I started playing football at a really young age, in second grade. As a kid, I really just played it because my older brother (Seth) played. You know how that is with younger brothers, they always want to be like their older brother. I always wanted to do what he did and that’s what got me into football.
To be honest, I never knew if I wanted to play at the highest level, in the NFL. I wasn’t really recruited out of high school, so I didn’t think I really had a chance.
I didn’t get recruited mainly because I was super undersized. Coming out of high school I was 6’2″ and 210 pounds my senior year, I was a string bean. I got two scholarship offers, both D II and both for not a lot of money. One was to Western State (Colorado) and the other was to CSU-Pueblo. I chose Pueblo because my brother transferred there from Nebraska and it would have been a cool experience to play with my brother.[tweet https://twitter.com/sinjen66/status/451722458937032704]
Going to Pueblo, I had never really thought that I would play, at least not until my junior or senior year. So, it was a little weird for me to come in and start playing right away. That’s why my favorite memory was just getting that first start.
Going into my junior year, my offensive line coach came up to me and said “Don’t give up any sacks this year and you could get on the radar. I think you have what it takes to play in the NFL.” I took it for what it was, mainly thought it was a motivational technique. Then, halfway through my junior year, there were a couple of scouts scouting our quarterback and they noticed me on film.[tweet https://twitter.com/sinjen66/status/317375291364364289]
The draft process is tough for smaller school guys, because a lot of times we don’t get invited to these main showcase games like the Senior Bowl. I ended up getting invited to the Texas vs. The Nation bowl. I went to that bowl and I was one of the few D II guys even at that bowl. It was different because you’re always watching the D I guys and they look so much bigger and faster and stronger on TV, then you go up and play against them and realize that yeah, they play at a higher level but I can play at that level.
Once I got to the NFL, my rookie year, I was active the entire season even though I broke my foot. Going into my second year I got released at the end of training camp and I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. I was hurting, because I wasn’t sleeping due to my sleep apnea diagnosis and I was in a low place. When you’re not sleeping and you’re not playing well, the inevitable thoughts in your mind start coming. “Am I good enough? What am I going to do if I get released?” Those thoughts start creeping in, and it wasn’t until after I got my sleep under control that I got my strength back, I got my weight back up. I was able to get back into a good groove and started getting better as a player.
To play in the NFL, it’s an amazing experience. At times – I don’t want to say I take it for granted – but sometimes it opens your eyes when you run out there and there are 75,000 people and there are cameras everywhere. To come from where I did and see all of that, it’s a great feeling.
As a back-up, I watch a lot of film of our starters and how they do things throughout the week. I watch how they prepare: how much film they watch, what they eat, how they take care of their body. Even though I’m not starting, I try to prepare every week as if I am. In case something happens to one of those guys and they need me to go into the game, I make sure that I’m mentally and physically ready to go.
Marshall Yanda has been my go-to guy when trying to learn. I’ll quiz him with questions every once in a while. Why he does something a certain way, or how he does this. How long does he wait in the off season before getting back to lifting? The things that work for him, I try to take them and tweak maybe one or two things to help me and that work better for me. With Marshall and how good of a player he is, it’s been awesome to see how he does things week in and week out.
When it comes to my NFL career, I want to become a starter for multiple years and eventually sign that bigger contract. Being able to set up my family for the rest of their lives is definitely a big goal of mine. Being able to go into my career after football and not have to worry about money is a big goal of mine.
It’s amazing because I’ve been kind of living my brother’s dream. My brother, he was a four star recruit coming out of high school. He had all of the D I offers and he ended up never playing a snap of college football because he got hurt. So to me, it was a cool feeling in a sense, allow him to live his dream through me. That’s what still motivates me to this day.