One of my absolute favorite draft prospects in this year's class is Sean Weatherspoon, the linebacker from Missouri. I knew I liked "Spoon" from the games I had watched before the Senior Bowl, but it was there that I got to see first hand his abilities as a leader on and off the field. Sean isn't afraid to speak his mind and he talked with me about how the North squad felt disrespected at the Senior Bowl, how he feels about those who chose not to compete at the Combine and what team made him stand up and sing for them in an interview! Needless to say, this was one of my favorite interviews I've had the pleasure of conducting. Be sure to follow Spoon on Twitter (while he still has it!) @SeanWSpoon12!
Spencer: We first met at the beginning of Senior Bowl week but haven't been able to catch up since. How'd you feel about your experience in Mobile?
Weatherspoon: It was a great time, man. I didn't really know what I was getting into when I signed up for it but I was just excited to go play against the nation's best. Going down there and meeting a lot of great football players and seeing a lot of great competition at practice was big for me. I actually played on the outside some, but I played mostly on the inside, so that was a little different for me. But overall, I felt like I accomplished a lot that week and I felt like it was a great experience for me. It definitely helped me in my growth as far as the game goes.
Spencer: That actually brings me to my next point. You talked about playing the Mike backer spot at the Senior Bowl where you were a Will backer at Missouri. How did you wind up playing the middle in Mobile?
Weatherspoon: Well, we had a shortage of linebackers. There were like, five linebackers there so we had to split some time with that second unit. So with the first unit I was an outside linebacker then when we'd go to the second unit, I would go to the Mike. So I just got really comfortable at it and the coaches felt like I did a great job with it. Just communicating with the rest of the defense and getting guys lined up, so when it came down to game time, they decided to keep me inside since I did a great job in practice. It came pretty natural to me because when I came to Mizzou, I started at Mike. My freshman year I was second team Mike. Then after that I kind of moved to my natural position which is a Will in a 4-3 system. But at times, I would still be playing Mike here, so it wasn't that big of an adjustment. It was something I was a little nervous about before hand but once I got the hang of it, it was fun.
Spencer: One thing that I noticed during the practices and the game in Mobile was that you assumed a leadership position with the North team. How'd did that develop?
Weatherspoon: Basically, all throughout high school and college I've been the guy that was always enthusiastic on the field because I know that if you're having fun, then you'll make a lot of plays. Just being out there I feel that it's not a right for us to play; it's a priveledge. So you have to take advantage of it and have fun and enjoy every moment. So I'm definitely that guy that wants to be in front of the huddle and tell the guys what they need to be doing and lining people up. I take pride in that.
Spencer: Something else I noticed was that the North team seemed to play with more of a "team" concept out there compared to the South team. After the game I heard basically the same quote from you and Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati WR) comparing the team to a hand, saying that when you first came together, you were like 5 individual fingers. Then you came together to form a mighty fist that could deliver a mighty blow. Was that something that the Lions coaches talked to you guys about or was that something that the players came up with on their own?
Weatherspoon: That's something that me and Mardy started saying in practice to bring guys together. We kept hearing about all the names on the South team and talking about players individually. So we felt like as a unit, we're solid. We kind of felt like not a lot of people were talking about us because a lot of the people down south in SEC country don't even know a lot of the players on the North team. We just kind of wanted to come out and put on a big show and coming together to prove everybody wrong. I think everyone was kind of writing us off and our coaches kind of let us know that everybody was against the North. When they brought us out, we didn't get as many cheers as the South team. So we put a little chip on our shoulder and wanted to come out and prove people wrong. We just wanted to shut all the nay-sayers up so we just kept telling the team how we could all do it together. Everyone just wanted to come together and make plays and there wasn't a lot of focus on one individual, so we were able to come together as a team and gel a little bit better.
Spencer: Who else stood out to you on the North squad, either for their play or their leadership?
Weatherspoon: I was really impressed with our cornerbacks. They did a great job. Kyle Wilson from Boise State. He's a great corner that likes to jump on everything and make plays on the ball. One guy that I was really impressed with was Chris Cook from Virginia. When I first saw him, I was like "Bro, you play linebacker?" He's said, "Nah man, I play corner. Why does everyone say that when they see me?" So we kind of joked about that. In practice, he was a big physical corner that made some plays on the ball. Those are two guys that stood out to me. On the offensive side of the ball, I would have to say I was impressed with Mardy [Gilyard]. He just worked hard in practice and he made big plays. In the game, it showed because he had a great performance and it was great for him.
Spencer: After the Senior Bowl, you had the Combine come up next. You get there and put up 34 reps on the bench and run a 4.68 40. How'd you feel about your performance in Indianapolis?
Weatherspoon: You know, I was pleased with my performance but I wasnt so pleased with my 40 time. I felt like that wasn't a normal 40 time. I felt like I could run a lot better, so I was a little upset about that. But as far as drills and everything, I felt like I did what I needed to do. I think I looked athletic in drills from what I've seen. Guys were even out there leading. Guys like Brandon Spikes [Florida], myself, Sean Lee from Penn State, guys were stepping up out there. It was a competition but at the same time, we were kind of like a unit. The whole Combine process is pretty tough because you're so excited to get out there and do what you want to do and that's run and jump and all of that stuff. Then they just shut you down on day one with all the medical stuff and you're like "Woah, what's going on? I'm ready to get out there and perform!" but you've got to go through all that stuff. The psychological test and stuff like that, so it wears and tears on you a little bit. After the Combine, I think I was pretty much a top performer in everything I did so I was please with it. I just wasn't pleased with my 40 time and my 5-10-5 shuttle time. So I came back to Mizzou and my Pro day was on the 4th, so I kind of jumped right in to it. So I took three days off, then came out to my Pro Day. We started out with the 40 and I ran a lot better on my home turf. My first one was like 4.52 low or around that range is what everybody had me at. Then my second 40, I even got into the 4.4 range at like 4.45, so it was a better day for me and I was feeling pretty confident at home. Then my short shuttle, I did it in 4.1, so I was really excited and I just decided to go ahead and do the drills again. So I had a great showing at my Pro Day as well, so just to put that on top of the Combine, it really gives me confidence going into April.
Spencer: One of the things I like about you so much is that you went to the Senior Bowl and you competed there. Then you go to the Combine and you compete there, followed by competing again at your Pro Day. What do you think about some of these guys who are healthy, but chose not to compete with everyone else?
Weatherspoon: You know, there are a few guys that come to mind and they're good friends and they're great guys, but I just feel like when it's time to compete, everyone that's able to should go out there and compete. So to me it's kind of like, guys are scared. But like when I got invited to the Senior Bowl, I look at that as an opportunity and I wanted to go. But some guys are like "I'm not going to that because I can only hurt myself," and stuff like that. But for me, it's all about competing. I wish that the bigger names would come out and compete as well. But sometimes they're advised by people that want to make different decisions, so it's pretty tough on them. Like at the Combine, I could tell that Rolando [McClain], he wanted to get out there and compete, but you could tell that somebody else was telling him that "you shouldn't do this," and "you shouldn't do that." But I feel bad for the kids because it's actually a fun time to go out there and do what you've been doing all your life and try to be great and compete with everyone else.
Spencer: Going back to the Combine for a minute, one of the toughest parts of the Combine is the interview process. Were there any teams that gave you a hard time in the interview room, or did they all go smoothly?
Weatherspoon: I didn't receive a hard time from any team. I won't say a team's name, but you'll pretty much figure out what team this is. They just talked about my Twitter. They said that they don't really care too much for the social media side of things with all the YouTube and stuff like that. They said that there's only one guy that makes decisions at our office and he's the guy in the gray sweatshirt, so they said they don't really care too much for that. Then they said "if we draft you, are you gonna put that to the side?" and I told them, "yeah, I'm not attached to anything. I'll be able to put that to the side and focus on what I need to focus on." But my interviews went pretty well from what I experienced. I came in and did what I needed to do and didn't blow it like some people do in those areas when they're not prepared. I had twenty one formal interviews, which is usually with the GM and sometimes the owner and the head coach and stuff like that, so that took a toll on me. But overall it was just fun to meet with those coaches and front office people and show them what I can bring to the table. Most of the time, it's the defensive coordinator and the linebacker coach that run the meeting. They just talk a little bit about where you're from, your up-bringing and stuff like that. Then we just jump right on the board and talk about football and I can talk about football all day, so it wasn't that bad for me. I just felt like I did a good job on my interviews and hopefully it helps me out come April.
Spencer: What position are teams talking to you about playing in the NFL? Do they like you at the Will spot? Did they like what they saw at the Senior Bowl when you played the Mike position? Or are 3-4 teams talking to you about playing inside in their defenses?
Weatherspoon: I met with a lot of 3-4 teams, which was kind of news to me. I had been hearing all this stuff like "he's a 4-3 guy, Will side, maybe on the inside. Maybe." I met with the Chargers, Steelers, Broncos and even the 49ers, so I was like, wow. They all can see me on the inside in a 3-4 system so that kind of made me excited since I hadn't heard that at all. So once I got out there and talked to them, it made me feel a little bit better about my draft status. I feel like I can play in any system. In a 4-3, most guys are saying on the weak side, but some teams are talking about the middle, so it's pretty neat. I'm just taking it all in.
Spencer: Talk a little about the coverage scheme you ran at Missouri. Where you locked up in man coverage on backs and tight ends a lot of were you primarily in zone coverage?
Weatherspoon: We had a lot of zones at times. We had some pressures where I had to take the backs. Sometimes the backs would try to run a wheel route or something like that and those are the things that I had to be conscious of. I was just used to getting to a spot and reading the quarterback and trying to break on the ball.
Spencer: Did Missouri use you much as a blitzer?
Weatherspoon: This past year, we had a defensive coordinator change so we were a little more passive this year. We had a lot of young guys out there so we didn't blitz as much. I had like, 5 sacks, but we didn't really blitz that much at all. The previous years, I found myself blitzing a lot more because we had an older defense. I think I've had success coming up the middle in the A gap and the B gap, but not that much success on the edge because I wasn't on the edge that much coming out. But I feel like I can get up there and work on some tackles a little bit.
Spencer: Throughout your career, what running back gave you the toughest time?
Weatherspoon: I wouldn't say a running back gave me a tough time. Once you get 'em, you've just gotta get your fundamentals and bring 'em down. But as far as having a tough time getting to a guy, that'd be Mike Goodson from Texas A&M a couple years ago. He was just one of those backs that if you gave him an inch, he'd put the moves on you real quick. So he's one of the guys that stuck out in my mind.
Spencer: I've heard that you hold some school records in the weight room. Talk a little bit about your lifting numbers.
Weatherspoon: Last summer at Mizzou, myself and a couple other guys were trying to get the record in the squat. So we got with our strength and conditioning coach, coach Ivy, and he thought I could get it so he put it on there. It was like, 775. That's the record. It's something I take pride in and a lot of teams have talked about it. It's the record but I don't know how long it's gonna be the record! We've got some guys coming up that've been working really hard. So we'll just see how long it lasts!
Spencer: Going back to the early part of your career, you played a lot of special teams. As you know, that's the "foot in the door" role for linebackers in the NFL. Talk about some of the roles you played on special teams and where you could fit in?
Weatherspoon: When I was younger, I played on kickoff. My first two years. That was really fun and it was big for me. That's pretty much how I made my living my freshman year, just running down on kickoffs. I did kickoff return, I was the center on that. Punt team, I was the wing on our pro-style punt team. Then we went to the shield punt, you know, just spread everybody out. I was a guard in that for the past two years. So I feel like I can go out there with any organization and be out there on day one on kickoffs. Just be one of those guys running down and making plays. At the Senior Bowl I kind of showed that. In practice, it was a competition to see who could get down there and that's something I tried to do and did a pretty good job. In the game, I ended up starting the game off with a pretty nice tackle on Dexter McCluster on the kickoff. So I look forward to going out on kickoffs. I know that as a linebacker, that's something you're gonna have to do is all special teams, so that's something I'm looking forward too.
Spencer: Did you grow up with a favorite NFL team or a linebacker that you idolized?
Weatherspoon: Well, I'm from Texas. So my favorite team would have been the Cowboys growing up. So I watched the Cowboys in the nineties win all of those championships. I'm still pulling for them these days but if they don't pick me, then I'll have to find a new favorite team. As for a player I idolized, growing up it was like Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas and then Ray Lewis recently. Then I got to high school and I started to like a guy like Lance Briggs, and I kind of compare myself to him. He plays a 4-3 scheme and plays the weak side, so he's free to make a lot of plays. He's an athletic guy that's real passionate about the game and I think I do the same thing.
Spencer: Who was your biggest supporter growing up?
Weatherspoon: I'd have to say my mom, my dad and my sister. Her and her two daughters. They came to everything, man. Every game, everything I had going on, they were trying to make it, no matter the circumstance. So they sacrificed a lot to come watch me play so they're kind of like my motivation.
Spencer: Did you play any other sports growing up?
Weatherspoon: Yep. I played basketball, football, baseball and I ran track. So I was really active. I didn't sit still too long.
Spencer: What's something about you that would surprise some of your fans? Any odd hobbies or hidden talents?
Weatherspoon: I don't have any odd hobbies but as for hidden talents, I like to think I could make it on American Idol or something. I sing a little bit. Actually, the Vikings asked me to sing at the end of my interview! It was so funny! That was probably the craziest thing that happened to me in Indy. I couldn't believe Coach Childress asked me to sing! So I just had to pick a song and go with it, so I picked Ruben Studdard's "Fly without wings" that he won American Idol with. I did pretty good with it so I could tell they were pretty impressed. It was pretty cool!
Spencer: Did they give you a standing ovation?
Weatherspoon: Not a standing ovation, but you could just tell that they were surprised.
Spencer: Do you have any workouts or visits coming up with any NFL teams?
Weatherspoon: Yeah, man. Wednesday I've got a private workout with the Falcons. So I'm looking forward to that one. They were one of the teams that I really got a good vibe from at the Combine. Meeting with their owner, Mr. Blank, their GM, Mr. Dimitroff, the head coach, Coach Smith. The meetings went well and I think they got a pretty good vibe from me. I have a team mate that was drafted there last year in the second round, so he put in a couple good words for me. But I'm definitely looking forward to that meeting coming up on Wednesday.
Spencer: Final question for you: You're an NFL Scout trying to convince your GM to take Sean Weatherspoon in the draft. What do you say to persuade the GM?
Weatherspoon: I'd say the reason you should draft Sean Weatherspoon is because he's a leader. He's a natural born leader. And a leader to me is someone who can improve any situation. I feel like when I'm out there on defense, if we're going through some bad times, I feel like I can step up and make a play. That's something I take pride in is making big plays on third down and getting off the field. And oh yeah, the guy made a lot of tackles! 400 plus tackles in college. He can obviously find the football, so that won't be a problem.
Spencer: Sean, I really appreciate you taking your time out to talk with me today. Good luck with your workout in Atlanta this week and good luck in the draft!
Weatherspoon: No problem man, thanks a lot!
Will Spencer is the lead writer at Draft Breakdown. Be sure to follow Will on Twitter @DraftBreakdown.