by Chris Warner
With New England’s needs on defense, Cincinnati Bearcat Connor Barwin’s name has arisen as a prime candidate for outside linebacker in the Patriots’ 3-4 system. We owe thanks to his agent (Shawn Smith at XAM Sports) for arranging this exclusive interview, and thanks to Connor for taking the time to answer these questions.
Though this exchange got started before news hit of Mike Vrabel’s trade to Kansas City, the questions about him take on new relevance.
Hi Connor. Let’s begin with the most recent news: you rocked the combine. How satisfying was that? Did you perform up to your own expectations, or were there any events you wanted to improve?
The combine went very well for me. I jumped a little better than I thought I would jump but I was a little disappointed in the 40 and the bench press. I feel like I did well in my agility drills.
Now that you’ve taken the Wonderlic, do you think it’s an accurate measure of football smarts?
It is not at all an accurate measure but it is a decent way to find out how smart someone is.
And what was the most memorable question on it?
There was a question that asked which date came first and initially I answered wrong because I just looked at the first month, but when I went back through I saw it was the year you had to look at so I corrected it.
As an athlete, what’s the tougher transition: basketball to tight end, or tight end to defense?
I think the hardest transition is the one you didn’t mention and that’s football to basketball. I think this is toughest because of the endurance level… it’s a totally different type of running.
What’s the deal with you blocking so many kicks? Did opponents lack film on your special teams prowess, or were you so darn good it didn’t matter?
Our special teams coach would just find the weakness and put me over the weakest guy and I was able to beat him and make the block.
In your first and only year as a defensive end, you tallied double-digit sacks. What can you say to convince NFL teams that you can repeat that type of performance at the next level?
I would tell them exactly what you just said. However, I know the ceiling is high and I have so much more to learn that I know I will simply improve.
Okay, on to the self-serving, Patriots-based questions. Who best represents Ohio football, you or Mike Vrabel, and are you tired of the comparisons to him yet?
Mike Vrabel because I grew up playing in Michigan… not Ohio. And I’m not at all sick of the comparisons – he’s a good guy to compare me to.
Your learning curve has been impressive. Is this due to film work, field work, or an almost superhuman knack for picking up football on the fly?
I think my learning curve is high because of my athleticism, my understanding of the game and just my overall understanding of football.
What do you think of going from a hand-down, 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB?
I’m very excited to play a 3-4 OLB because I would be able to not only use what made me successful at DE but what made me successful as TE and that was the ability to play in space.
A lot of Patriots fans admire versatility. Besides OLB and TE, what’s another position you think you could play, or at least attempt to play?
Besides playing every special teams I think I could line up as a slot receiver.
Name two NFL players whose game you try to emulate (and don’t you dare say Mike Vrabel!).
There’s nobody really, although I did watch some of Dwight Freeney’s film and tried to emulate some of his spins but couldn’t do it so I decided to just be myself on the field.
At what point did you start to believe that a career in the NFL was possible?
As a freshman in college. It was a dream in high school but as soon as I came to UC I knew it would be possible.
Off the field, what would surprise fans about you?
I’m a dominating competitive Scrabble player.
Connor, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. No matter what team you end up with, good luck next year in the NFL. Just, if you play the Patriots, could you, you know, half-ass it a little?
Ha, thank you very much for your questions and appreciate your time.