by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
When we think Indiana, most of us think basketball. Last week, Hoosier Matt Mayberry underwent his own version of March madness, starring at Indiana’s pro day with a 4.57-second 40-yard dash and 24 bench press reps.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound linebacker led Indiana in tackles this past season with 108. He spoke to PD about the importance of working hard on and off the field, as well as his not-so-secret weapon: speed.
I wanted to start out by talking a little bit about what it’s like to be a Hoosier and play football. Do you feel like you have to explain that a little bit to people, or do you think the program has gotten to the point where it really speaks for itself?
Well, you know, when people think of Indiana Hoosiers, they automatically think of basketball… (It’s been shown) that Indiana’s a basketball school and a basketball state. But the things the football program’s doing over there right now, especially with the new renovation, the football stadium, and just really coming along with the coaching staff, things are really starting to get in a groove. So I definitely think, down the road, football will definitely make a splash of its own.
What drew you to Indiana?
It was early playing time, but really just Coach (Terry) Hoeppner and Coach (Bill) Lynch. I was really close to both of them, Coach Hoeppner and Coach Lynch, both great coaches, and really (they) and a beautiful campus just drew me in to Indiana.
You were a fullback in high school, is that correct?
Yes it is.
And were you considering that in college, or were you thinking linebacker all the way?
Oh, there were some schools recruiting me as a running back-slash-fullback type, but most of the schools that were looking at me saw that I could translate my speed and everything over to my defensive side of the ball, and I did play some defense in high school. But for your question, most people were recruiting me as a linebacker.
And did you think that was a difficult transition, playing linebacker at that level, or do you think you were prepared for that?
It definitely was something new for me. You know, like I said, I played a little bit in high school. I didn’t really know a lot of terminology and stuff like that, as far as coming into college and playing linebacker right away, but you know, it’s an upside for me right now, going to the NFL. I think I’ve gotten a lot better my last four years at Indiana, especially my past year – my senior year – so I think it’s only room to grow for me. I haven’t even reached close to my potential yet.
Speaking of potential, were you always fast as a linebacker, or do you think you’ve gotten faster in the last couple years?
Oh, I’ve always been fast. In high school, I went to combines and stuff like that, I was running 4.3s. Of course, I was a lot lighter then: I was about 210 pounds. But I’ve always been fast. That’s something that I train – that goes into my training program. You know, speed kills in the NFL, college, really at any level, so it’s something I always took to heart. I’m always trying to get faster.
Speaking of that, tell us a little bit about your pro day training and whether or not you’re satisfied with the results.
I spent most of my time down at Ignition, in Mason, (Ohio) by Cincinnati. You know, they’re really known – they had a couple guys last year, Connor Barwin and Mike Mitchell. They really produce out there, and they’re just getting their program started, too, on the rise. It was a great experience out there with Ted Borgerding, who’s the head trainer over there, and Clif Marshall, who opened a new one down in Florida this year. But, you know, it was great. As far as my pro day results, I think they kind of speak for themselves as (far as) being one of the fastest linebackers in the country. You know, I always feel I can do better, just being a competitor myself, but overall, it went pretty good.
What do you think are some areas you might want to work on for next year?
I always think, as a linebacker, you can always study and always try to work on every part of your game. I really think this past year, working with my linebacker coach at Indiana, Mike Yeager, I really eliminated false steps. I think my junior and sophomore years I was having some false steps, and no matter how fast you are, you never want to take a false step because football’s a game of inches. So I really think, you know, just keep on working on footwork and studying film, and really just all areas of my game could get better.
If there’s any one particular way to do it, what do you think is the best way to avoid false steps?
You know, really, that just goes back to game study. You’ve got to be comfortable. I know in the beginning, a lot of it – some of it (has to) do with your stance and having a wide base to a narrow base – but a lot of it is having a good idea of where the ball’s going before the play even starts.
Speaking of that, you had three interceptions this past year. What are some of the secrets to that?
Oh, you know, I didn’t have any interceptions my junior year, and I know that – just talking to scouts and hearing different people – that they were kind of questioning my coverage ability, whether I was a two-down linebacker or three-down linebacker in the NFL. So I really made it a goal of mine coming into this year, my senior year, to really be more effective in the pass game. And I feel I did a decent job of that. I ended up with three interceptions.
Is there anything specific about that? Are you reading the quarterback’s eyes, or dropping back in specific zones?
I worked with (Coach) Yeager, who taught me (that) in college, you’re going to get some quarterbacks that are really good with looking you off and stuff like that. But as far as that, you know, just reading the quarterback’s eyes and shoulders, just having a feel for it. And like I said before, it goes back to film study, watching what their favorite routes are on third and long and third and short… Just really having an understanding of the offense and the quarterback, and what he’s going to do at each down and distance.
And what type of defense did you play at Indiana?
We played a 4-3 my last two years, my junior and senior year. Freshman and sophomore year, we tried to dabble with the 3-4, but mainly a 4-3 base.
What do you think are some of the biggest differences between those two?
Oh, 4-3 is more zone based, a gap assignment defense, everyone is assigned to a gap. And the coverages are a little bit different. The 3-4, you know, you’re going to get those two outside linebackers who are kind of rush-end types, who are bigger-body type guys. But I feel comfortable in both of them, and I think that I fit well into both of them.
At your pro day, did you get a chance to talk to any NFL scouts?
Oh, yeah. I mean, I talked to a bunch of them leading up to it and at the pro day. I’ve been in contact with a good amount of different teams. Right now, I’m just trying to wait and set up visits and private workouts and stuff of that nature.
Have you talked to the Patriots at all?
Uh, no. They weren’t at our pro day.
Who do you think were the toughest teams you faced this past year?
I would probably have to say – as far as (from) an athletic standpoint – I’d probably have to say Ohio State. They’ve got, obviously, Terrelle Pryor at quarterback, who everyone knows about, who’s a real threat running the ball, and then people saw in the Rose Bowl what he did throwing the ball (Note: Pryor compiled 266 yards passing vs. Oregon). So I’d probably say Ohio State.
All right, here’s sort of a trick question: if you as a fullback were trying to block Matt Mayberry the linebacker, what do you think you would try to do? What do you think might be a weakness in your game?
Hmm. (Laughs.) I’d probably go in there – I’d probably go a little bit low, knowing that, you know, Mayberry’s going to come up pretty fast and he’s pretty quick to the ball. So I’d probably try and go in there a little bit low.
And what – in terms of the NFL teams you have yet to meet with – what do you think they should know about you that maybe they haven’t picked up yet from watching you on film?
Obviously, the football stuff, all you’ve got to do is watch film. And my attributes at the pro day, a lot of teams, I think 24 teams were there, so they saw how athletic I am. But as far as just being good off the field, you know, I don’t bring any problems, never been in trouble, never been arrested. I think, really, just the outside stuff, and good character, (someone who’s) going to be a positive influence in the locker room.
Excellent. Now, what are you going to be doing from now until the draft?
You know, just continue working out. Some private workouts and visits. Nothing has been set in stone as to what teams yet. But just working out, and getting ready for the draft, and getting ready to go into camp.
All right. Well, Matt, I wish you a lot of luck, and thanks a lot for talking to us today.
Yeah, I appreciate it.
All right. Take care.
All right. You, too.
Email Chris Warner at email@example.com