Who is your football mentor or inspiration?
I'd say four people. My head coach (in college), Victor Santa Cruz who was a good instiller of what kind of player I am today. And then I had my running backs coach, Ben Buys, who instilled in me the toughness of running the football and playing football and understanding football. And then my offensive line coach, Jackie Slater, who's a Hall-of-Famer. I learned so much from that man, just learning about blocking schemes and how linemen block and how they think. And my offensive coordinator, Rudy Carlton, I learned a lot from him about just understanding the whole concept of things and understanding where I fit in the puzzle. All four of those guys mentored me in becoming the football player I am today.
What motivates you?**
My teammates, the people I play the game with. Everyone comes from different walks of life. Football is that one sport where you bring every color, every race, every nationality, every religion together and play a great game. My teammates are who I play the most for, the camaraderie we have and the fun we have together.
What is your approach to football?
I go by this motto, called "clear eyes, full hearts." I got it from "Friday Night Lights." I actually have it tattooed on my wrist. I realized if I can do everything in football with clear eyes and a full heart, I'll be on the right path. You play football, you mess up, you have to get over it and go on to the next play. That's what "clear eyes, full hearts" is all about.
When did you start dreaming about playing in the NFL?
I didn't start dreaming about the NFL until my senior year in college, actually. I wanted to be a cop, in S.W.A.T. My running backs coach, Ben Buys, and Jackie Slater, who played in the NFL, they thought I could really make it and be a good asset to any organization that decided to bring me on. So that's when I really decided to do it, my senior year.
But I really didn't decide it-decide it until after my senior year was over because I was focused on senior year and what we wanted to accomplish. We accomplished a lot, we broke many records, we set big standards as a senior class and that's what I focused on. After that it was time for the NFL. I'm a big play-in-the-moment kind of person.
2017 minicamp is underway at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Why do you play football?**
The reason I play football is for 60 minutes.you can forget everything that's going on in your life. You can just come out here and play, have fun, smile, whatever's going on outside of football doesn't matter. You can come out here and just play and have fun. I heard guys say we're playing a kid's game for a king's ransom. That's what we'r doing, it's a kid's game but we make a great living doing it. It's just so much fun.
What is your proudest football moment or memory?
My senior year in college we played against Grand Valley State. They were ranked No. 2 (in NCAA Dic. II), we were ranked No. 22, I think. It was nationally televised, the first time our school had ever been nationally televised for football, and we beat them in double-overtime. I'll never forget that feeling.
When you hear "Steelers," what do you think?
Tough. Growing up all I remember is Steelers football, the defense is tough, the offense is crazy. So I got an opportunity to play here and I'm like, 'Dude, this defense is tough, this offense is crazy.' That's what I remember growing up, playing "Madden," I was always the Steelers because I knew their defense was top notch and their offense was super good. That's what I think about when I hear "Steelers."