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  • Why you do not want to play Taylor Lewan, the NFL's unwritten rule, and a story about Russell Wilson's recruitment at Wisconsin
By Kalyn Kahler
September 15, 2017

This week, Peter King's podcast featured conversations with Tennessee tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, and Dallas center Travis Frederick. Below, we've listed five things we learned from the show, on Mariota, tattoos, Russell Wilson, & more.

1. Marcus Mariota is The Kind of Guy Who Makes His Bed Every Morning, Even in Hotel Rooms

King asked Titans tackles to describe their quarterback. What is he like around his teammates? Is he really the straight-laced and quiet quarterback that the media sees? Conklin shares what it's like to room with Mariota during training camp. 

CONKLIN: A lot of times people say how quiet he is and how can he control a huddle with how humble he is. But I think that’s the key to it. Marcus is always humble. He’s always even-keel. And I think when he does say something, everybody listens, because if Marcus is raising his voice or something, then you know, Oh, I’ve got to click in, I’ve got to lock in because this must be something serious.

KING: Do you remember him saying something you felt like, you know, he’s raising his voice?

CONKLIN: I mean, I’m trying to think of something.

LEWAN: I don’t think he’s ever raised his voice.

CONKLIN: Maybe more of stern tone. Like hey, even if it’s just ‘Listen up’ or something. It’s not like he’s screaming at you. I roomed with Marcus last year.

KING: In training camp?

CONKLIN: Yeah, and every morning, he’d be gone before I got up, his bed would be made, and every night when I got to the room, he’d be asleep.

KING: Where were you, in a hotel?

CONKLIN: Yeah.

KING: He made his bed in a hotel?

CONKLIN: Every morning. Because he said a coach told him in college, start your day off on the right note by making your bed. And he said he’s done it every since then.

KING: He’s in a hotel and he makes his bed? That’s a headline right there. ‘Marcus Mariota makes his bed in a hotel.’ But that sounds like Marcus Mariota.

CONKLIN: That’s just Marcus.

KING: So then, would you leave the room an utter mess and would he come home, would he come back, and he would say, ‘Honey, you left the towels on the floor in the bathroom.’

CONKLIN: I mean, I tried to keep it nice. I don’t think I made my bed every day, but he’s the type of guy who he wouldn’t say anything.

Tennessee tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin take a break during training camp.
Mark Zaleski/AP

2. You Do Not Want to Play Taylor Lewan

Lewan has been known for getting the occasional personal foul penalty. The guy’s got a temper when he’s out on the field, and he explained to King where his rage comes from.

LEWAN: It seems a lot of times that I’m not every controlled. I consider myself a very controlled person, even though it doesn’t seem like it all the time. I think we have a good core group of offensive linemen. I’m definitely the wildcard of the group. Jack is 100% the peacekeeper. I think it’s really cool that Jack and I have so much success in this league being such different personalities. I think that’s a really cool kind of take on it. We play similar positions, but we’re just so different. And there’s times when I’m yelling and just going off, and Jack is yelling at Ben Jones, our center, like, ‘Say something to him! Say something to Taylor because something is going to happen!’ Usually it doesn’t, except for the Packers game or whatever.

KING: But you’ve only had three penalties this offseason.

LEWAN: That’s huge progress. I just, as far as the anger goes, I’m not an angry person. But something about when I play football, I just feel the need to hurt everybody I play. Badly. And I don’t care about them, I don’t care about who their parents are, how they grew up. I don’t give a s--- what you did in your life up until now. I just care about making sure you never want to play against me again.

3. First And Foremost, Your Tattoos Have to Look Good

Lewan has a tattoo of Frank Sinatra’s mugshot on his hand. And that’s just one of many odd tattoos covering Lewan’s body. But hey, the tackle says, “No one got anywhere in life being normal.”

KING: O.K., now tell me about Sinatra. You have Frank Sinatra’s mugshot on your hand.

LEWAN: Yeah, I got Sinatra’s mugshot. My big stupid joke is. ‘Oh, yeah. We both have gotten in trouble before. So that’s the reason why.’ But I honestly, the reason why I got it, was um—

KING: When did you do that one?

LEWAN: Oh, this was last year. 2016. Probably in March 2016.

KING: Every day for the rest of your life, you’re going to wake up, you’re going to be eating dinner, you’re going to have Frank Sinatra’s mugshot staring at you.

LEWAN: Yep. Absolutely.

KING: You are a bizarre human being.

LEWAN: I appreciate that. That honestly means a lot to me. No one got anywhere in life being normal. Should I just fall in line?

KING: You are right, yeah.

LEWAN: I’ve wanted tattoos since I was eight years old, I’m going to get the tattoos that I love. A good friend of mine said, tattoos first and foremost have to look good. And then after that, they can mean something. You know what I’m saying? You can get a picture of your grandma, but if your grandma is hideous, it’s not going to be a good-looking tattoo. You know what I’m saying? You got to do something with flowers, or maybe a dove, or something like that. Just the idea, the style, the different way that people do it, it’s crazy. And it’s unique, too. If you saw this hand anywhere else and you just saw this hand, you’d know whose hand it was.

KING: No question about it.

LEWAN: If I put your hand or Jack’s hand in a crowd, no one’s going to be able to tell the difference besides the 17-inch long fingers that Jack has.

4. The NFL’s Unwritten Rule: Don’t Pull Another Man’s Beard

Dallas center Travis Frederick is known for his giant beard. He tells King the beard’s origin story, as well as what it’s like to play with such impressive facial hair.

KING: I’m reminded of the fact that when I’ve seen pictures of you, I’ve always thought that you belonged in the Stanley Cup Playoffs because you keep this playoff beard. And I just want to ask you this question: you live in Dallas, Texas. For most of the year, it’s 9,000 degrees, and you have a beard right now that really stretches down about five inches from your chin. First, you have to tell me the story of your beard, and then how you deal with it in the sweltering heat.

FREDERICK: The story of the beard is really not a story at all. It started—I’ve had facial hair since eighth grade, you know. I remember having to shave for eighth grade graduation. Through high school, I always carried a goatee, or something of that sort. And then in college, I got really sick of having to shave my face, and I kind of just started growing it out. Then I had a little bit of a beard that I trimmed every once in awhile. Then it kind of just grew out. It really was just an act of pure, I would call it laziness, in that I didn’t have to do it. I’m fortunate enough to be in a profession where I don’t have to look clean or anybody really cares. In fact, looking dirty is probably a better thing for me. So that’s kind of why I’ve had it.

KING: How many coaches over the years have said, ‘Son, you should shave’?

FREDERICK: Very few.

KING: Really?

FREDERICK: I’m not sure that I can recall a single coach that has asked me to shave or told me that I should shave. Every once in awhile you get, ‘That looks pretty grimy’ or ‘Oh, nice beard!’ You get it on both sides.

KING: Do you ever have trouble fitting your chinstrap over the beard?

FREDERICK: No, that’s the question I get asked most often about the beard. Does it bother you, or does it not fit under the chinstrap? And really, it’s just like your hair when you put the helmet on. It just kind of smashes down and kind of curls up under there. The worst though is when a defender accidentally gets his hands up into the throat area. Occasionally, it can get some of that and pull on it. So that’s the worst part about having a beard.

KING: Have you ever had any beard hair come out from a pull?

FREDERICK: Uh, I would not say a huge chunk of it, but yeah, I’ve had it kind of ripped out. It’s not pleasant.

KING: Have you ever gotten in a fight during a game and someone tries to pull your beard?

FREDERICK: No, I would say that’s one of those things—

KING: It’s one of the unwritten rules?

FREDERICK: You don’t hit below the waist, and you don’t pull another man’s beard. I think that’s kind of how it works.

NFL
Peter King's Podcast: Titans Tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin on Expectations, Marcus Mariota, and Tattoos

5. Wisconsin’s Offensive Line Paraded for Russell Wilson

Frederick played on Russell Wilson’s offensive line during Wilson’s lone season at Wisconsin. He remembers back to the QB’s first recruiting visit to Madison, and how the Badgers’ solid offensive line sold the deal.

KING: Travis, I want you to take me back to the day when you’re on campus at the University of Wisconsin. And it’s maybe late July or mid July before I think your junior season. This little guy, this 5’11” quarterback walks into the team and I guess he just basically shows up and he had left North Carolina State and was looking for a new home and he showed up at the University of Wisconsin, and here came Russell Wilson. What’s your first memory of Russell Wilson?

FREDERICK: My first memory is even back before then. He came on a recruiting visit, and I think at that point he had it narrowed down to I think between Wisconsin and Auburn. I remember them sort of, I wouldn’t call it parading, but parading the offensive line into back then what was called the Fetzer Center, it was our athlete academic center, that’s where we go. And we walked in there, and he was sitting there, standing there. And we shook hands and introduced. I guess at that point, one of the things that we were told was that one of the things he was looking for most was a good offensive line. He knew what a good offensive line could do for him. And so, that was kind of their selling point. It was like, Hey, if you want a big, good offensive line, take a look. So we sat down with him, and it was a pretty relatively mild conversation. We talked about what he wanted and what he wanted and how it kind of aligned.

KING: You knew he’d be eligible to play that year and he had one year of eligibility left?

FREDERICK: Correct. And honestly as a football player, your job is to kind of just stay in your lane and don’t ask questions and just do as the coaches tell you. So at that point, coach tells you we’re trying to recruit this guy, come sit down and talk with him, that’s what you do. But he’s one of those guys that you almost immediately fall in love with. I don’t know if you’ve ever actually sat down and talked with him, but he has this infectious spirit about him. So fast forward to the day you’re talking about where he just shows up and is the quarterback, I’ve never seen someone that everybody just gravitated towards.

KING: On the 19th day he was on your team, the 19th day you guys vote for captains. And he’s one of the captains. After less than three weeks of anybody even knowing him. How does that happen?

FREDERICK: That’s exactly what I was talking about. I’ve never seen anybody with just a leadership ability and such a kind-hearted nature that people just gravitated towards. I think the first thing that people saw out of him was that he knew what he was doing. He came in the first day of camp and knew the plays. I don’t know how you do that. He had flash cards, you always saw him studying. [He] knew his stuff. And then he goes in there and can just play well and play cohesively with the guys that have been there working for so long and fit into the quarterback room. There wasn’t any despair between them and it just was easy to follow a guy like that.

 

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