Here's the transcript of the call with Giants' fourth-round middle linebacker, Phillip Dillard of Nebraska. I saw it written that in many games, Dillard made defensive end Ndamukong Suh better, and not the other way around. Judging by his confident attitude, I'll take those reports at their word. He sounds a lot like Antonio Pierce in his love for quarterbacking the defense and meeting would-be blockers head-on.
Q: Your reaction to going to a team that has a dire need for a middle linebacker. I assume that has to be better for you than going somewhere with an established starter, right?
A: Oh, it is, definitely. I am ecstatic. When my name went across the screen, I knew what their needs were and after going down there on my visit I was like, “Wow, everything just fell into place.” It is amazing.
Q: It seems like they brought you in for a visit and maybe had some other conversations. Did you think they were a real possibility for you here?
A: Yeah, I did think they were a possibility. Talking to the coaches and the new defensive coordinator there – they were doing everything, they watched the film, they knew everything. They told me what my strengths and my weaknesses were. And they were accurate. I was like, “They were obviously watching the film.” And the Giants are a great organization. So I don’t think they would bring anyone here just to learn. I was ecstatic just to go on the visit. I knew there was a possibility and a chance and I’m glad it worked out the way that it did.
Q: How high did you expect to go and what did people tell you that may have led you to believe you could drop?
A: I was expecting to go like second or third. No one told me anything that would have expected me to drop. That is just the way the draft works. Every year things never go the way they are supposed to or planned. So I just had to sit there and wait for my name to be called. And it did.
Q: Just reading some stuff up on you recently – the injuries and having to earn the starting job back, it sounds like it was a tumultuous college career that kind of ended on the upswing there. What led you to maybe turn things around? Or what was it about your situation that allowed you to kind of regroup there?
A: It wasn’t really about turning things around. My mom had passed during that January. And I told her that I was going to do something that would honor the family and stay out of trouble and do the right thing. So all I had to do was work and not complain and not moan, knock the attitude, show great character, be happy, and not be a cancer in the locker room. And not be mad because things don’t go my way because that is just how life goes. Things don’t always go your way so I am going to have to work through that to be a man. And that is what I did and it worked out for the best.
Q: Do you think having gone through that makes you better prepared than the average prospect?
A: I wouldn’t say it makes me better prepared. Just the things I went through and the things and the knowledge that the coaching staff and everything that Nebraska as of me, yeah, I do have kind of a lead on and going through a lot. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone has a different story. But I do know that I am ready to make the transition and this is something that I have waited for a long time that I have worked for and I can’t wait to get it started.
Q: You played other positions at Nebraska – outside, weakside, middle. Is middle your best position? What kind of middle linebacker are you?
A: I can play middle or outside. Both I am great in the middle, too. I am great between the tackles. I always stay square. I never cross over. I am very physical and if you watch my film at times I might not get a play because I’m running downhill as I’m trying to knock out the pulling linemen because he is a threat to me, and I just love contact. I love being physical and aggressive. And my mental aspect is that I love to be in control of the checks and make the checks. And if you look at our defense, I made all of the checks from blitzes to checking high coverages, to checking man coverages and telling our corners or safeties or dimes what they are going to do and what check to make. That is just something that I love to do. I love to lead and have that on my shoulders, the quarterback of the defense. And if I get that responsibility, I am going to handle it with care.
Q: You did that this year from the weakside?
A: I did it this year from the MIC because we were mostly in dime and nickel because of our conference. But even when I played WILL playing base, sometimes I would still make the checks and I would still make calls. I have to check blitzes though.
Q: You sound very much like Antonio Pierce. Have you followed his career?
A: Yeah, I have. And that is another thing that I knew. I know that he left, and that he is off the team. So I knew that it would be a good possibility and a good fit for me. And I mean it’s a great organization, the Giants organization is great. All you hear is good things about how they take care of their players and they respect the players and everything. I’m stuttering right now and I never stutter.
Q: How much did Bo Pelini prepare you for this draft and what pointers has he given you knowing that he has been an NFL linebacker coach before?
A: If he wasn’t my coach, I don’t think I would be in this position right now – and Coach Eckler and Coach Carl (Pelini, defensive coordinator). It is the whole mindset of everything that he has taught me. Like he will come into our meetings and give me the pointer and say, “what would you do here? What check would you make here? What do see about this offense.” And you have to know it and you have to say it. He won’t get mad, he would just go, “No, there is another thing.” There are always certain possible plays they can do from each formation. But the knowledge of the game that he has instilled in me is beyond reason.
Q: You obviously know there is an opportunity here. Do you expect that you will come in and win the starting job?
A: No, I don’t expect it. I expect to come in and make an impact on the team regardless of what they ask me to do. Whether it is to play special teams, learn the playbook, master the playbook, get the playbook down, then earn a spot, that is what I am willing to do. I just want to be a part of the team. I want to make an impact on the team. And I want to help this team go to a Super Bowl because I know that is the ultimate goal.
Q: I’m sure by now you know how the scouting process works, and I’m sure you have heard this before, people mention the fact that you played behind Suh and say, “Oh, that probably led to his production.” I’m guessing that you don’t agree. So if I said that to you, how would you counter that?
A: He is a great player; he is a phenomenal player – one of the best that I have seen in years. The thing I was always talking about is Coach Bo and Coach Carl told some of the scouts that if I wasn’t behind him that he wouldn’t have made a couple of plays because they had to game plan for me, too. And that I hadn’t expected them to say because everything I say is always, “Well, he is a great player and that whole D-line is and the secondary behind me is great. So I have to be great, I have to play great in order to not let my teammates down.” So that is how it started. I have to play up to their level to not let them down. So he is phenomenal player. But everything that Coach Bo and his staff taught me made me a good player.
Q: Am I hearing this correctly, you are questioning the second overall pick?
A: No, I didn’t say that – never. That man is a monster. He is a busy man, and he deserves all of the credit. I just help out; I just help out.
Q: You have no residuals from the ACL?
A: No, after I tore it I went through the rehab and I haven’t hurt it since. I don’t know the injury I got was just a freak accident. Someone pushed me on kickoff and I was going the other way and they pushed me opposite way and it popped. But no, it has been great ever since.
Q: It sounds like you are a real good film study guy. So what do you think the biggest adjustment is going to be as you try to compete for a job in the NFL?
A: Now that I don’t have to worry about classes. I get to watch film even more. So I’m just going to go in there and I’m going to be in there with the coaches, be on his ears and I will probably get on his nerves. “Coach, what do I do here?” I want to know everything, I want to know the in’s and out’s of everybody that we play, and then go to me watching the film and then me being able to pick out the offensive linemen’s stance – is it full; is too high, is it buzzsaw, is he standing on his feet when he backpeddles. Just everything. I watch for every little thing. I really watch film because I love giving a heads up on the players. It makes it look like I’m doing good out there but really I’m just doing my research and I’m playing off of it.