Q: I saw you move at the combine and you looked pretty smooth out there. I also heard Mike Mayock highlight your bubble butt on the NFL Network. But what was it like for a lesser-known DII prospect to be among top athletes in Indy?
A: It was a great experience overall. I was very fortunate and blessed to be invited to go. When I was there, it just felt surreal that this was something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid. Just to be able to be out there to showcase my talent was a great opportunity.
Q: It was pretty hard to find any footage on you on Youtube since you seem to share the same name with some linebacker from Arizona that played college ball about six or seven years ago. So, since Youtube isn’t doing you any justice, can you describe what you offer an NFL team?
A: I would just say my mentality is that of a hard-working, blue-collar player that brings his hard hat and lunch pail every day and just gives it his all. I’m very physical. I like contact. I like dominating people and getting after them. What separates me from most is my mentality and my refusal to lose.
Q: Most guys are training for speed, but how does an offensive lineman prepare for the combine and pro day since the 40-yard dash has a minimal impact on where you’ll be taken?
A: For me, I was just more so focused on position-specific things and making sure I could look as fluid as possible in all the position drills. For an offensive lineman, the 40 isn’t that big of a thing, but you still have to practice it every day like everybody else. But, at the same time, I just made sure I honed in on position-specific things, so that way when I went on the field, everything would be second-nature and I would just look fluid.
Q: You previously mentioned that your performance at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is what got you invited to the combine. Can you share what it is you did to impress NFL personnel at that all-star event?
A: I think what it was is just coming from a Division II program, they were impressed by how I matched up and played against Division I talent. So, I feel that during the whole week, I was able to showcase enough that I could play Division I players and hold my own against them.
Q: At the bowl game, you were coached by former NFL head coach Mike Martz and NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Slater. Is there one thing that they said or did that really left an impression on you?
A: It was the way they kept telling us how to be a pro…how to handle yourself as a professional athlete. And just how to really carry yourself and hone in on what things to take care of. They mentioned people getting caught up in the moment just playing in the league. They emphasized getting better every day and being fully developed, which is very crucial and just trying to be a professional about everything.
Q: You were training down in Florida with several big-program guys, such as Jonathan Allen and Cam Robinson. What it at all intimidating to go up against these guys? How did you stack up athletically?
A: I had no fear, no intimidation going down there with those guys. At the end of the day, everybody was there to play football. And if I wasn’t good enough, I wouldn’t be down there getting ready for what I was doing, so I really had no fear or intimidation. What I had was motivation.
Every day I would go out there and work my hardest to see how I stacked up with those guys. Cam and Jon are great guys…especially Cam since he would give me little things to work on coming from a bigger program. Really, I was focused on myself and making sure I was getting better. Stacking myself with those guys, I really felt I held my own. I was right there with them and there really wasn’t much of a drop-off.
Q: Talk about how you’ve reached this point. I believe you began playing football when you were four years old. Did you always plan to be an offensive lineman and was there any wrestling or any other sport in your background?
A: I played a lot of different positions when I was small. But once I was in high school, I was always on the o-line or the d-line., so I knew I was going to be a lineman. I just knew because of how naturally big I was. When I was a kid, I played a ton of different sports. I played basketball, soccer, baseball. In high school, I played football, basketball and track and field, so I was just an all-around athlete and I played as much as possible.
Q: Yeah, you’ve always been a big guy. What was your playing weight at IUP?
A: It was always in the 325-330 range while I was there.
Q: What type of offense did you play in as a collegian? What were some of your bread-and-butter plays?
A: I was fortunate enough to play in two different systems. I played in the pro-style system in my freshman and sophomore years and we went to a spread in my junior and senior years. So, I was fortunate enough to see how both offenses played. But we ran a lot of inside-zone offense and gap-scheme runs; that was usually the gap scheme from where we ran our bread-and-butter plays.
Q: You were getting attention from major football programs coming out of high school, but you were never presented with those scholarship offers you were hoping for. How does a guy like you with all your strength and athletic ability slip through the cracks?
A: It was completely my fault that I wasn’t able to get accepted at those schools. It was really 100 percent my fault. I was very immature as a freshman and sophomore; I didn’t take anything seriously. Once I realized how much potential I really had, it was too late. So, it was a really humbling and maturing experience knowing that I can’t play around with anything. I had to take everything 100 percent serious. And by going through that, I feel it made me mature a lot faster.
Q: And it’s remarkable that you stayed at IUP all the way through. Did you ever consider transferring at any point?
A: I never thought about transferring. I was just so loyal to the program and the program was so loyal to me that there was never any thought of transferring at all. I just loved it there.
Q: What can you tell me about how you prepared for an opponent on a weekly basis?
A: I’m very high on film. I feel like film can tell you everything you need for the game, so I used to watch a ton of film and look for the smallest things like positioning, an opponent’s bull rush, hand placement, which leg is back. I looked at defenses all the way from the safety structure down into the box, so that way I could tell how the safeties were rotating and whether they would be possible threats for blitzes from the outside. So, I just looked for the smallest things to see if the linebackers were coming and look at his feet. Is he flat-footed? Little things like that.
Q: Who’s been the most influential person in your life?
A: The most influential person in my life is probably my grandfather. He was the perfect example of how to be a man and how to take care of his family and how to take care of business. I always told myself that if I could be half the man he is, then I’ll be okay.
Q: Getting back to your time at IUP, how did you keep yourself motivated playing against lesser talent for a full four years?
A: I just always told myself that if you’re good enough to play in the league, they’ll find you no matter what. So, really I just focused on self-development and how to get better every day and to get as much exposure to get my name out there as much as possible. I knew personally that I could play in the National Football League, so I always made sure to take care of business and get myself enough attention in case I get an opportunity.
Q: From a technique standpoint, the scouting reports indicate you need to keep your pad level a bit lower. Was that a primary area of focus during the pre-draft season?
A: Absolutely. I love criticism. I like figuring out what people think is wrong with me…that way I can improve on it. I felt as though when I heard that, I told myself, Oh, that’s one of the main areas I got to hit in my offseason training. So, I just practiced that every day.
Q: What kind of teammate are you in both good times and bad?
A: I’m a great teammate. I’m always the one that tries to keep the team together, keep it as a family and keep them together. I always try to motivate people to do better. I’m the one who doesn’t get down on myself. I always make sure that they keep their heads up high, forget about the play and move on to the next. I believe that if you harp on one bad play, you’ll always have a string of bad plays which turns into a bad drive. So, I try to keep everybody motivated to just focus on the next play and don’t try to worry about the past too much.
Q: You played your first three years at guard and then moved to right tackle. What was that transition like?
A: I mean, I was different. I played a little bit of left tackle my freshman year, so when I got moved back to right tackle my senior year, it was a little different. But, at the same time, I knew I had to endure. I had to do it for the best of the team. So, I just took it, embraced it and then just got better at it every day.
Q: Great stuff, Ethan. The following are some fun non-football questions. First off, what is your favorite meal?
Q: Eggs, hash browns…?
A: Yeah, all that.
Q: Where is the one place in the world that you’re dying to travel to?
A: There’s one place I really, really want to go to…Bora Bora. I really want to go there. I see videos of people playing in the water all the time.
Q: Who is your favorite non-football athlete?
A: Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali.
Q: What is your favorite TV series or reality show?
A: The Office is my favorite show of all time.
Q: Do you have a favorite pre-game ritual?
A: I usually watch a lot of motivational speeches and videos just to get my mind right. Then I always listen to the same three songs before I get on the field.
Q: Is there one female celebrity you would love going out on a dinner-date with?
A: Gabrielle Union.
Q: What are three or four words that best describe you as an individual, a player and as a teammate?
A: Humble, hungry, persistent and motivated.
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