New Orleans Saints linebacker Zack Baun
Friday, April 24, 2020
Why don't you start off with just this whole process? How's it feel to be a New Orleans Saint?
"Oh my God, there isn't any other place I would want to be. Thank you guys so much. I'm just excited to get things rolling and don't even know how to feel right now. I'm just so excited."
Was a little bit of a test of your patience to wait three rounds I guess?
"Oh, without a doubt. Obviously when you go into a situation like this, you have a range that you think you're going to get picked, but once you see the other teams start picking and kind of how everything plays out, yeah, you get impatient and you want to just hear your name called. But nonetheless, it's such a special moment and to be picked by such a great organization is so big for me and my family and everyone that helped me get to this point."
What have been your interactions with the Saints? Had you gone through your interview process?
"Yeah, I had a formal interview with them at the Senior Bowl and then I had an informal meeting with them at the combine as well. So I met with them twice throughout the whole process."
Do you see yourself as an edge rusher? Can you play off the ball or do both or is it versatility? How do you see your game translating to the NFL?
"Yeah, that's kind of the big question. I obviously am most comfortable on the edge. That's where I spent all my time in college. But I really just consider myself a linebacker that can do a lot of different things and I think my versatility is my biggest attribute and my biggest asset."
Are you comfortable on coverage? I know you probably didn't do a ton of it in college, but if you got asked ask, do you feel like you could do it?
"Oh, absolutely. I played outside linebacker mostly on the line. I got to do a lot of things in college, rushed the passer and dropped in coverage. So I'm definitely comfortable doing all of the above."
How ready are you to hit the ground running because of the abbreviated offseason with pretty much the team only meeting until training camp? I guess everybody's going to have to hit the ground running, especially you young guys.
"Yeah, I mean with this whole COVID-19 stuff going on, it's not an ideal situation, but I'm definitely going to make the most of it with my playbook as soon as I can just so that I'm up to par when the time comes."
You just seem really excited to be a Saint in particular. What did you like about the team? What did you know about them? How do you think you fit?
"Just the winning organization, that's all I know. That's all I'm familiar with the Saints and obviously (they have) a great coaching staff. Coach Payton has done a great job and everything's just perfect. Ideal situation for me as far as linebacker and getting on the field and contributing. I'm really excited."
Did the Saints give you any indication what position they expect you to play?
"I just got off the phone with the linebackers coach (Michael Hodges) and he just said he's already imagining different ways to get me involved, so I'm really excited for what he's got in store."
Seems like there's a lot going on in the background. Who did spend this last 24 hours with? Your family, your friends?
"Who you probably hear the most is my little brother. He's six years old, but it's my family and my girlfriend's family."
Is that where you've been spending quarantine with? I know it's a super weird time for everyone.
"Yeah, I've been at my apartment in Madison, but I'm at my girlfriend's parents' house right now."
Did you get any good indication as to why you think you fell to the third round of the draft? I know they said on television that they thought there were some medical questions. Is that something a lot of teams wanted info from you on?
"I really don't have any idea and as a matter of fact, I don't really care what the reason was, but I'm just so happy to have gotten picked and fulfill a lifelong dream."
Were teams asking leading up to the draft though about any lingering injury issues or as far as you are concerned, it has been a clean bill of health for you for a while now?
"Yeah, I've been completely clean for a while. I had an injury back in 2017 that put me out for the season, but since then I've played two seasons. I couldn't come up with an answer to why I fell as far as I did. But like I said, nonetheless excited and childhood dream fulfilled."
What's behind the huge spike in production in your senior year? Why did you go from two and a half career sacks to 12 and a half that last year?
"We lost a lot of production after the 2018 season. I just knew that someone had to step up as a leader and in production on the field. Right after the season, I went up to my position coach and I said, hey coach, I'm trying to be the best player I can be. I know I have the athletic ability and gifts to be one of the top players in this league and I'm willing to do whatever it takes, whether that's getting stronger in the weight room, extra film study, NFL study, bringing young guys to the field and just doing all I could. And I did that all throughout until the season and it really paid off."
Is there anybody you study? Your technique looks like really good. It looks like you always have a plan when you're rushing. Is there anybody you study?
"I had a few guys that I really honed in on and studied on as far as NFL goes. It was a lot of Dee Ford, a lot of T.J. Watt being a former Badger, he helped me out with a lot. He would shoot me different pass rush clips. Hey, I think this could work, this looks like it's in your wheelhouse and just evolving my game and I understand I can't do a lot of things that the 6-5, 260-pound D-ends do, but I can take bits and pieces of a lot of different people's game and implement them into mine and make my own style."
Do you feel like balance is a big part of your game? It looks like you can take a hit and it doesn't really knock you off track at all.
"Yeah. Leverage. I mean, being an undersized edge as a lot of people like to call it, your technique has to be on point at all times. At Wisconsin that's all I was taught, honing on the details and the technique and it'll take you very far."
Have you ever been in New Orleans?
"I have one time and I'm excited to go back."
Have you met Marcus Davenport and can you speak about the connection?
"I have not met Marcus Davenport."
But your represented by the same agent, right?
"Correct. It'll would be nice to have that connection moving forward."
Speaking of connections, you overlapped with Ryan Ramczyk for a year or so, have you two talked to each other lately? It's been a little while since the two of you were teammates.
"We have not talked lately, but I am going to shoot him a text after this and say what's up teammate and (that) I am excited to just be a part of the organization and be with a former Badger."
What was it like to go through this experience and then be picked by a team that's a contender in the league that needs a linebacker at the same time like the Saints and to represent Wisconsin? It's like another underdog story like you and Chris Orr, but you can prove yourself on one of the biggest stages in the league.
"It's nothing new to me. I've been an underdog since coming out of high school. It is nothing new, but definitely didn't expect to fall as far as I did, but very excited to be a part of a great organization."
When you say a childhood dream fulfilled, what position were you playing in those dreams and how do you feel about how it actually came out?
"Yeah, maybe I'm not playing the same position, but every kid has those dreams of playing in the NFL and reaching that level growing up. When you tell people those dreams, they tell you and they bring out the statistics about how there's a .05 percent of athletes that go to the league, but I just wanted to beat all those odds no matter what position it was. I was playing quarterback growing up and I just wanted to be the best player could be. I guess I didn't know that was on the other side of the ball."
How do you suspect that your background as a quarterback and I don't know how well it would really translate high school to college, but helped you as a defender anticipate what the offense was trying to do?
"I say I played quarterback, but I wasn't really throwing the ball. I was not the most refined pocket passer. I was a dual threat quarterback that was running the read option. So playing on the edge that really taught me to be patient and sit for the quarterback and played cutback secondary. Then as far as coverage, it taught me those little windows that you can sit in and zone coverage and stuff like that."
You seem like you're in a pretty upbeat mood right now. You obviously were just taken, but were you able to kind of keep this going throughout the draft even if you're falling into the third round? Were able to stay kind of upbeat throughout the process?
"I'd be lying if I said I was because obviously I didn't expect to drop this far, but I'm definitely excited. I'm just ready to get things going. It is what it is now and I'm just really excited now."
Do you know Cesar Ruiz from Michigan at all?
"Absolutely. I trained with him out in EXOS in Phoenix. Excited to get that Big Ten connection going."
Have you talked to him at all?
"No, I've been busy since I got the call, but I'm definitely going to connect with him."
The two of you were training together to prepare for the draft and now you are rookie teammates. Back when the two of you started training together, would you have thought that you two would have landed in the same spot?
"We talked about in our group chat leading up to the draft and at least two of us would be on the same team and I'm glad it was me and Cesar."
With the 74th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints traded up to select LB