Jets Pro Bowl tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson did an event for Gatorade's G Series Friday at Clarkstown High in West Nyack. Gatorade is bringing a state of the art pro locker room on wheels to high schools across the country. D'Brickashaw spoke to students about being an athlete and what it takes to perform at his best. He took some time to chat with me over the phone.
Read the interview after the jump.
John B: Give us a little background on this event and what led you to do it.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson: Gatorade has a series of products, the Performance Series, and being an athlete in the league and in college I've had opportunities to try out a lot of these products. I'm here telling the youth today about the effectiveness of these products and why I feel they're good. I think it's been great for my performance on the field. I'm here for a testimonial.
JB: Could you describe some of the differences between playing for Rex Ryan and playing for Eric Mangini?
DF: I think both coaches are excellent. In what they try to get across, they have different styles, but I enjoyed my time with Eric Mangini as well as with Rex Ryan.
JB: You made your first Pro Bowl in 2009. A lot of players selected to the game sit it out. What made you decide to play?
DF: To me it was such an honor. To make the Pro Bowl was a goal that I set at the beginning of the season, and to see it come to fruition was something I was really humbled by. It was something I always strove to accomplish. Because I was able to, I was definitely going to take advantage and play and see what that experience was about.
JB: Why do so many players skip the game?
DF: The game is at the end of the season. In baseball the All-Star Game is at a different time, and I know basketball's All-Star Game is toward the middle. So after playing a long season, especially if your team has done well, you just get a little bit banged up. To have one more game, another week of practice, it may be a thing certain guys just don't have the ability to do just because of the physical nature of our game.
JB: Describe your offseason routine to get ready for the year. Is there any particular aspect of your game you're focusing on?
DF: Every offseason I always try to redefine my play. I look at tape and analyze my on and off the field approach to the game. This year I want to continue to increase my strength and my physical nature on the field as well as in the classroom really analyzing and breaking down film to the next level. I think I did an excellent job last year understanding my opponents, their moves, and the game plans they had for me, but I want to to continue finding new ways to break down my opponents to make the game slower so that I have the best opportunity to perform at my best.
JB: What kind of differences are there blocking against a 3-4 front opposed to a 4-3?
DF: Typically in the 3-4 front you're dealing with ends who are two gappers. Because of that, they are often bigger. As you can see with the Patriots, usually they have in the past with guys like Richard Seymour had guys who had the ability to stop the run, shed, and attack the ball. In the 4-3 you have smaller, rangier guys on the outside who are usually your pass rushers, and those guys are elusive but also have the versatility to focus on the gaps. They attack the ball and attack the quarterback. Usually those guys are taller, leaner, and very athletic.
JB: Is there one you prefer facing to the other?
DF: No, there's no preference.
JB: Fans read about Bill Callahan a lot in the press. How does he differ from other coaches for whom you have played?
DF: Bill Callahan is a really great coach. We've had the opportunity to work with him the past two seasons. I definitely feel my game has improved because of his detail oriented style. I think he's a very diligent coach. He's very meticulous. Because of his attention to detail, we have had a lot of success because we really understand the intricacies of the game.
JB: Do you mean things he breaks down on film for you?
DF: Not so much things he breaks down on film for me but more discussing how you attack a play, how you attack an opponent, the nature of a play, different angles. It's also about understanding the intent of a play can be just as important as its execution.
JB: What unique challenges did having a rookie quarterback last season present for the guys on the offensive line? Did your approach differ at all from 2008 when you had one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the game?
DF: I think whenever you have different types of individuals on your team, at quarterback, rookies versus veterans, there's an experience level lacking, and that's something that can only come with time. It's not a question of talent or want but of experience. It's something we all deal with. There is a range of players on a team in a given year. The talent can be high, but the experience varies. You just have to work with the players who have the least amount of experience, and rely on the players who have the most.
JB: Would you say having a rookie gave you a little extra motivation as a unit?
DF: Motivation probably wouldn't be the right work. I just think we understood the problems and the situations we were forced to deal with. We just tried to operate as effectively as we could.
JB: What do you consider the most pivotal moment in the 2009 season?
DF: Getting into the Playoffs. We really desired to be there. Our goal was to be in the big game, and we were just one game away so the Playoff run was something that allowed us to refocus and taste how close we were to our goal.
JB: Is there any singular moment that stands out as especially memorable?
DF: Just when we found we got that nod. We lost some key games. We won some key games, and because of that, we were able to go on to that next level. Once we got into the Playoffs, it didn't matter. It was anybody's game. It was 0-0. Now it was just a fight to the death.
JB: Who is your least favorite pass rusher to face?
DF: They change every year. I have to think about that one. I feel like I've had the opportunity to go against a lot of different caliber of athletes. I've been against Jason Taylor. I've been against Freeney. I've been against Jared Allen. I've been against them all. There's not one easier to face than the other. They just all present different problems you have to try to find and solve. If I tell you one person, it's a long list. I really don't know. People often like to ask that question, but it's hard for me to respond because I deal with so many of these guys.
JB: What aspect of your game do you consider the strongest?
DF: Being a left tackle, it's important for me to protect the blind side of the quarterback. I try to do that as best I can. I try to keep the quarterback clean so that he can do what he does best.
JB: What part of your game do you think is the weakest?
DF: I don't know. My thing is I always like to work on all aspects of my game so the weaknesses are limited. I think in every category from pass protection to run blocking there are areas where you can improve. I like to take a more optimistic point of view and say, "I'm just going to improve in all areas of my game," so I can limit any weaknesses.
JB: We'll wrap up with one last question. Is there any message you would like to give your fans?
DF: I think it's going to be an excellent season. Definitely watch us throughout the season, and we'll be doing what we can as far as our goal on the field to be very successful. In addition to that, drink Gatorade!
Many thanks go to D'Brickashaw for taking the time to chat with me. He's a super nice guy. Big thanks also go to Gatorade in particular Brad from that company for setting this up. Remember Gatorade G Series when you're shopping for sports drinks.