Q: What’s your initial reaction to being drafted by the Patriots?
CW: Man, I’m speechless. It’s a great honor and I’m just very lucky. I’m feeling very blessed, surrounded by my closest family and friends, so it’s a very lucky position I’m in, very blessed.
Q: Did you have any inkling that the Patriots wanted you?
CW: It’s one of those things where you never really know going into the draft process. New England’s a great program, they’ve obviously done some really great things and you’re hoping your name is called and your phone starts ringing, and thank God it did.
Q: Did you have any pre-draft contact with the Patriots ,and if so, what did that entail?
CW: I didn’t have too many interactions with the Patriots, but I did have some. It was in a relatively limited capacity. I’d rather just wait to dive into that further until I receive further instructions on how much information I can share.
Q: Did you know that the quarterback here played at Michigan?
CW: I am familiar. Tom [Brady] actually came back and spoke to our team and came back for a game and I got the chance to get a really cool picture with him shaking his hand. It’s just really great that he cares about Michigan enough to come back and share some wisdom that he’s been through throughout the years. I really look up to him just as anybody that’s played at Michigan does.
Q: He’s said in the past that guys come in that grew up watching him and then they become teammates with him. Do you have to conquer that a little bit as you get off the plane and he’s your teammate now and not just a legend?
CW: The thing is, it’s just such an honor to be even on the same field as him and get to pursue my dreams in the NFL. Like I said, it’s truly a blessing. I don’t know about conquering anything, just the fact that I’m here and they chose me says a lot about my position. I just can’t wait to get to New England and get to know the coaching staff more and the players on the team.
Q: What role do you see yourself in in the NFL? Are you a defensive end, are you a linebacker? What do you bring to the table and what do you see yourself as?
CW: For me, I’ve always prided myself on being a football player, so wherever the coaches want to put me, ultimately. If you look at my history, I’ve played a lot of different position and that’s where the coaches are going to decide where I fit best, so that’s their choice not mine. I’m happy to play anywhere. I just want to get on the field and contribute and work hard.
Q: Were you mostly playing on the same side as the tight end or playing on the weak side in the formation at Michigan?
CW: I was playing on the weak side. Rashan [Gary] was playing in our defense what’s called the anchor, so typically he was to the run-strength formation, but it changed based off whether it was pass or run. So, he was usually to the run-strength side and to the tight end. But for me, people traded [sides], especially early on trying to test me, and so I played it all.
Q: I hear you once ate a live fish. Can you tell me the story there?
CW: So yeah, I once ate a live fish. I was a really, really young kid. I think I was in like fifth or sixth grade and I was real into Bear Grylls at the time. Twenty dollars at that point in my life was a lot of money, so I did it. I think today I would have made a little more than 20 dollars. At the end of the day, I ate it and I’m never going to eat one again but I crossed that one off the list of things I’ve done in my life for sure.
Q: What happened after you ate it?
CW: That’s a tough question, I coughed it up and the blood was pretty bad tasting you could say.
Q: Did you get the 20 dollars?
CW: I did get the 20 dollars though so it was at least worth that I guess. The value of a dollar, I definitely learned it in that moment.
Q: How’d you settle on defense because you played tight end and full back for a little bit at Michigan?
CW: Yeah, I actually played some running back, too, in camp. So, I guess I’ve played it all just going back to middle school, and that’s something that I definitely tried to stress to the coaching staff and the scouts for the Patriots. I ended up coming in as an inside linebacker and I played a little bit of “will” and “mike” and I also played some “sam.” And then Coach [Jim] Harbaugh came in, we had some injuries and some lack of depth there and Coach Harbaugh liked my speed, so he switched me over. And he’s a very intelligent guy and a great football coach, so I said, “Hey, wherever I can get on the field.” I dealt with some injuries and didn’t really get the chance to play, but ultimately after that season, I ended up switching back to defensive end. From the jump, it became pretty obvious that that was my calling, and as soon as Coach [Don] Brown came in and he put me as his Cheetah One which is like his – Coach Brown is our defensive coordinator and that’s the premiere pass rush position in our defense, and that’s something I held for three years at Michigan.
Q: So they’re not going to count on you to replace Rob Gronkowski here in New England?
CW: If they ask me, hey, I’ll give it my best shot. It’s just something we’ll have to see.
Q: How would you describe your style of play?
CW: I like to think of myself as kind of a junkyard dog, just tenacious, relentless effort and motor, just scrapping for every inch. But at the same time, I like to think I’m slippery here – as they say in Pittsburgh, “slippy.” I think I bring some versatility and I think my combine was an example of some of the speed that I have, and when you factor all of that in together, I think that makes me a pretty interesting pick and prospect and football player in general. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to go out there, prove my worth to the other guys on the team and ultimately to the rest of the world.
Q: Do you have a special teams background and is that something that might interest you at this level?
CW: I played a lot of special teams. I don’t know how far back you’d consider my background. In high school, I played every single special teams, offense and defense. For me, I just never wanted to leave the field, and it’s no different to this day. I want to contribute in any way possible, but at the end of the day, that’s up to the coaches to decided where I’m going to fit best. I’m just going to go in there, work as hard as I possibly can and just work hard. That’s what it comes down to. I’m not making any guarantees. I’m not promising where I’m going to play. I’m not the coach – that’s up to them.
Q: What was your impression of the Patriots and Coach Bill Belichick going through the process? How did that impression change or how was it confirmed when you met with them?
CW: I really don’t know. At the end of the day, the Patriots obviously have an amazing legacy and one I’m just lucky to be a part of, and so it’s truly an honor. There’s a video of my family reacting to the Patriots picking me and it just really is a blessing.
Q: What pro players do you watch game film on and who do you model your game after?
CW: To be honest, there’s a lot of things and people I take motivation from and model my game after. But, for me, I’m trying to learn from my teammates whenever I get to New England. That’s my first goal. I’m not trying to model my game after any one specific player. I’m just trying to get to New England, find out who the veterans are and get under their wing and learn from their leadership and tutelage.
Q: What did you think about some of the pre-draft scouting reports? I think NFL.com said something like you have zombie blood running through your veins. Just curious what you think of some of some of those descriptions.
CW: Zombie blood running through my veins? I’m really not sure. That’s kind of always been my mantra – just to outwork everybody. That’s always been my goal, and obviously at the next level with someone like the New England Patriots, hard work is a fundamental key component and they’ve done a great job I think of making that a cultural thing. I’m just lucky to be a part of it. I take that as a big compliment. Not everybody can do that and go as hard as I can on every play. That’s definitely a bonus for me.
Q: You noted the coaching change. How would you describe the impact or influence of Don Brown and playing for Jim Harbaugh?
CW: That’s two separate questions there, but for Coach Brown, I called him earlier today and I wanted to make sure it was known that regardless of where I went in the draft, exactly how blessed I was to be playing under him and how much I loved him. He’s always believed in me and I respect that man to no end. He was there from the jump and recognized my potential from the very beginning. Like I said, he always believed in me and he’s one of smartest people I’ve ever met. He’s just absolutely brilliant and there’s not very many people, if any, that I really have more respect for, and the same thing goes for Coach Harbaugh. It was a true honor to play for Coach Harbaugh and Coach Brown. For Coach Harbaugh, it’s the same thing. He’s a genius and he’s a true winner in my book. He knows how to get the job done and he’s always a friend and a great resource. Any time I’ve ever needed anything at Michigan, he’s someone I’ve been able to count on. I’ve been lucky going back to high school with my high school coach Bill Cherpak and going to college with Coach [Brady] Hoke and Coach Harbaugh coming in, and now Coach Belichick. It’s just really a blessing.
Q: There was a note on your scouting report saying you suffered some sort of injury, like a head injury after a nasty fall when you were really young. Can you share with us what happened and how you learned from that experience?
CW: I think that was a little blown out of proportion, to be honest. I ended up playing football a couple of months later and had no long-term repercussions from that. I never noticed anything, and like I said, it was a little exaggerated, the story that the NFL.com put up. At the end of the day, like I said, it was really no big deal long term. Like I said, I’ve had no long-term repercussions from it and it’s not a concern at all. I almost forgot about it until I read an article that said I had that, so it’s such a blur, a small blip in my life.
Q: You have a boxing and jiu jitsu background or experience. Is that true?
CW: Yeah. So, I’ve done some work in a variety of things. I’m currently involved in some yoga, and just trying to expand my horizons in terms of bodily movement. There’s a lot to be learned and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be a fulltime pro, where I have the resources to really expand my abilities and how my body moves – just take my game to the next level, because in my eyes, I’m just getting started. It’s a long journey and I’m just trying to work hard every day and take things one step at a time.
Q: Has the fighting background at all helped you in terms of pass rush or run defense with your hand usage and different moves you can use?
CW: Yeah, it’s definitely helped me. It’s a work in progress. I think there’s a lot of people who can get complacent. I like to not be one of those people. I’m always trying to be a better version of myself. I never want to peak. I just want to keep getting better and keep working on the little things, because it really is in the details.
Q: Have you ever heard of Joe Kim? He has a fighting background and he works with some of the Patriots pass rushers.
CW: Yes, I’ve heard of him.
Q: Ever met him?
CW: Unfortunately, I have not met him, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet him.