Last week Steve Jones, the radio voice of Penn State football, said you could take apart a computer and put it back together. Is that true? How did you decide to major in computer science and electrical engineering?
"It definitely is true. It's definitely something I picked up while I was in high school. When I was in high school, I kind of struggled to figure out what I really liked outside football. We found out about a computer science program and it was kind of something that really made me start to push myself in school a lot more. I took it upon myself to do some projects outside of school. I saved up for about two or three years to try to get a computer I wanted. I wanted to build it from scratch. I didn't want anybody to do it for me, so I ended up doing that and then that kind of transitioned into college. I definitely had a lot of hard times in college. I had to reteach myself all over algebras again because I was under the assumption that you go to college and just take computer science classes, but that's obviously not the case. I had to teach myself a bunch and I had a great support staff there that really helped me out a lot. I have a great support group around me in general that helped me through some tough times. I was able to graduate in December. That's something I'm really proud of."
What do you hope to do with your degrees after your football career?
"I definitely think I would like to do some form of development. I like being a part of a team. I like contributing to something that means a lot, and I feel like you can impact a lot of people with software. That's just something I enjoy doing on my own."
When you think about the mentoring you're getting, who are some of the vets you've found valuable advice from?
"Everybody here has been so helpful. Every day in practice I'm learning something new, I'm being put in a different situation than I was put in in college as far on the field. Guys like (Bradley) Roby and Justin (Reid), I'm constantly always going to them. They knew right from the jump when I got here, I had watched a lot of their tape from the previous camp and from the season and I already from the jump started asked them questions. I was really curious to learn how they were able to play at such a high level. Both of them played really early on in their careers and I was curious on how they did that. Everybody in general, though, in the secondary is constantly always helping me and giving me tips that I've been able to add a little bit more each and every day. Guys on special teams, Keion (Crossen), A.J. (Moore Jr.) helped me out a ton trying to learn new tricks and stuff like that. There's a lot more to the game, especially on special teams, than just running fast, so learning those little tips and stuff like that to help me out and give me an advantage. They've been really helpful."
What are your thoughts on your former teammates at Penn State as the Big Ten Conference is talking about possibly playing football again and what have conversations you've had with them on that?
"I would definitely like to see them get the opportunity to play. Those are a lot of still my best friends and a lot of brothers I still have up there. It would be great for them to have the opportunity to be able to show their talents and a lot of those guys came back this year to help themselves later on with the chances to go to the NFL. I hope they get the chance to do that now because a lot of them have certain situations in which they need this season. They say it's just a game but it's a lot more than that for people. I hope that they can do it, but I hope at the same time they can find a way to keep those guys safe and their families safe though."
What are some of the things that have stood out to you on the field as being challenging as you make the transition to the NFL?
"Definitely just the playbook, obviously, was a lot, but you learn that and then you rep it. We had a lot of time before the veterans came in where we could kind of get our reps in and stuff like that. Then when the veterans came here, just getting their input on it. I see it one way in the playbook but how do you actually play it? How do you do certain technique to it, how do you use a certain technique within that defense. That's definitely been a change, and then just the pace and the control that everybody plays with here. It's not always 100 miles an hour right now, right now. It's like the receivers, they change pace, their tempo. Their release will go from slow, fast to controlled, and then they'll snap a route off quick. It's a different pace of the game, but it's been fun because every day has been a new challenge for me. I really enjoy that because it allows you to grow as a player."
What do you remember about Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien when he was recruiting you at Penn State?
"I just always remember what I liked about him when I was being recruited was he's just very to the point and he's going to tell you how it is. That's what I really like and what I really like in a coach, somebody who's going to tell you what you need to hear so that you can improve. Just telling you what you're good at and everything like that, I mean, that's cool but I'm the type of person where I want you to tell me where I need to get better because I want to become a great player."
Who are some of the players on this team that you've watched from a distance and now you're teammates with?
"Like I said, I've been watching (Bradley) Roby since he was at Ohio State, so just coming in here and seeing him and how he plays, the control he plays with – there's certain times where you'll be thinking this receiver is about to attack him inside, but he just has a great feel for the game and he's able to keep his leverage and play so patient and controlled. I'm constantly in his ear asking him questions like why didn't you bite inside on this route during this situation? Why did you play this like this? He's been really receptive to that and that's been somebody I'm making sure I'm always around. Just watching him, how he practices, how he goes about things. What does he do off the field that's allowed him to play for so long and be able to excel? I ask those questions to a bunch of vets. Just everybody in the back end has been awesome with me. Justin Reid has helped me a lot after practice just trying to slow down certain things in the game, certain concepts – bunches and stacks and things like that, working my feet at the line. What does he like to do because he also plays star and nickel in the game. Just kind of being receptive to how everybody plays different things. There's a lot of knowledge in that room that I feel like I can learn from."
Do you think your attention to detail in coding in computer science carries over into the way you focus on football?
"I think it definitely carries over as far as my preparation but then once I hit the field, I like to let my preparation kind of take over and then play with my instincts at the same time. You don't really want to be sitting out there overanalyzing things and thinking too much because it'll slow you down. So, I think it helps me as far as my preparation and my attention to detail when I'm watching film and going out there every day and figuring out these are the three things that I would like to get better at, even if they're really small. I think it helps me with that. Then once I hit the field, I like to rely on my instincts and trust my preparation."
What hard times have you had to overcome? Is that relative to your knee injury or does it extend beyond that?
"I think you face hard times. I think pretty much everybody has something that challenged them. Hard times for me in my career obviously was the knee injury but handling some of the things you handle off the field, your upbringing and stuff like that. A lot of those things I like to keep personal. Everybody kind of has challenges but it's how you deal with it. Making sure you put emphasis on your mental side of the game off the field, keeping you sharp on the field. I'm one of those guys who believes what you do off the field will eventually lead into the things that are on the field, so I try to make sure I keep them both tight and on point."
As a rookie and someone who pays attention to what is happening in the world with the protests by other athletes, how do you approach that, and do you look to someone on this team to help you decide how to express your feelings? Are you vocal in meetings?
"Just in general, I've never really been a vocal guy. I feel like somebody who tries to lead by example and things, but just in terms of everything that's going on with social justice, it's been great being here just because the team is very aware of everything. I can come to them with my own feelings and experiences and get a different side of it. Certain instances that I may have gone through that I felt were unfair and then have people here who can also relate to it has been great for me. Those are discussions we have on this team and I'm grateful for that, that we're very aware of what's going on."