 reps but one was discounted. Still, that was lower than what I've been doing during the entire spring workouts. I've hit 31 reps pretty consistently, and for just some reason that day I couldn't get to 31. Things like that are frustrating – things that I've done so well and know that I can do so well, but 27 reps was still pretty good. The scouts timed me in the forty at 5.16 and 5.18, which are both great times. I know NFL.com posted my time as like a 5.25, but I think the scouts wrote down a 5.18. I'm happy with those times.
The one thing I think they'll decide from those types of things is what cannot be measured with the position drills. When an offensive line scout is working offensive linemen out, he wants to see how well the prospect can use his hands, and move his feet, and how well he can react. Those things are not measurable by any statistic or by how high you can jump or anything like that. That's just measuring your football ability, how well you play the game and how well you use the assets that you've been given, so I feel like I excelled in those drills.
Since Coach Hunter has been in San Diego, I have not spoken with him yet. We talked a lot before he left about a multitude of things. One of those topics was that he said he was not really sure how this whole thing is going to work out, with him being in the NFL and me being a prospect. I told him that I understand that business is business and that's how things go. If it works out that we're not able to talk or that he's just really busy with trying to get settled into his new position and trying to get his family out there, then I also understand that and it's fine with me. We both understand the process.
I went out to watch the guys at spring practice last Monday, and I was able to meet Coach Weber. I really like him, and I think he's going to be good for the guys. He's got them working hard and he's really intense and coaches them up hard. I liked the way he was conducting himself and running their practice. I think he's going to do a great job.
Not long after the end of the season, my agent put me into a workout program at a facility in Cincinnati over Christmas break. I worked out there for about a month or so, focusing on speed-training, lifting, flexibility – things like that – in preparation for the possible upcoming combines.
I had to come back to school to take my spring semester so that I can graduate on time in four years. I ended up falling 10 credit hours short of graduating in December. The most important thing is graduating from this University because it's a well-respected place and that's always been my main focus.
During the semester, Coach Conners took a group of us and really challenged us – it was a really tough spring. He put us through workouts and running and agility drills and really took it as a personal challenge for us to have the best possible pro day that we could have when the scouts came down, and also to get us ready for the combines, if any of us were fortunate enough to go. He did a great job for us – I'm grateful to him for doing that. The hard work paid off, as the guys that were here really had a great showing at pro day.
I had pulled a muscle in the bottom of my foot while home over Christmas, and it stiffened back up when we started working out at school. It was really frustrating because it kept me out of some workouts for quite awhile, because I had to rest it up. It was one of those injuries where if you let it rest for a few days, then it would feel fine and you would go out on it. But, with any work that I did, it just flared right back up again. So I had to take a lot of time off from running and activities like that, but I bounced back pretty well. It was frustrating because I'm not a guy that likes to miss workouts, and I felt bad not being able to get out there with the guys that have been my friends for four years. That was really the only setback that I had, and everyone stayed relatively healthy.
After the Virginia Tech game, I took a little down time for myself and let my body relax and recover from the long season. I think everybody that has played football understands that it's something that you have to do for yourself. Clear your mind and let your body heal itself. So I took about a week or so off.
The next order of business was to pick an agent. That was the most pertinent thing at that time. My father and mother had been working on that throughout the season, as I elected to not deal with that process on the advice of Coach Hunter, so that I could focus on what it was that I needed to do during the season, which was to prepare for the opponent. I may have not been able to perform well with all that other stuff on my mind. It's tough enough to balance college football and school, let alone the agents and other people that would have been calling. Basically, I left that search to my parents. They did a great job handling it for me. When the time was right for me to decide what it was that I wanted to do, we already had a list narrowed down and ready to go.
From that point, it was a pretty quick process. I chose Brian Redden as my agent within a week or so, and I'm incredibly happy with that choice. He's pretty much a liaison between me as a player and the NFL teams when it comes time to talk business. I'm lucky that my agent is also like a friend to me. He's a guy that I talk to all of the time. I probably talk to him three or four times a week, even if it's not football-related. We'll talk about recent basketball games and that kind of thing.
My relationship with my agent is probably a little different than other players with their agents, and I'm really fortunate in that. That's one of the reasons that I chose him. He's from my hometown in Cincinnati, and he actually graduated from my high school, so we have a good relationship. As a professional, his job is to get my name and my film in the hands of NFL teams, and to be able to market me, as I can't do that myself. He's doing a fantastic job of that right now.
Coach Bunting has been extremely valuable to me as far as marketing me as a player and putting my name out in the coaching circles. He's played in the NFL and was successful for a good many years. He's also coached in the NFL for quite a few years with a few different teams, so he's got a lot of connections throughout the league.
That was one of the reasons that I decided to come to UNC in the first place, and now it's really beginning to pay dividends -- that he's an honest guy and a straight shooter. He's not going to lie and tell people what they want to hear. If he didn't believe that I could play in the NFL, then he wouldn't tell the scouts and coaches that I could. Those people understand that, and I think they know that he's a straight shooter and he's not going to mislead them about what kind of player that I am.
Someone like Coach Bunting that possesses a strong word and has the connections that he does in the NFL is only going to help me earn a spot in the league.
It became apparent to me that I had the chance to play professionally shortly after my junior year. We had a good season and we won some big games on a national stage, and a lot of guys on our team were able to get their names out there.
I had played well enough to be named second-team All-ACC by the Associated Press and first-team All-ACC by ESPN. A lot of things started flying around about how I could go to the NFL if I came back and had a successful senior season. That was probably the point in time that the NFL became an attainable goal for me.