by Chris Warner

picLeading up to the NFL draft, the top prospects get showered with attention. Many of them played at colleges the size of small cities, in front of TV audiences numbering in the millions. They performed at the combine and provide fodder for fan blogs. It’s not a matter of if they will be drafted, but when.

So what about the hundreds of other players hoping to make a salary in the game they love? How does a guy like, say, receiver Dudley Guice from Northwestern State University in Louisiana get some attention?

Well, for starters, he could have a great pro day. Guice (pronounced like dice with a hard G) officially hit the radar last week with a 4.40-second 40-yard dash and a 6.61 three-cone drill (quicker than any wide receiver at the combine). He gave PD a revealing and entertaining interview in which he discussed his unusual path to the FCS, his receiving career, and his last name.

I just recently saw your pro day numbers and I was really impressed. How do you think everything’s been going?

Everything’s been like a long, stressful process. Coming in to the pro day, I had a great (Texas vs. The Nation) All-Star game in El Paso. I played with a great group of guys. You know, a lot of guys, they almost – they questioned one thing, and it’s my speed – and that kind of hurt me because personally, I didn’t think speed was an issue. Me and my coaching staff and my agent Shane Williams, we went into pro day training and we were going to concentrate on that one aspect, speed. My strength coach, Chad Englehart – I’m training in Mandeville, Louisiana – he did a great job. I dropped like five pounds, I’m six-two-and-a-half, 210. I ran a 4.39, officially got down to 4.40, 4.43. I put in the work, and it’s paid off. I’m glad that, not so much as to hush a lot of critics, but I (was at peace) with myself, knowing speed is not an issue with me.

It wasn’t just your straight-line speed but your quickness as well. Do you think you improved in that category?

Definitely, definitely. From what I know, a lot of guys really didn’t question my quickness, because for a big receiver, I pride myself on my route running. That’s one of those things that I like to critique, because I feel like a lot of big receivers tend to rely on their (size) and not the quickness into their routes. So, coming in as a youngster, I was always big on running great routes or good routes, and just doing the little things right and becoming a complete, more versatile receiver, not just one-dimensional.

In terms of being a versatile receiver, is it tough to do that at a school like (NSU)?

Actually, I’m glad you asked me that question, because there’s some history behind that. I committed to Mississippi State as a junior in high school. Jackie Sherrill ended up “retiring,” and Coach Sylvester Croom came in from the Green Bay Packers (Note: Croom served as running backs coach at GB) to Mississippi State my senior year. So me and my parents went down to Starkville and sat down with Coach Croom. I was leading the state in receptions with, I think I had about 62 plus and about 1,200 yards receiving, as well as 11 interceptions on defense which was a state record in Mississippi.

So we sat down and went over things, and he felt that basically I would help Mississippi State better playing in the secondary. At that time, I had a lot of schools (recruiting) me, but I sat all my options out my junior year because I wanted to be aboard the offense of Jackie Sherrill. Pretty much, Coach Croom wasn’t going to give me a chance to play wide receiver on the SEC level. He told my parents and myself that he was going to bring a lot of (junior college) guys in to have an immediate impact, so I was stuck without a home. At the time, Scott Stoker, the head coach at Northwestern State, called my dad. It’s like a week after signing day, I’m stuck without a place to sign. Northwestern came along. I flew from Shreveport, I met with Coach Stoker. It was kind of impromptu, like last minute, and I ended up signing with Northwestern State. At the time, I didn’t know they ran the ball 85 percent of the time. So, I get there, I’m in a run offense, an “I” formation, and I’m kind of like, “Damn.” I said to my posse, like, “What have I gotten myself into?” I come from a school that goes four-wide, I probably touched the ball about 10 times a game in high school. I come to an offense where basically you block a lot and you run deep balls.

But I can say, honestly, I think everything has a reason. I might have questioned my decision of going to a running offense at the time, but I made the best of it, and I prayed about it, and I always had in my mind that if it’s meant for you to be successful, it doesn’t matter if you’re D1, (FCS), run offense or pass offense. The question is, how many plays did you make when the ball did come your way? I think I did a good job of making plays when the ball was in the air, and when it did come my way. I think I made a lot of great catches, and everything else is in the bank.

Do you think playing for a run-oriented offense helped you in other areas?

Actually, I think it helped me (overall). It’s helped me to maintain composure. A lot of guys from a spread offense are used to the ball coming their way. If the ball does come your way in a run-oriented offense, you want it more. I mean, we run the ball 80 percent of the time, give or take…In the back of my mind, I know, if we only get the ball 20 percent of the time, when the ball comes to my side and it’s in the air, you take more pride. You want to get to make every chance like it’s the last, because you really don’t know when the ball’s going to come to your side again. I think that aspect, as a receiver, if you have that mentality or that mind-frame, and you say when it does come to you, “make a play,” and go to the next play. And it definitely helps you blocking-wise, because if you’re not a good blocker, you’re not going to be in there.

Do you think there will be a tough adjustment dealing with an NFL type of offense?

Oh, no. I feel like a playbook is a playbook. We ran four-wide offense in a practice spread. There were a couple of times in the season when we did run a spread offense, I just think as a whole we didn’t have the four-wide personnel. Sometimes that would kind of make it hard on our quarterback, but for the most part, I think a playbook is a playbook, and it all comes with the territory. Either you’re a good play-reader ­- you’re going to be a good playmaker – or you’re not. A lot of guys might compare me to some of those guys who were in a spread offense as someone who was in a run offense, but I just want to make it clear that a good receiver is going to be a good receiver, whether it was in a run offense or a pass offense.

Me, personally, I just want to spread this: my yards per catch averaged about 17.6. Now if you look at that, that led the conference, so when I got the ball, I made something happen. I think that’s all that matters on the next level: once you get the ball, you make something happen. So I think I did a good job with that, personally.

How about special teams? What do you think you can offer there?

Yes, sir. I was a part of special teams since my freshman year. I was a starting gunner, I was a starting jammer (on punt teams), I did kick return a couple years. I was (on every) kickoff coming into my freshman, sophomore year, and the coach took me off of kickoff because he really didn’t want me taking any more hits coming into my junior, senior year. But I was a gunner and jammer in my college career.

And what do you like about that?

I think it’s fun. I think special teams are definitely a big momentum change. Actually, I liked doing gunner and jammer. It was one of those things where coach put the best players on special teams. If you were on special teams, you must be athletic, you must be doing something right, because coaches in college, they pride themselves on special teams. If there’s nothing else they do, they’re going to make sure they have their special teams up to par.

Now, have you been to any workouts or any interviews with NFL teams?

Acutally, I’ve interviewed with several teams. Cleveland, Oakland (that was) a while back. My agent, Shane Williams, I kind of let him deal with the technical stuff…But, after the pro day, I talked with the Saints for about an hour, and I think Buffalo showed up…and there were a couple more teams in the press box. I got a couple calls from different scouts after my pro day, and actually next Thursday on the 19th, I’ll be going back to Northwestern (State) and running some routes with the quarterbacks. I have scheduled on the 16th, Monday, I’ll be in Baton Rouge, (LSU’s pro day), running routes.

So you think your pro day has really helped you?

I think it did. It put an exclamation mark on a lot of things, a lot of scouts, so maybe they began caring about me, with that speed that was (reported). As far as quickness, my coach, I’ve got to give him all of the credit, him and God. Because, I mean, he got me out of the box (the short shuttle) in 4.01 indoors…Coming back from Northwestern on the slick turf, I think I adjusted well. I ran a 6.61 on the (three-cone) drill. I kind of pride myself on that because in workouts I’d been running high 6.6s and mid 6.6s. Everything worked out, great technique and I just came up with a 6.61. Put a smile on my face. I’ll take that.

Yeah, not bad at all.

Definitely. But I’ve been working my tail off, man. I just feel like I’ve been underrated my whole life, and now I think I’m in a situation where guys see that I have a lot of talent and actually I’m getting some (recognition) now. That’s always a plus. I’m just ready to get a lot of this over with, and hopefully make an impact on somebody’s team and turn some things around…I’m just speaking for myself, but to my knowledge, a lot of guys just want to get drafted. But in my estimation, I (don’t just) want to get drafted, I want to be a name. I want to be a household name. I want to make things happen, I (don’t just) want to get drafted and just be on a roster, I actually want to make things happen and accomplish some goals. Because I’m real goal-oriented, and I think when you (set) goals, you’ll be successful, and that’s one of the things I did coming in. It was important to make the goal, first of all about my speed, definitely. I wanted to shock a lot of people, let them know that there are Division 1-AA guys out there just as good a Division 1-A guys. And I think I proved that as well in El Paso.

One last question. I’ve got to ask, how do you pronounce your last name?

It’s (Ghice), man. People have the hardest time, they give me “Juice,” “Geese.” I’ve heard it all. I mean, we were watching the (Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game), my mom had in on DVR, and I heard “Geese” the whole entire day. I thought it was hilarious. It was funny. But it’s Guice, G-u-i-c-e. A lot of people call me “Juice,” put the “J” out there for the “G.” But it’s definitely Guice, Jr.

Well, I hope you do get to be a household name, Dudley. I appreciate your time today.

I appreciate it. You can give me a call anytime, big man. It’d be my pleasure.

All right. Take care.

God bless you.