What do you usually do in the offseason? Is it a lot of rest, a lot of work, or a little of both?
“Well, I always say I’m going to take time off, but I’m always busy busy. It’s been a good offseason; I went on a couple of small vacations with my wife, visited some family. We’ve got a kid on the way, our first one, so that’s coming up here pretty quick and we’re getting prepared for that. Mardi Gras: always excited about that. That’s coming up here.”
Have you always been a big basketball fan or have you kind of grown into the sport a little bit with there being a basketball team here in New Orleans?
“Well, I’ve always been a basketball fan. I’m from Houston, and the Rockets in the mid-90s won two championships and that was when I was about eight, nine, 10 years old – somewhere in there. That was really cool for me, growing up and seeing that. We are full-time Louisiana residents now and New Orleans is our home. We’ve definitely taken a liking to this year’s team, and we’re going to try and support it just like anything else in this city.”
Do you like the Pelicans branding?
“I do. You know, I think Pierre the Pelican’s accident he had was maybe a blessing in disguise. His new nose is looking pretty good.”
You also had a friend with you at the game on Wednesday: Madison Adams. She is battling with leukemia. Can you tell us how you befriended her?
“Yeah. I’ve got a good friend in town named Geno – he’s a New Orleans firefighter. He’s friends with that family and he had asked me if I would go visit her in the hospital early last season, so I went and saw her. Man, you just kind of meet people who have good heart and (a) good smile. She wasn’t feeling sorry for herself, and she’s active and doing stuff. Even though she’s sick, she’s not acting sick and she’s just out and about. I just really kind of connected with her and I was inspired by her, so I’ve been trying to help her as best I can. I ask people to help fund her because some of the things she’s doing are not funded by insurance. We’ve raised over $30,000 on one weekend – on the bye weekend last November. Fans stepped up, and that’s really cool to see. She’s still battling pretty hard. We’re having a blood drive; she’s needed over 30 blood transfusions so far with all the chemo and different things like that. She’s an awesome girl.”
Today you’re actually giving blood for her. Can you tell us about the event and where can fans go to give blood today?
“Betsy’s Pancake House on Canal Street from 10:30-2:30. You’ve heard of a universal donor, she’s actually a universal receiver. She can basically take any type of blood, so anybody can come out just maybe on your lunch break or so and give her the gift of life. She’s going to need it.”
Mardi Gras is fast approaching and you are the grand marshal of the Krewe of Caesar. Tell us how that came about.
“Just again, New Orleans connections. You know people and people connect you with other people. I got asked about three or four weeks ago to do it. I’ve only ridden in one parade before and it was the Super Bowl parade. It was a good one to be in, hopefully we have another one at some point. But yeah, I got asked to do it and it was a huge honor, obviously, to be able to do it. I’m excited to be a part of it. It’s going to be exciting.”
What’s your favorite part about it?
“Well, I think it’s everything. I try and describe it to, you know not being from here and being here for the past five years, I try to describe it to friends and family who haven’t been. It’s just a great time. There is something for everybody. There are certain sections of the parade route where you can go out and bring your kids. It’s very family-oriented. There are certain sections of the parade that’s maybe not so family-oriented. I feel like the whole region kind of shuts down, especially for the last week of Mardi Gras. Everyone is just having a big party. It’s great to be a part of. I tell everybody, I’ve always been kind of straight-laced and strict on myself during the season. I don’t do a lot of things. It’s nice once the season is over to have this little bit of time before we get back to the offseason where we can kind of let loose and have fun.”
It seems like the NFL offseason never ends. The combine is here this weekend. What do you remember most about your experience?
“I was just excited for the competition when I got there. I kind of had a chip on my shoulder. I was a small school guy, didn’t get a lot of recognition in college. I kind of had this internal belief that I could be the best. I was just excited to compete against these guys that were All-Americans and the guys that were all ranked in these different draft books and things like that. Going there was great. I got to meet and compete against a lot of great guys. I just remember the actual day where we punted in front of all of the teams and it was really cool.”
Some people have pro days, skip the combine. Do you believe that the combine was something that possibly helped you gain some draft stock? Or is a pro day more important?
“I would say for kickers and punters it is huge because you are in a dome. It’s easy to go look at tape of guys but how do you compare one kicker against the other? One guy may have been using different footballs. It may have been cold or hot. It may have been windy. You just don’t know the situation s to grade these guys on film. You get them all in the same area, same dome, no wind. You get the with the same footballs and there is no other variable besides the actual player. If you’re one of the better guys, it’s good for you. You get to compare yourself against those guys. Like I said, that’s what I was excited about when I went. I just think across the board, everyone has their agent telling them what to do and if they should do it or what they should do or shouldn’t. My personal views are good teams with good organizations want to see guys that can compete. That’s a redeeming quality of any player, regardless of character or anything. If you got a guy that hates to lose and wants to compete and win, you have to show that off.”
Now fans can see most of the combine on NFL Network. Is there something behind the scenes that fans should know?
“I would say the interviews, which obviously will never be public because different teams ask different questions and that’s their methodology of how they look at guys. Going in for interviews, I was interviewed one way and then talked to different guys and they got asked different questions so there’s obviously concerns that they have on every guy and things that they want to know about or questions marks that are in their mind that they want to know about. I just think it’s interesting that whole experience of meeting random coaches and GMs that you’ve never met. It’s pretty cool.”
Is it just like a job interview? Do you kind of have an idea of what they might ask?
“I think if you’re well prepared just like a job interview then you should know some of the questions that are going to be asked. You’re always going to get the off-the-wall questions. I remember one of the interviews and I can’t remember what team it was for, asked me a red flag on my hands was can I catch. They were asking me about that and then all of a sudden they asked me what color dogs do I like. Kind of caught me off guard and he went back into his line of questioning. You just never know what they’re going to ask you.”