Monday afternoon, I got to take part in my first ever piece of real journalism, an interview in the Wardlaw Center with two fantastic young men, WRs Darren Waller and Jeff Greene! It was an honor and a privilege, and one I hope to repeat for more players/position groups throughout the offseason. Who knows, Joey and I may even get credentialed this season! But before we get ahead of ourselves, what follows is Part 1 of our interview with Darren Waller, with Part 2 and Jeff Greene's segment to be posted tomorrow!
Darren Waller, Part 1
Q: What did you take away from your playing time last season?
DW: Playing last year, I really got to see the intensity of the game...watching the older players play, and just getting in on special teams whenever I could and things like that. Just getting in there, running, just knowing that, there's no more messing around...you gotta be physical, and that's something I really learned last year.
Q: So that's basically what you took away from it, that there's certain things you need to do that you didn't know going in.
Q: What have you been working on in the offseason?
DW: Uh, just a lot of little things. Me and Coach Buzz and Coach Johnson sat down and made a checklist of little things, like how I come off the ball and press coverage to what I'm doing in my routes to make them shorter, less choppy, and like a lot smoother. So just a lot of more drill based things; working on like my individual development, is more or less what I took out of spring ball.
See the rest of my conversation with Darren after the jump!
Q: How do you work on those things during the summer?
DW: We've got everything we need out in the indoor facility like dummies and all that. Like we set up cones and do, put em at the depth of our yardage (the yardage where they'll break on routes, I'm assuming), or put a dummy out in front of me, or work with one of the corners on press movements, and how I use my hands; things like that. So there is, there's a whole bunch of things; like we get Tevin out there, he knows more about receiver drills just cause he's been here for 5 years, knowing what I can work on, so, just any way I can get help.
Q: So you guys have been working with Tevin a lot?
Q: Can you feel yourself getting better at some of those things?
DW: Oh yeah, I feel a whole lot smoother just uh being in the offense and the system for a year and just having people that know so much about the game around me, its just been great for my development.
Q: You got some work on, naturally on special teams last year, what can you tell us about the new special teams coach?
DW: Oh, he...he loves what he's doing. He's real intense. Like, the first day, he was like up on the table like telling us what stance to be in on punt blocks, and things like that. So he just brings great knowledge to the game, great enthusiasm, and he knows how to get us fired up and he just knows how to relate to us in so many different ways and that's just something all the players like. And the fact that he came and says he wants us to be top in every special teams category; he's not waiting around and putting in a plan for a couple years. He thinks we have the talent and the people here to get what needs to be done, done and that's why we love him.
Q: As much as you enjoy playing on special teams I'm sure just getting out on the field, you've seen the crazies that play on special teams. Would you prefer to be off it?
DW: I actually like special teams because the hungriest players are on special teams, I guess you could say. It has some people that may not get as many reps on offense or defense but its like, that's their time on that kickoff to go down there and knock somebody's helmet off. Its like, the passion of the game I think you can really find on special teams.
Q: Is it one person's hungry as another person's crazy?
DW: I guess you could say that. But yeah, I mean every week there's no easy special teams because every team we played had big guys on it, big fast guys that are ready to come down and hit you, they didn't care what uniform you were wearing, what you're ranked, what your name was, they were coming down there to hit you.
Q: Going into this season you are naturally very aware of the opportunities that are available at WR this year. What's your outlook and how are you approaching it?
DW: Just not having any regrets. I feel like in camp last year, there was like there was a whole lot of outside things I was distracted by like the heat and getting adjusted to playing a position on the other side of the ball, trying to do whatever I could to get better. But now i just feel more comfortable, I know what I'm doing, I'm not going to have anything thrown at me like any change-ups, I'm just out there ready to compete and go out and earn something. I feel like I've worked real hard this offseason, and I feel I can help the team in a really big way and I just feel like it's my time to show it.
Q: You haven't really gotten any time yet on the field as a WR, but the other side of that is no one really knows what to expect out of you. How much of an advantage is that for you?
DW: I feel like its good for me because I'm putting in a whole lot of work and people aren't really expecting anything out of me; when they see me out there making plays on Saturday they'll say "oh where has he been la la lalala," they'll know that I was ready for my chance and that I was working as hard as I could, and it wasn't just starting in the offseason but starting from camp last year. It's just been such a long journey to where I am now so I just feel like me being under the radar has kept me more hungry.
Part two of our interview with Darren Waller, along with some Q&A from fellow receiver Jeff Greene will be posted tomorrow!