Ahead of the 2015 NFL draft, defensive end Markus Golden discusses the NFL pipeline for Missouri pass rushers, his true position and more.
Ahead of the 2015 NFL draft, Sports Illustrated will conduct a series of one-on-one interviews with the league's soon-to-be rookies. A few weeks ago, Miami wide receiver Phillip Dorsett discussed cold weather and his blazing 40-yard dash time. Next up: Missouri defensive end Markus Golden.
Sports Illustrated: You ran a 4.9 40 at the combine. Did you feel like you were where you needed to be, or did you leave a little something to prove at your pro day?
Golden: You can always get better. I slipped a little bit on the 4.9, then came back and ran around a 4.8. You can always get better, but I feel like I had a good week [at the combine] competing.
SI: Considering you may end up at outside linebacker in the NFL, are you or are teams putting any added emphasis on that speed factor?
Golden: Yes, of course, but I've also been working on defensive drills. I played a lot of linebacker growing up, so I know the position.
SI: Positional drills are just a small part of the combine. Your 40 obviously wasn't quite what you wanted, and you had one of the shorter arm measurements among the defensive linemen there. Is there too much emphasis placed on those speed numbers and physical measurements?
Golden: I don't care about that stuff at all. I've been playing football my whole life. I've been able to make big plays in big moments, competing with the best offensive tackles in the SEC. I'm not worried about it at all. Just competing. I just tell people to watch my film.
SI: You played linebacker in junior college ball (at Hutchinson College), right?
Golden: I played it in high school, in juco, my first year at Missouri, then I moved to defensive end.
SI: Can you still draw from that time playing linebacker now, as you're transitioning back to that position?
Golden: I can lean on my experiences at whatever position. I played running back my whole life [until college]. Just trying to understand what I've got to do at my position, get a little bit of a different perspective on other positions. I've rushed the passer most of the time, linebackers drop back more often. I'm confident in myself that I'll be able to do it.
SI: The coverage aspect you just mentioned—several of the players at the Senior Bowl trying to make a similar move said that was the hardest part. Is that the case for you, too? Learning how to play in space again?
Golden: I wouldn't say that, I made a lot of tackles in space playing defense end, running guys down. It's just getting comfortable with it, actually doing the moves you do at linebacker. I used to drop back all the time. I feel like after a couple of weeks or a couple months of dropping back, I'll be right back to where I was at it, improving each and every week.
SI: Do you have to adjust your pass-rushing moves if you're standing up as a linebacker as opposed to when you have your hand in the dirt?
Golden: You can still do the same things as long as you're getting off that ball on time and getting off with bend. As long as you're getting off quick, you'll be able to use the same moves. I'll be able to use the rip, bull rush ... get off the ball and I'll use the moves that I usually do.
SI: Was the Senior Bowl a beneficial experience for you?
Golden: Real beneficial experience. I got to be with [an NFL] coaching staff, get ahead on what the combine would be like. I was able to prove myself, get out there and compete. I had a good week out there and picked up some good feedback from the coaches. It was a good experience for me.
SI: Did any schools approach you about playing running back in college?
Golden: Yeah, University of Missouri asked me. They recruited me as an athlete, told me I could pick which position I wanted to play. A couple other schools wanted me to play running back. I wanted to play running back for awhile, but I just kept on getting big.
SI: How much weight have you put on since high school?
Golden: Coming out of high school, I weighed about 215, then after juco probably 225 and went back to Missouri at 230 and just kept getting bigger from there in the strength and conditioning program.
SI: So at some point you just decided it made more sense to commit to playing linebacker?
Golden: I had talked to my high school coach, he was telling me he thought I should try to start on defense. I had made a lot of plays on defense in high school. I was cool with playing linebacker at the time. It was one of the best decisions I've made, has me right here, right now trying to play in the NFL.
Golden: I talked to them a little bit. Guys are busy and have so much stuff going on in their lives, so of course we talk a little bit, get a little advice, but it isn't every day talking or every week, just every once in a while.
SI: Are you surprised at all that Michael's not on an NFL roster?
Golden: I'm kinda surprised. Michael Sam's a beast, man.
SI: Those two guys left Missouri together. This year, it's you and Shane Ray. When you have so many NFL-caliber players at similar positions, do you feel any extra need to stand out a little bit? Have you noticed teams comparing you and Shane at all?
Golden: I had 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks ... that's going to guarantee you to get your own evaluation, when you're making plays, you know? It's good to be able to play and compete against those guys—Shane's going to the NFL, Kony put up numbers, Mike Sam put up numbers. Those guys played at a high level like me. That was the best experience of my college football experience: playing with all those guys.
SI: Kony and Michael leaving obviously opened up more playing time for you. Did you need to make any adjustments to be ready for that extra work?
Golden: Not at all, not at all. Every day in practice, you compete like you're starting. Everything we do, you compete like we're starting. So I was just happy to be able to get out there and play.
SI: There are some guys who perform better when they're part of a rotation. Does that apply to you at all or would you just rather be on the field?
Golden: Of course, you're gonna feel like you should be out there. [At Missouri] you're looking at a lot of good players. If you make a play, make another play, then come out for a few plays, of course you're going to feel like you could be out there longer.
But that's the way we're coached—you make plays and there will be guys making plays around you. That's just how we do it at Missouri. You're going to have chances to make plays whether you're playing a lot or a little.
SI: Are you hearing from more 3-4 or 4-3 teams right now?
Golden: Yeah, I've had a lot of both, 3-4 [linebacker] and [4-3] DE. Most teams want to talk about 3-4. Like I said, whatever a team wants me to play, I'll play.
SI: What else is on your schedule between now and the draft? Is it possible to convince any teams of your skill set if they still have questions at this point or are you mainly focused on the interview process?
Golden: Of course, I'm focused on the interview process. ... We'll have private workouts for teams and they'll have me at the linebacker position, so I want to show I'm ready to compete and play at that position.