NFL DRAFT CLASS OF 2021 INTERVIEW: RASHAWN SLATER | NORTHWESTERN | OFFENSIVE LINE

Interview with Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater
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Tell us what you did this fall while your teammates were playing? What did you do to stay in shape and do you think that will hurt you in any regard in terms of almost like a season-ending injury where you have to get back in the groove? No, I don't think it'll hurt me at all. Since I first started training, I've been at the same place MJP in Dallas, Texas, training with Duke Mayweather. He's an O-line coach down there, he trains a lot of pro guys. I've just been getting in a lot of work. Working on improving my mobility, body composition, strength, stuff like that. So it's been really productive.

My other question was about your arms. Obviously, a lot has been made of the length. Did you ever think that would be such a talking point? And how sick are you of hearing it and kind of going out there and proving that they are long enough? It's definitely tiring when you put so much work in, put all that film out of you playing tackle, and then people are gonna question that just based on a measurable. Honestly, as far as the teams I've talked to they've been pretty honest with me about saying it's not a huge concern from them. So that's been good.

A lot of people point to your game against Chase Young and Ohio State as why you should be one of the top tackles chosen. But you know, is there another game that you would say was as good or better that maybe hasn't gotten as much attention? That game definitely gets talked about a lot. You look at my career at Northwestern, I've had 37 starts and started as a true freshman. I've just gotten better every single year. It's more than just that game. You know, look at 2019 -- Michigan State, Purdue, Iowa, and more.

When it comes to the next level, how often would you be playing guard or even center? I think I am the best tackle in the draft. I have a really high level of confidence about that. But at the same time, I'm a team player. If a team wants to play me at guard, so be it. I'm all for it. As long as that's what's best for the team I'm happy to play whatever position they need me at.

I'm curious whether you have an appreciation for what it would mean for the program if you were picked in the top 15 or so? I think they've had one person picked in the top 22 since the NFL merger, 50 years ago. Can you appreciate what it would mean for the program? Honestly, it is something I haven't thought about a lot, but it's pretty cool. And, you know, Northwestern’s such a great program. They do everything right here. And the way they develop us as athletes, I think I'm not gonna be the last by any means. It's a huge honor to be able to represent them. Hopefully, this is the start of a new norm.

How did you get better? How are you a better player now because of opting out, then you were in July, August? I was a much-improved player going into my senior year but now even more so. Just training with Duke, he's a master. Every single day I was learning something new. He taught me how to move more efficiently, how to leverage better and how to just be more powerful and explosive off the ball, stuff like that. My technique has shot up since the last time I played.

What NFL player would you pattern your game after or see similarities to? Someone I study a lot is Tyron Smith. Just because I really admire the way he takes the angles and stuff like that. I've learned a ton just from watching him and then a couple of other guys. He's retired now but Joe Staley, Zack Martin, Terron Armstead, Trent Williams. I don't do everything those guys do but I try to pick and choose what works for me and I've learned a lot.

What do you see from Joe Staley and Trent Williams specifically? Joe's a guy who is kind of like me. Maybe he’s not seen as the prototypical size of a left tackle, and yet he was still extremely effective. Just the way he was able to play, he was a master technician. And then, Trent's a freak athlete who's also an amazing technician. He does some awesome stuff with his hands.

You speak highly of your trainer but Duke also speaks highly of you. And he even compared your mentality to that famous video of Matt Barnes inbounding a pass against Kobe Bryant where Kobe is like not blinking with the ball in his face. That's obviously a very high compliment to give someone, how have you created and nurtured that mentality? Specifically in the past year without that added experience of game days? Duke's the man but I just feel like my punching mentality is all just a product of being prepared. When you feel most confident is when you feel most prepared. When I know I put in the work, I've done my due diligence, I've studied the film, the technique and all that. What I’ve been doing this entire time is learning more about the game, learning more about technique and just work in improving my body. So yeah, it's all comes down to preparation.

Could you have spent that time preparing so deeply if you didn't opt-out? Or do you think that that can work to your advantage? I think it definitely works to my advantage. Either way, I was going to be the same person, and I was going to be consistent in my preparation and stuff like that. So it happened to go this way. 

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