I’ve enjoyed the whole pre-draft process. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to take advantage of the opportunity that I had to play at William & Mary, and even though it’s not FBS or the highest level of competition, I was still able to get noticed with those guys.
I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. But I think I’ve proved that I’m worthy of a draft grade, and I’ll prove myself when I get to camp.
Yet one thing that was difficult to overcome was the fact that anybody who is talking about me, they always bring up the “small school.” That’s something I’ve never been able to shake. Ever. No matter how great I’ve done in the NFL Combine or the East-West Shrine Game. It’s a stereotype people have. They’re always going to associate the small-school stereotype with small-school players.
That was a difficult thing to shake because that tab was not going anywhere no matter what I did and how much success I had. I just had to live with it and prove myself a little extra. But that’ll make the success all that much sweeter.
So my advice to small-school guys: Everything isn’t always as it seems.
You’ll always have the guys who play at the highest level — and I respect those guys — but those guys put their pads on the same way we do. Every time we went to play at the FBS level I was always surprised by the fact that those guys are the same as we are. You can’t play scared or timid because of the characteristics you associate with them being FBS teams. It’s not always what it seems.
From my experience, the guys who came out of high school with me who got recruited to play at a higher level than I did usually just hit their growth spurt earlier and grew into their body earlier than I did. I was 5-foot-11, 174-pounds coming out of high school. I’ve gained 37 pounds and grown an inch and a half since. I was a late bloomer.
If you’re a small school guy, the chances are that you’re not genetically blessed with that physique or speed. So you’re gonna have to work at it. I had a personal trainer in high school in Georgia and I spent summers training in Virginia with the team and with my strength coach here. I did a lot of my own work because I had to expedite my growing process to catch up with the guys at the other level.
Had I not done all that, I might not be where I am now because I’m not a product of genetics. I’m a product of hard work. I had to grind it out to get to where I am.
But if you can play football, the NFL is going to find you.
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