Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer
Fitterer: I just want to say what a great job all of our scouts, all of coaches, really the entire organization, anyone that walks in the building and is associated with the Panthers, really committed to this and really put forth a lot of effort. Our scouts were all over the country this year. A lot of school calls. A lot of days away from home in the spring. Coaches the same. Coaching the Senior Bowl. All the time they spent on Zooms. Calling the players. Evaluating. They went above and beyond. I couldn't be happier with all of the work that they've done. I do have to say, I had so much fun sitting here with Coach Rhule this week. Great guy to sit next to. A lot of fun. I really enjoyed the experience. Really easy to work with. It's fun when you have a coach that can evaluate. He knows how to recruit, evaluate. Just the leadership. I can't thank him enough.
What is the confidence level in Sam Darnold and the Panthers quarterback situation?
Rhule: We brought Sam here because we believe that he can win for us. When we look at him over his last three years, we see a guy with tons of potential. We see a guy that we think in our situation, in our offense is going to do really good things. And we have a lot of faith in PJ Walker, we have a lot of faith in Will Grier, so we think we have a really healthy quarterback situation. It should be fun from here. All I want Sam to do is just take it one day at a time. Everything for him doesn't have to be a referendum on whether he's a great quarterback or not. He just needs to come into the building and work every day. I believe the quarterback position is really, really important, but I also believe great teams win. I think Sam is going to be as good as the guys around him, and we've tried to put a lot of really good players around him. I'm excited to have him. I'm excited for him to be with us day‐in and day‐out and ready to get to work with him.
Why did the Panthers feel comfortable trading and moving back in the fourth round?
Fitterer: Looking at the board as we came back in this morning, looking at players. Coach, Pat (Stewart), Coop (Evan Cooper) and I and a few other guys got together. We evaluated players and we thought we could drop down and still get several players we liked while acquiring picks, which helps us later in the draft. The whole thing about doing this is putting yourself in a position to get the players that you want and building depth on your roster, and I thought we did that.
What is the Panthers process for evaluating the character of draft prospects?
Fitterer: We're very thorough in what we do. We vet all these players. Our scouts go in and talk to everybody. We do background checks. Everybody drops sometimes for different reasons. Maybe they don't even drop. Maybe just the media assumes they are going to go higher. But we feel comfortable with all the players we took. We like them as people. We know people make mistakes when they are young, and we expect them to grow up. I made mistakes, and I know a lot of people out there did. But we trust these players. We know who these people are, and we look forward to growing with them.
What were the Panthers trying to do offensively in the draft?
Rhule: To be clear, I didn't say just the offense. I said the team. I think Joe Brady is great. When we drafted Jaycee (Horn), his point was every time we get the ball back, that's one more possession for the offense. That's one more play for Sam (Darnold). I believe a team wins. You need to have great quarterback play, but a great team helps a great quarterback. We came in, established some needs. We felt like we needed a running back. We felt like we needed to have some big, powerful guys on the offensive line. And we felt like we needed some weapons at receiver. But at the end of the day we also knew that we wanted to go by the board and take the best available players. It's unique. Thirty two teams all have 32 different boards. I know when you watch it on TV, you're hearing it as if there is one board, but we all see things a little bit differently. But we just wanted to get as many good players in the building as possible. We thought we were going to find a lot of value late. When Scott made the decision at the start of the day to trade back (to 126) and we ended up drafting Chuba (Hubbard), we would have picked Chuba at 109. But luckily for us, it was a gamble that he took, and it got back there, and we were able to get him and acquire picks. We just want to get as many good players as possible at all positions. Then we just believe that you get a bunch of good players here, eventually the team figures out how to win together.
Were there any trades that were precipitated by players the Panthers wanted being drafted right before their pick?
Fitterer: We didn't get in a position where we lost our guy right in front of us. It's just part of the process. I've been there when it's happened before. It's been kind of a gut punch, but that didn't happen today.
Was long snapper Thomas Fletcher drafted to replace JJ Jansen?
Fitterer: We just believe in competition. We're going to bring him in. JJ has been here a long time and has done a great job. I saw him all the time down in the lunch room and in the building. He's an absolutely great guy. We're bringing in Fletcher to come in and compete with him.
Talk about your wife texting you to draft running back Chuba Hubbard from Oklahoma State:
Rhule: I love my wife dearly, but I take Scott's opinion, and Scott takes my opinion. We came in this morning early and had several players in a clump that we liked. But at 109 Chuba would have been our pick. We think he was a dynamic player in 2019 who had two injuries last year that he had to rehab during COVID. It was just a hard time, a unique time, and he played through them. He was tough enough and cared enough about his teammates to play on a high ankle sprain, so it wasn't the same level of production. But this is a guy at one point I think was training as an Olympic‐type sprinter, a track and field guy. Some people have said, how fast is he? He's really fast and he's a really good player. Made the decision to move back, knowing that it could be him or a couple of other guys. The board fell the way that it fell. We got him. Julie, being a coach's wife, she's sat through a lot of games, seen a lot of people. It's funny. I had one former executive, a guy on TV, text me. It's pretty simple. When you play against guys and you hate playing against them, they're people someday you want to put on your team. That wasn't from my experience against him. That was from the tape and all the stuff we did on Chuba. We think what he can be is really special moving forward.
Was there one pick the Panthers were surprised to get?
Fitterer: I don't know (if) surprised. I think we were pleased with a lot of the picks where we got good value guys. I don't think there's one that just jumps out. I think we're really happy with where we got the guys.
Rhule: I think one of the things that's interesting is we spent the time as a staff. When I say staff, not as a coaching staff, as an organization – like Linda O'Hora, Morgan Fleming, our digital team, our equipment (team). We all went down to Mobile and worked. During COVID, people put themselves out there. If you look at our picks, Keith Taylor was at the Senior Bowl, Deonte Brown was on our team at the Senior Bowl, Shi Smith was at the Senior Bowl, Thomas Fletcher was at the Senior Bowl. We had a chance to really get to know these guys and be around them and see them interact. That's just a credit to the entire organization and all the people whose names you don't hear. We all work for one goal, and I think it helped us.
What does running back Chuba Hubbard bring to the team that you didn't already have going into the draft?
Rhule: Just another player. We have everything in Christian McCaffrey. We really like Rodney Smith. We really like Reggie Bonnafon. We like those players. We wanted to add another young back that could bolster that room. We saw last year you need depth at that position. We went through a lot of guys. Having another guy that's a home run threat that can catch the ball out of the backfield. Our special teams (coaches) were very convicted that they could use Chuba. I think he provides a lot of versatility. A big part of being an NFL running back is being a tremendous contributor on special teams, and Chuba can do that as well. I'm very excited about that pick.
What value did the Panthers get in defensive tackle Davyion Nixon from Iowa in the fifth round?
Fitterer: We really liked him, the tape watching him. I thought we just sat back, not only for him but for all the picks. Just let the board work and come to us instead of us chasing players. It just got to a point (where) we couldn't pass him. He was too good.
What position will defensive back Keith Taylor from Washington play?
Rhule: We see Keith as a corner. A 17‐game season, the people that we have to face, we're going to have to have tremendous depth on the defensive line and in the secondary. Those are the two places where injuries show up in a long season, and it's really hard to replace. Keith to me is a true bump‐and‐run, press corner. He's 6‐4, he ran a 4.4, so I think with that versatility he's going to be able to cover tight ends, cover wide outs, just kind of move all around. He's a young player. We'll get him here and we'll see exactly what he does best for us at this early stage.
What drives value on the Panthers draft board?
Fitterer: From a scouting standpoint, we scout the player as a person, as the athlete and we grade them overall. Then we get the coaches involved, and they tell us the fit. That's what drives the value on our board. How we place them based on the roles they would play – year one, year two, year three. Do we see them as a rotation player? Do we see them as a starter? Do we see them as a depth level? That's what really drives us. It's a process that's a year long, and coaches and scouts are involved. That's how we figure out the value.
Rhule: I would agree with what Scott said. I think when you take a guy in the top 10, you're hoping to get an impact starter. As you go further down the draft, those things change. The thing that's different is as we look at each player, we have a medical grade on them that no one else sees. There are some guys that are really good players, but they might slide, or you might not take them because of their medical grade just because of injuries or the potential for future things to happen. We have intelligence testing. We have height, weight speed. We have all these things. So not everything is always out there. People value different things differently. The biggest thing is what role they play in your organization. That's the value. If they're going to come in and compete to start or if they're going to come in and be a rotational player or sub‐start or if they are going to be a special teams player. Those are the things that we try to communicate back and forth, and from there you establish this is what the value is. There is a concept sometimes out there of value where you could have gotten this guy later or you could have gotten him here. It really comes down to if you think a guy is a starter and you draft him to be a starter and he is a starter, then you got the right value. I think that is why Scott was so disciplined about letting the board fall to us. We think this guy is here. Let's not chase him. Let's get him where we think we should get him.
Why was important to acquire more picks during the draft?
Rhule: Last year's experience was great. I thought our draft last year was great. I just think historically some teams get a lot more picks. The Panthers have averaged six‐point some over the last however many years. Coming into year two of where we are, we saw a lot of good players on the board that we liked. We weren't going to pass on a player we were really convicted on, but if you're sitting there and there's two or three players you know can help you and you have a chance to trade back and know you're still going to get one of those, then we added one. I think we started this draft with six picks, then we added two compensatory, so we had eight and finished with I can't do the math one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven. Eleven. To me it just creates competition. It creates competition within the locker room, it allows us to have a lot of depth, and we still got guys that we truly, truly believe in.
RB Chuba Hubbard
RE: Who he is celebrating with and where he is located
Yeah. I am in Orange County right now, Laguna Beach actually. I am at my agent's house. My family wasn't able to come, they are in Canada. So, I'm just here with my agent and stuff.
RE: Rushing for 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns as a junior in high school and if he was just the best player on the field by "leaps and bounds"
Nah, I don't know. I mean I just play football and I put up some decent stats. We had a pretty good team that year.
RE: Thoughts on joining a team with Christian McCaffrey and what the team has shared about his role
Just coming there to win a championship beside Christian McCaffrey and beside the rest of my Panthers teammates. Just forever blessed and fortunate enough to have this opportunity.
RE: If he has heard from McCaffrey in the 10 minutes after he was drafted
Nah, I haven't heard from him or anything yet.
RE: How he would describe his running style
That's kind of hard for me to describe. I feel like I kind of have a different running style. But I know that one thing about me is I'm a playmaker, I feel that I can score from any part of the field. I feel that I am bringing a lot to the Panthers.
RE: The reason for the difference in his production from 2019 to 2020
I mean I don't like to hang myself on it or talk about it too much because everyone has their own adversity and own things going on, especially in 2020 with COVID and everything. I had a lot of surgeries, I had a lot of injuries, just kind of bouncing back it's just football. So I don't use that as an excuse or anything. Just getting better. Trying to get healthy. I know this upcoming year will be my best year yet.
RE: If he is healthy right now
Yeah, yeah I'm healthy right now. I'm happy to say that.
RE: What his most recent injury was
So my last injury was my ankle. I had a high ankle. But my last surgery was on my groin. That surgery kind of had a longer recovery period for me so it took a little bit to come back.
RE: What the last year has been like for him with injuries and COVID
Just a learning period. A period to get better, become a better person, a better leader, a better football player. That's really what this year's been. You know a lot of people say 2020 or 2019, whatever, has been a year that's just been bad. It's just been a bunch of bad stuff. I don't really look at it like that. I look at it as a year of learning and growth and you know that's how I've taken it.
RE: What he thinks he will bring to the Panthers in the passing game as a receiver and as a blocker
I know I definitely need to work on my pass protection so that is definitely something I know I can get better at. In regards to the passing game and all that stuff, I definitely think I can be a threat there and a weapon there. Obviously, Christian McCaffrey does a lot of work there. I model a lot of my stuff when it comes to catching the ball after him. So I feel I can bring a lot of the same stuff he can.
RE: How his interaction with his college head coach on social justice topics during the 2020 season impacted him
Yeah absolutely. Like I said, 2020 was just a year of growth for me. A lot of learning lessons, trying to become a better person, trying to do the right thing. And you know being on the outside looking in and seeing that whole situation that happened, a lot of people can twist it and make it seem like something that it's not when in reality that whole situation that went down there I really felt made me a better person, made Coach Gundy a better person and also made the program a better place. Like I said, I'm always trying to just become a better person, always trying to do the right thing so that was really the case there.
RE: His overall impressions of the Carolina Panthers organization being in the Midwest at Oklahoma State and growing up in Canada
I mean I always liked the Panthers. I grew up a big Cam Newton fan. I was always watching the Panthers. When they went to the Super Bowl against the Broncos, I was really hoping the Panthers were going to win that, I'm not going to lie. Yeah, I love the Panthers. I'm forever fortunate enough, forever blessed you to know be chosen by them. I've got a big chip on my shoulder. I promise they are going to get the best of it.
RE: His upbringing in Canada, other sports he played and the recruiting process
Yeah, so pretty much born and raised on Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It's kind of a bigger city, pretty cold there, minus thirty, minus forty. Have a great family, big family, bunch of different brothers and sisters and stuff like that. I also did track for most of my life. Was able to finish fourth in the world in the 100 meters in 2015. Have won quite a few national championships. So track and football are kind of like my main two sports, played basketball when I was younger and stuff too, but track was really my main sport. Football came along, fell in love with football, and it kind of took first place.
RE: Being the fourth Canadian to go in this draft and what the showing of Canadians in this year's draft means to him and the others who have been selected or will be
It just shows there's a lot of hidden gems across the border. Obviously, there needs to be a lot more eyes over in Canada because it seems as if the numbers are only going up. So the fact that you see so many of the guys from Canada, so many of my friends, so many guys that I know make their dreams come true and achieve all these things, it's great. It's a special feeling. I hope that this shows that younger guys from Canada, really all over, they can do the same thing and we just continue to create this pipeline from Canada to the states for football and really all other sports.
DT Daviyon Nixon
RE: If he knew the Panthers were interested in selecting him
It came as a total shock, honestly. I didn't know where I was going or who was going to pick me. It was definitely a total shock.
RE: His playing style
Personally, I feel like you guys are getting the best d-tackle in the draft. Someone who has fought his way through a lot of different trials and tribulations to get to this moment right here. It's still so surreal for me right now so I am trying to get all my words together. I am going to be a great leader to the team. Someone who comes and does everything I need to do for the coaches and my teammates that way we can win us a championship and things like that. They are just getting someone who is determined. Someone who loves the game of football. Very passionate and who is ready to rock and roll in Carolina.
RE: Why he wasn't selected earlier in the draft
Honestly, I'm not too sure what may have brought my stock down with all this stuff going on. You know there are so many things that go into it. I'm not really too sure what it was, but I am just happy where I am at right now and ready to play.
RE: Waiting to be selected
We kind of knew from the get go that it was going to be Saturday that we were going to get picked. We were just hoping for the best, keeping the highest hopes that we can for the first two days. Waiting it out, it was kind of a long wait. Just hoping and praying that someone would've pick me earlier, but I am excited for where I am at and where I got picked.
RE: What makes you successful as a pass rusher?
I play defensive football so I am a defensive player, so I believe the my defensive moves and my counter moves, my reaction helps me very well when I am doing pass rush and things like that. My second move is probably better than my first move sometimes and it just gets the job done. I feel like I am really good with moves and reactions from the offensive line and whatever the offensive line is giving me.
RE: Where he is now
I'm actually outside of a restaurant where we are having a little get together waiting on calls with my family. So I'm in my car right now. I'm ready to go though.
RE: The last couple of days and if
It's just where I planned the party. First round, I was in Iowa City at my house with my parents and some close families and friends. Then I was back in Wisconsin with the rest of my family at this restaurant [inaudible] in West Kenosha, Wisconsin so the rest of my family could come out. It's a bigger space so we have more people. We're just sitting at waiting.
RE: His fumble recovery touchdown
It was really exciting. At first, I wanted to run him over, but then I figured if I ran him over, I might get tackled from behind. I just had to go score so I did everything in my possibility to do that move to score. That was a long 71 yards, but it was good, it was fun.
CB Keith Taylor
RE: Interactions or conversations he had with Coach Rhule and the staff?
I didn't really have much of a conversation with any the staff members on the Panthers. There was one segment of the week where we switched coaches, so I got to spend some time to spend with them (inaudible) We watched tape together and everything and he told me some things I needed to work on. Watching our tape from the practice week. That was pretty much our interaction.
RE: What were some things Panthers coaches told him at the Senior Bowl and will he play inside or outside cornerback?
Outside, mainly. Some of the things he told me to work on, using more hands at the line of scrimmage. Not giving too much ground from a press standpoint. Those are some things he told me.
RE: Did you have much interaction with Carolina outside of the Senior Bowl? Were you expecting this at all?
We talked a little bit within the last two weeks. Me and Coach Simmons had a Zoom meeting. It went really well. We went over some game film and some of the calls I did at Washington. I think it went pretty well and I kind of had a little bit of a feeling that maybe the Panthers would take me.
RE: Why he never recorded an interception in college
Limited opportunities and when some of those opportunities came, I just didn't cash in.
RE: If he would be a better fit in zone coverage or man-to-man
Anything and everything. That's what it was. Man, zone, anything.
RE: If he has any background with Charlotte
No, no background at all. So I'm a new face and it's gonna be something new for me. I can't wait to get started.
RE: What he has been told about Charlotte
Just a nice area. My roommate during the draft process, he's a Carolina boy, so he loves it out there. He told me about all the little food spots out there, he told me a little bit about some things. We kind of compared cities and everything, so it kind of seems similar to you know where I'm from. I can't wait to see what it is like. I'm excited.
RE: Who his roommate was
Yeah during training, it was Blake Proehl. He should be getting drafted soon, sometime today hopefully. He went to East Carolina, receiver.
RE: If he knows who Blake Proehl's dad is
Yeah, Ricky Proehl. That's my guy too. Rick. Slick Rick.
RE: If Ricky Proehl told him much about the Panthers
Yeah, he for sure did. Yeah, he told me a whole lot about the Panthers. I forgot he played for the Panthers, but yeah, he told be a lot about them.
RE: If they were training at Ricky Proehl's facility
No, no we were in Irvine, California.
G Deonte Brown
RE: If he remembers his game against Auburn and his match up against Derrick Brown
Yes sir, I definitely remember that game. That was one of my favorite games just for the simple fact that I was going against such a great defensive lineman in Derrick. So it's definitely going to be a lot of fun seeing him in practice. Better seeing him in practice than in actual games so it's a win‐win.
RE: Now that Brown is a teammate, how he gets over the Alabama‐Auburn rivalry
Nowadays it's not really like a rivalry. It's just like a friendly little competition so I mean Derrick Brown he's cool. It's not going to be that bad.
RE: How it was to hear his name called when he was drafted
Definitely a dream come true. Not necessarily where I was picturing like what day, but anywhere that I got picked I was going to be happy and ecstatic to wherever I was going. I'm glad that Matt Rhule and the whole Panthers organization had faith in me and took a shot. That's all I needed was a shot and I thank them a lot for that. They definitely won't regret it.
RE: What his interactions were like with the Panthers coaching staff at the Senior Bowl
It was definitely fun working with those coaches. They taught me a lot of things there that opened my mind to certain ways that I can block and certain schemes I would fit in. Their offensive scheme overall is right down my alley so we hit it off at first sight. I'm just happy to be here and I'm very excited.
RE: If they said anything indicating they wanted him as part of the Panthers during the Senior Bowl week
No ma'am they didn't. After the Senior Bowl game they were like they really enjoyed coaching me this week. So that alone, I was just telling myself, well at least I've got the Panthers that like me. So that was a plus.
RE: His NCAA suspension and what he learned from it
I really can't speak on that. Really don't want to. But I just was young and dumb and immature. I definitely learned my lesson from the thing that I did, it's never going to happen no more. It hasn't. I think I've definitely matured and grew from that situation.
RE: If he thinks the suspension affected his ability to get drafted higher
It probably could have. But mostly I believe that it was something else.
RE: What made him successful in his matchup against Derrick Brown
He's just really good in the run game and his hands are really good when it comes to block shedding and the pass game. That year I did have an amazing right tackle in Jedrick Wills that helped me a lot with the passing game. When it came to run blocking, I was just thinking every time it is either going to be me or him. I knew the snap count and that's how I got most of my advantages throughout the game. Mostly just having low pad level because he has a very low center of gravity to be that big and tall. That was kind of my idea.
RE: The key to not giving up a sack in his entire college career
Calming down and just trusting my eyes because I have faith that my feet can take me anywhere and that has to move before my whole body can. As long as my feet can cover the defender I think that I'll be in pretty good shape.
RE: What he thinks caused him to drop in the draft
Definitely my weight, but people are going to see real soon though that my weight isn't that much of a hinderance on my ability to play and my ability to play at high level for a long period of time.
RE: His plan to keep his weight under control
Good nutrition. Just keep doing what I've been doing since I've been at Alabama. And just staying on track with how I work out and how I lift.
RE: At what weight he plans to play this season
Still to be determined.
WR Shi Smith
RE: If he felt he made enough of an impression on the Panthers coaching staff at the Senior Bowl
Yes, I feel like I did. Went in and bought in. Listened to what them guys had going. Learned the plays and went out there and made plays.
RE: What it was like going up against Jaycee Horn in practice
Yeah man, me and Jaycee we went at it all the time at practice. If I wasn't in the slot and moving outside he was probably the one that was guarding me. And even then they moved him to the slot sometimes to guard me because I'd tear the slot up, but he got the "seatbelt" on me a couple of times.
RE: How excited he is to be back on the same team with Horn
I'm very excited man. Just being back with him. He's a guy who is younger than me that I look up to because of his mentality and his competitiveness and just how he attacks practice.
RE: What his best position was as a wide receiver and how much returning experience he has
I feel like I'm a slot receiver, but I can go anywhere. Wherever the guys and the coaches need me. I've got experience as a returner. I was a returner two years back at South Carolina. Wherever the coaches need me, whatever they need me to do, I'm willing to do it.
RE: What he thinks caused him to get drafted lower than expected
Just some things that came up as far as like character wise. Happened early on in college, just a younger guy coming in without a helping hand. Just learning things. I think that set me back the most.
RE: What he learned from that experience and if the Panthers were proactive in talking to him about it
Yeah they were. It came up a little bit, but like it said it that was just a young me and I feel like I changed. I'm going to continue to work on it and get better at it.
RE: His trash talking
I feel like my trash talking just comes from how competitive I am. I mean sometimes getting in the other guy's head works so that plays a role with that.
RE: What it was like waiting to be drafted until the sixth round
I'm not going to lie at times it got frustrating. I had my dad, I had my family right there with me and we all knew that the time was going to come and we were just patiently waiting. Just grateful to have the opportunity.
RE: If he grew up as a Panthers fan
I didn't, I grew up a Steelers fan. My dad was a Carolina fan. Actually he just gave me this bracelet as soon as I got drafted. He gave me a bracelet that he wore for like eight years and let me have it. It's good to go to his team and we're all Carolina Panthers now.
LS Thomas Fletcher
RE: Being selected by Carolina in the 2021 Draft
I honestly, there are so many unknowns in this business that I couldn't have guessed it from the beginning because the vast majority of people in my position – you've got to think, there's only 32 teams in the league and there are only 32 long snappers. It's not a position where you bring in multiple people every year or do anything like that. So going into the draft, I was kind of prepared that I wasn't going to be drafted. I was prepared that I was going to have to make the decision in free agency. If I made a decision in free agency it might have been – I shouldn't say might have been – I wanted to go to Carolina so bad. I've got to tell you right now. I got to spend a week at the Senior Bowl with the Panthers staff and just fell in love with it. Fell in love with the culture. Fell in love with everything that they stand for as an organization. I spent a short period of time on a trip to the city of Charlotte and it is absolutely beautiful. The people there are amazing. Yeah, I'm just excited right now. I couldn't even tell you what I was feeling beforehand because the emotions afterwards were so overwhelming.
RE: Competing for the long snapper position
It's the National Football League. You have got to compete in everything that you do in this business. Everything that you do is earned. I have an opportunity to go in and try to earn everything that I want to obtain in this league is going to be earned. It's going to be no different with the Carolina Panthers.
RE: The last time he had a bad snap
Bad snaps are relative for a long snapper. So if there is a snap that is not up to your standard, you might call it bad. I had balls that missed during practice, but I always took practice as it should be more difficult than the game. I am a huge believer in the fact that your practice habits transfer directly to what you do in a game. So I took the same intensity and the same focus into practice that I did for games. I am a big believer that football, how you do one thing is how you do everything. The approach that I took to training and to practice and everything that I needed to do to put myself in the best position to be successful on the field was going to happen in practice. What I did in the game is a direct reflection of what I did in practice.
RE: Learning from his dad, who was a long snapper in the NFL
He played at San Diego State and then played with Oakland and with Seattle in the 90s. He is who got me interested in snapping. It was always, I knew as a kid that I was the one of my friends who knew what long snapping was and believe it or not, when you are 8 or 9 years old, it is not the coolest thing in the world to your friends to be a long snapper. I was giving a little push back on learning how to do it and everything, but once I got into high school and was playing on the freshman football team, I was like I don't want to do this, I want to play varsity. I want to help the organization win in whatever way that is. Finally, I gave in and had him teach me how to snap. I wouldn't be a long snapper if it weren't for my dad. I don't know if there was any other way that I would've heard about it, especially having been exposed to it at a young age. He has been a phenomenal father to me. He has taken care of me in every way he could and I am very, very grateful that he taught me how to long snap for sure.
RE: Playing for the Panthers coaching staff at the 2021 Senior Bowl
It reminded me a lot of where I went to college. The principles and values that we take to heart at Alabama are directly reflected in what the Carolina Panthers do. Just the professionalism, the attention to detail, the focus – as I said earlier, how you do one thing is how you do everything. They put a huge emphasis when we were at the Senior Bowl about how to go to a meeting. That you bring your notebook with you. You don't wear a hat. Leave your phone outside. And I know that's little stuff, but I looked at the Panthers and was like, this is an organization that is trying to win and is going to be successful because of the habits that they are creating for themselves. I was very drawn to the coaching staff and Coach Rhule, Coach Blackburn, Coach Foley, everybody. I was just very drawn to the way that they do things. I very much wanted to be a part of it and could not be more excited to be part of it.
RE: His reaction to getting the phone call from Carolina
I was actually on the phone with another team that was trying to get me to commit to a free agent deal once the draft ended. I'm kind of trying to weigh the things and I want to be in Carolina so bad and I'm trying to figure out how am I going to make that work. I got off that call and immediately got a call from a Charlotte number and I was like, there's no way. I answered it and it was Coach Rhule. He was like, 'are you coming?' And I was like, I am hoping – no, no, no brother I just drafted you. I will remember that moment for that rest of my life, I will assure you. It was a lot of yelling and a lot of screaming.
RE: Panthers long snapper J.J. Jansen
I am very blessed to be in a position where I get to walk in and kind of learn from someone who has done it for a long time. Anybody that has played in the National Football League for the 14 years that J.J. has played, he is there for a reason. They are very, very good at what they do and the opportunity to take notes and learn from what J.J. did that made him successful and hopefully apply it to the way I do things is very exciting. I have nothing but the utmost respect for J.J. Jansen.
DT Phil Hoskins
RE: His nickname "Big Snacc"
Really, my dad gave me that name a while ago. I play d-line and I am a pretty heavy guy. He gave me that name because I eat a lot and that was why he gave me that name right there.
RE: His son and how being a father has impacted his life
He is a year and five months. Fatherhood has influenced my life tremendously. It has helped shape me to become a better man and a better person to be honest. I had to become a more selfless person in a way and it just helped me become more mature and realize what is important. Life isn't really too much about me anymore, it's about providing for him. That's really what it has done for me.
RE: Waiting to be selected in the draft
I wasn't too nervous or anything else. I was more excited watching my teammates go. I was looking forward to seeing where my teammates went. That's how it's been for me for the past two or three years now, just excited watching for my brothers. It started boiling down to the end and I was like, 'wow, I haven't gotten a call yet, what's going on?' But it actually has been exciting to be honest. It's exhilarating. I don't even know the word for it. It's been a lot.
RE: How he will fit in the Panthers scheme and what his best attributes
Basically, my versatility and athleticism. Those are what they are going to hone in on when I get there just to form me to be the best defensive tackle I can be and get on that field as soon as possible.
RE: If he was surprised the Panthers selected him in the draft
It was like 50-50. I talked to them a few times – I'd say about five or six times. It really came down to when they asked, 'who was the team that was most interested in you?' And I told them and I said yeah that is probably where I will go. They said, 'don't be too sure about that, we might beat them out,' and I was like okay, we'll see and that's just what ended up happening.