UCLA linebacker Myles Jack is a highly touted prospect at the NFL Scouting Combine this week, with NFL Media's Mike Mayock and Bucky Brooks rating him as their second-best linebacker in the class.
If there's one team that's no stranger to UCLA linebackers, it's the Vikings. Minnesota drafted UCLA roommates Anthony Barr in 2014 (ninth overall) and Eric Kendricks in 2015 (45th overall). In Jack's media session Friday, he said he admired both of his older teammates.
"Anthony [Barr] was kind of the beginning, and then I was kind of in awe of them," Jack said. "When I first stepped on campus, I wanted to be just like them. When Anthony left, it was Eric. I just kind of followed Eric, listened to everything he said, watched how seriously he took the game, and it's paid off. Hopefully the next wave of guys out of UCLA will follow that same suit."
Jack garnered plenty of attention during his time at UCLA. In 2014, he ranked second on the team with 88 tackles (behind Kendricks). Jack played three games in 2015 before suffering a knee injury, after which he left UCLA to rehab and train.
"I felt like the best decision for me was to pull out of school and concentrate on getting better," Jack said.
Brooks and Mayock have Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith as the number one linebacker over Jack. Smith also faced a knee injury, and he and Jack have found camaraderie over a similar situation. Both said that teams bypassing them in the draft due to injury concerns would be a mistake.
"I think it's something where we're two great competitors. Myles Jack [and I] are tight," Smith said. "We're close throughout this whole process. Even before I got hurt, we exchanged numbers and [were] talking. I think it's a matter where I'm a long-term guy. I'm going to be a very impactful player for a very long time. It's just getting healthy. That's all I can focus on."
Defensive linemen, regarded as the deepest class in the 2016 NFL Draft, also made their media rounds Friday. Here are a few statements from top-rated prospects:
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Pre-combine draft rankings: Mayock DE1, Brooks DE1
On advice from father John Bosa, former NFL DT:"He's kind of just let me do my own thing. I've got great people around me. He's surrounded me with the best agents, the best trainers, with all the best people. I really trust him with everything's he's done for me in this process."
On sharing the combine experience with 13 OSU teammates:"It's awesome. It's like a homecoming. I keep running into new guys. I totally forgot [defensive tackle] Aldophus (Washington) was here. I ran into him really the first time this morning and I'm like, 'Oh, I totally forgot you were coming.' It's just nice seeing everybody's face because it seems like it's been forever. It's awesome."
A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Pre-combine draft rankings: Mayock DT5, Brooks DT1
On attributes of players who come through Alabama's system:"You develop discipline. You know exactly what you have to do, playing for Coach [Nick] Saban. [He] really helped us be more disciplined to play to our best ability, to be the best we can. To go out every day and give 100 percent no matter what it is, what we were doing – on and off the field. Just being a better man. So it really helped us playing for the University of Alabama."
On a memory of Coach Saban being angry:"My freshman year when I got there, I wasn't used to not hitting the quarterback, so in practice I used to hit A.J. [McCarron] all the time, and [Coach Saban] would get mad: 'Stay off the quarterback!' But I have to hit the quarterback! If I don't hit the quarterback in practice, how am I going to hit him in the game? But I know you're not supposed to do that – just force of habit. I stopped doing it after my freshman year, but it was a habit."
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
Pre-combine draft rankings: Brooks DT5
On his Nigerian heritage and heading to the NFL:"Coming from Nigeria, I was just excited to come to a new country. I always played sports when I was back home, and I just tried to play a new sport and see how it goes. I just fell in love with [football].
"Coming from Nigeria at the age of nine – the hard times, working hard, getting better every day, learning the sport of football starting in the seventh grade. I just feel like I have a lot to prove. A lot of guys are looking up to me, too. I just have to be the best I can be."
Here are links to other content pieces from Friday at the combine:
5 Takes on Teddy Bridgewater