First, let us know what you’ve been doing with yourself over the Summer between camps?
I’m down here in West Palm Beach with my family. I’m working out in the Florida heat – it gets hot in Pittsburgh but not like here. It’ s a different type of heat. I’m working out in Boca Raton – running and lifting twice a day.
You started off at a small school – Towson State. Why there and how did you progress from a small school environment to making it in the NFL?
I had no D1 options- no offers. I did get into FIU but they pulled the offer because I took too long to commit. I looked then at Hofstra and UMass and visited both. I was born and raised in New York so I chose Hofstra. They cut their football program though after my freshman year and so I transferred to Towson. Some guys go the JUCO route then to D1 schools. But I knew guys from my conference like Jermon Bushrod and Marquis Colston made it to the NFL. Knowing others took the same route was living proof that you could go to Towson and live your dream.
After a short stint signing as an undrafted free agent in Buffalo you ended up in Pittsburgh – why Pittsburgh?
I was in Buffalo in 2013 training camp and made it to the last cuts. I sat out the whole year after that. I got a few calls but no workouts. After the season, in 2014, the Steelers brought me in for a workout. I had a great workout and they signed me.
What did they tell you you needed to do to make the team?
The Steelers keep it real. They just told me what I needed to work on. I did all I could do in 2014, but it was a numbers game. As a player there’s always room for improvement. It’s a business – you can’t be complacent. Your spot on the roster is lost if you are.
Last season though you not only made the roster, you started a couple of games and contributed throughout the season. What was that like – did you think about it from the standpoint of a guy that was out of football two years ago and now contributing on a team that was one game from the Super Bowl?
Absolutely. It’s all God working. Everything happens for a reason. I was blessed to start and play safety. They trusted me an I was able to contribute to get a win and show what I could do.
Do you think fans understand the stress some guys have to go through to make a team – and how do you personally handle the stress?
I think some fans do – some are blind to it. They go to games and have fun. But some fans know the business side of it.
It’s stressful. We have families and you don’t know where you’re going to be. You can only control what you can control and what you can control you have to go at it 100%.
Who helped you when you first came to the Steelers to adjust to the NFL not only on the field but as a professional?
Mike Mitchell as an NFL vet helped me a lot. Especially as a safety and a guy who didn’t have an easy road to make it in the NFL – he was under-rated when he started out. He was living proof for me. Rob G. (Golden) was also living proof as an undrafted free agent. Harrison to – to see where he is today. And Moats – he was with me in Buffalo too – or I should say I was with him! We clicked off right sway in Buffalo and we both signed with the Steelers around the same time in 2014. He was another small school guy.
A lot of undrafted free agents find success in Pittsburgh. As one, why do you think Pittsburgh has so much success with these guys?
I think from the GM to Coach Tomlin to the scouting department, they all worked their way to the top. All have that hunger throughout the building. Tomlin was a small school guy too – he played in the same conference I did so probably knew the talent there. I think they just know people need an opportunity and a chance, They keep guys on the practice squad working and develop those guys.
Shifting a bit – tell me a bit about some of the humor and funny experiences you’ve had with the team.
There’s not much hazing – that[‘s just the way we are. In camp we have rookie night and all have to do one skit. You have to be at least involved with one. Each year we get on Tomlin – it’s the one time we can have fun with that. The funniest moment I remember is from last year, right before the rookie skit. Cam Heyward tried to sit down in a chair and it broke – snapped into pieces. We all laughed at him after that!
I spoke with Demarcus Ayers and a few others guys last week and they had some good things to say about how the defense looked early on. Any thoughts?
I think it’s just experience, We had three rookies last year who really stepped up. A year later they are more experienced and the communication escalated. That’s really the big thing – the communication.
Speaking of those rookies. They brought in a few new guys again this year and drafted Davis last year, Despite progressing to a starting spot last season, you have more competition to make the team. How frustrating is that for you?
It’s frustrating yeah – but it motivates me. There was something they didn’t see in me and I need to work harder to prove I’m that guy. Like I said earlier you can’t be complacent. No matter what round you were drafted in you gotta be hungry. So it just motivated me. I love competing – you can only control what you can control.
As they say, everything I do is on film and the film is my walking, breathing resume. There are thirty-one other teams watching the film – so that’s my resume.
But I’m just thankful to be a Steeler now. I hope to be a Steeler for the rest of my career.
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