STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 29: Nathan Stupar #34 of the Penn State Nittany Lions tackles Jason Ford #21 of the Illinois Fighting Illini during the game on October 29, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Nathan Stupar is hoping to hear his name called this weekend. The Penn State linebacker impressed at the Combine with the fastest 3 cone time for any linebacker and the fourth fastest 60 shuffle. He made a lot of calls for Tom Bradley's defense that was in the running for the Big Ten crown until the Jerry Sandusky scandal sent the team's season into turmoil. Stupar was also a special teams standout early in his career at Penn State, a good quality for a guy who does not figure to start right away on the pro level, with two blocked punts.
Join Nathan and I under the jump as we discuss the Draft process.
John B: What did you think was the most challenging Combine drill?
Nathan Stupar: Everything felt comfortable. I'm used to doing all those drills. I didn't find anything really that challenging. They are all drills I have doing since I was a little kid.
JB: How did you train for the Combine?
NS: I was training in Pittsburgh at a place called Power Train run by Steve Saunders. There were a lot of good guys there. It was just doing somelifting, doing some power work, speed, agility, and working on the Combine drills.
JB: When you go to the Combine, do you pay your own way as a player?
NS: No, the NFL Combine paid for everything. Before my flight, they sent me an e-mail saying what time and where to be. They had the hotel ready for me when I got there. The only thing I had to do was fill out paperwork with my personal information on stuff like stats, the security background check, and stuff like that.
JB: Were you more nervous for the Combine or when you played in the 2009 Rose Bowl at Penn State?
NS: I'd say the Combine. When we were in the Rose Bowl, I wasn't much of an asset on defense. I was mainly playing special teams then. Mainly, though, the Combine made me more nervous because it has a more direct impact on my future.
JB: When you played in that Rose Bowl, the opposing quarterback was Mark Sanchez. Talk about what it was like facing him as an opponent.
NS: He's just an excellent quarterback. I actually got into the game even though I was a backup because Navarro Bowman got hurt for five or six plays. There was this one play where I almost sacked him. I made him rush and throw a bad ball. He's a very intelligent quarterback who made a lot of good throws and smart reads against us, though. There was one play where I was coming off the edge on a blitz, and I could tell he knew I was coming even before the snap. I just couldn't get over how he knew that. It just shows his intelligence and the way he studies film.
JB: You mainly played in a 4-3 at Penn State. Where would you see yourself fitting in if selected by a team with a base 3-4 defense?
NS: I view myself as an inside linebacker in a defense like that. I played some inside linebacker for a bit for our team. I'm very comfortable with it. I feel I'm very versatile. I think I can play inside or outside. I can play the WILL, MIKE, or SAM. I'm very comfortable learning new positions. I converted from defensive end to linebacker so I don't think learning a new linebacker position will be that difficult. It's only my fifth year playing linebacker so I feel the best is yet to come. I'm really excited to see what the future holds.
JB: Your defensive system in college had you playing a lot of zone coverage. How comfortable are you man to man?
NS: Near the end of the year, we actually started playing a lot more man coverage. The second half of our bowl game against Houston was almost all man coverage. One thing I try and focus on is being good with my hips, which is really important when you are in man. I think I'm athletic enough to do well one on one with tight ends and running backs. I have had success in the past so if a team wants me to go one on one with somebody, I'm going to do my best to do very well.
JB: Penn State has a great linebacker tradition. It's called Linebacker U. What Penn State linebacker do you think your game most resembles?
NS: I think it's a mix between Navarro Bowman and Sean Lee. I played with both of them and know what they are capable of doing. I also see what they are doing at the next level. I like to think I'm athletic like those two. I also strive to be as intelligent as they are. Sean just knew our defense inside and out. That's the kind of player I want to be. I know what the corners and safeties are doing on a play. I know the stunts the guys on the defensive line are doing. I know the entire defense in and out. I'm a quick study so I think I'll be able to pick up a new defense well. I'm also coachable. These are qualities they teach you at Penn State, and I think that's why our linebackers have been so successful in the NFL. If you are an NFL team, you want to come to Penn State for your linebackers because they are NFL ready.
JB: You blocked a couple of punts early in your college career. Talk about your work on special teams.
NS: I don't think a lot of guys take pride in their special teams work, but I think it's really important. Just look at the NFL's Conference Championship Games this year. Both games came down to special teams plays. That shows how vital your work on special teams is. You can lose on a fumble on a return, something as small as a missed block, or just making a play to flip field position in general. If I can be successful on special teams, I know I will have a spot in the NFL.
JB: Talk about an average day getting ready for the Draft.
NS: Wake up early. Go work out. Get four to six healthy meals in. Make sure you get a good night of sleep and have enough time to relax. It's just important to keep your stamina up to get ready for the NFL.
JB: Do you have time for a social life?
NS: I do. My fiance and I are getting married in July. We go over our wedding stuff, but she knows my main focus has to be following this dream because this is an important part of our future together. I help her out with wedding stuff, though. We do go together to get stuff registered for people to buy as gifts. It's the normal wedding stuff.
JB: What do you think the biggest challenge will be adjusting to the NFL?
NS: I think it will be a lot like going from high school to college. The speed and physicality of the game will be at another level. When you get to college, you realize you have to run a lot faster and hit a lot harder than you ever have before. I think it will be similar. My brother and a good friend of mine Stefen Wisniewski have played in the NFL. They tell me all the time it's a tough league. I know it will be a great challenge, but I'm used to challenges. You don't get anything handed to you at Penn State. I had to fight for every play. I like to think I made a name for myself doing that. I'm a hard worker. I'm dedicated. My hard work just needs to carry on into the NFL.
JB: Give me somebody you either played with or played against you view as a sleeper.
NS: Russell Wilson, the quarterback from Wisconsin. People always say he's not tall enough, but he's a great athlete and competitor. He played extremely well against us. I think when he gets a chance, he's going to show people how good he is. Look at Drew Brees. You don't need to be 6'4" to be a successful quarterback. I hope he does really well.
JB: What would you like to do when your football career is over?
NS: I graduated with a degree in film and video at Penn State. I love that kind of stuff. I got into Woodward Camp with BMX and their film department. It's like an inline skateboarding monopoly. I loved having an internship there. Shooting, editing, and making videos of pro skateboarders and BMX'ers all day would be awesome.