For Seattle-area native, David Paulson, his path to the NFL could lead him to a place he's very familiar with - home.
I recently chatted with the Oregon Ducks' tight end following his performance at the NFL Combine. Paulson, who hails from the state of Washington, and I discuss everything from the process of preparing for the NFL Draft, to the UW-UO rivalry, to who he thinks should be under center for the Seahawks in 2012 and more.
Tell me a little bit about your NFL Combine experience, how did it go?
It went pretty well, it's definitely a new experience having all the teams around. The medical experience was probably one of the weirdest; each team kinda gets a shot at checking every joint on you, and making sure you don't have any injuries, so that was pretty interesting. I got to meet with quite a few tight end coaches from different teams, I thought that went well. With the drills and running, it went pretty well for me, I was hoping to run a little better in the 40, but everything else went pretty well.
(Paulson, at 6'3, 246, ran the 40 in 4.93, the short shuttle in 4.4 seconds, the 3-cone in 7.18, and registered a 32" vertical jump).
What teams did you meet with?
I actually met with quite a few, probably about 25, mostly tight end coaches.
Were the Seahawks one of them?
Yeah, that was one of the teams.
What's the one thing you can tell fans that they wouldn't know about the combine from watching it on TV?
All the stuff happens before the drills and everything. I got there on a Tuesday. Wednesday we spent the day at the hospital kind of doing pre-evaluation - tests, x-rays, taking blood, stuff like that. The next day you go through all these different rooms, and the different teams check you out and do their own little physicals to make sure you don't have any injuries. So, really I was there a few days before I got to do any on-field testing. Finally bench was on Friday, and then Saturday was the last day I was there and that's when I got to do all the stuff that fans see on TV. Then there's also interviews every night with all the different teams. It's a longer process then I ever really knew about from just watching on TV.
You mentioned you met with a lot of teams at the combine, how'd those interviews go?
Most of them asked a lot of basic info about me, my family background, school, that sort of stuff. They asked me to draw up some plays, just to kind of see my knowledge of the game. Most of them said similar things - they liked me, but they had no idea where I'd get picked, if it was them or someone else. I think at this point, it was them just getting all their information that they needed. They asked when my pro day was, so we'll see who shows up to that and takes another look at me.
So on that note, when is your pro day?
What are you hoping to show at pro day that you feel you didn't show at the combine?
I am hoping to improve on my 40. The other numbers, I thought I did a decent job with, so I'm thinking I might just keep what I did at the combine, because I don't know how much that would improve in a couple weeks. And then just really focus on the football part of it, the drills they'll run me through that day. So hopefully they'll get a better look at me one-on-one in those drills.
What 40 time are you hoping to run?
I am hoping to run in the 4.7's, I've ran that before, and I feel like I can run that again.
You're a Seattle native, I remember you mentioned when we talked at PAC-12 Media Day that you're a Seahawks fan. What would mean for you to play for the Seahawks?
I grew up a huge Seahawks fan. I remember going to my first game in first grade. My teacher gave me tickets, and my dad took me to the game. Ever since then I've been a huge Seahawks fan, for a while my family actually had season tickets. I remember going to games in the Kingdome, and then we went to games at Husky Stadium, then even in the new stadium. So, I've been a big fan for a while. If I had the opportunity to play there, that would be awesome to play for the team I grew up following and been a big fan of.
You played pretty much every position at Auburn Riverside High School, including quarterback your senior year. Since you played HS QB, that automatically makes you an authority on the position. As an expert on QB-play, and as a Seahawks fan, who would you like to see as Seattle's QB in 2012?
That's a tough one. I know there's some great ones in the draft this year, I don't know if they're going be around late enough for the Seahawks to pick them up. Both RGIII and Andrew Luck might be gone by that time, but I know they're both really good players. I think they'll be able to pick somebody up who can come in and least compete for that job.
Nice politically correct answer, man. What's your perspective of the Washington-Oregon rivalry? Did you grow up a Husky fan?
When I was really young I followed the Huskies quite a bit, but both my brothers went to Washington State, so that died when they went over there. As far as the Oregon-Washington rivalry, I know it's huge. Growing up in Washington and being around Husky fans I think I have a better understanding then a lot of other guys that play here, because they didn't grow up around it to maybe get the full hatred between the two schools. When I go back home I still get a few people showing their love for the Huskies, and showing their hate for Oregon. It's pretty fun to be able to go back and forth with friends and people from the area. The rivalry is a lot of fun and I think it will continue to get better, especially with the way Washington is improving, and at Oregon, the way we've played the last few years. Hopefully we can keep that success going.
How did playing at Oregon, in a nontraditional offense, and the way you were used, prepare you for the NFL?
I will say it's not exactly the same offense as what I'll see in the NFL. But a lot of these offenses are starting to move their TE's around, trying to get mismatches. If you watched the New England Patriots play this year, they played with a lot of 2 TE sets, and one of them would kind of move around and try to find mismatches, so I think that's kind of the new thing in the NFL that we'll start to see more of. And in that regard I think I am pretty well prepared. I moved around a lot in our offense. I played in the slot, I played in the backfield, i played as a true TE, as an H-back, a little be of everything. So, I am used to moving around and playing in different spots, I think that's helped prepare me for the next level.
It would appear like you're a good fit for the way the position seems to be trending in the NFL, don't you think?
Yeah, definitely. You'll still see some in-line guys. But I feel like most teams are going where they have an in-line guy, they have a move-guy, and they just have different types of players at the tight end position, not all one type.
Your coach, Chip Kelly, almost left for the NFL, before deciding to stay at Oregon. How you think he would have done in the league had he taken the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job?
I think he would have done a great job. I don't know exactly what he would have chose to do offensively or scheme-wise, but I know he's got great knowledge of the game. From working with him, seeing the adjustments he makes during games and on the fly, and knowing how smart of a coach he is, I think he would have been successful going to that next level. I think he's such a smart coach, he really knows how to get match-ups, and really understands the game of football.
What NFL tight end do you think you most closely compare to?
Owen Daniels, down with the Texans, I think has a pretty similar style of play. He's probably the main one. I like the way Dallas Clark from the Colts plays. They kind of move him around, he's a great receiving tight end. Kind of a combination of those two.
The football program at Oregon seems to be pretty polarizing given its recent success. What do think is the biggest misconception people have of Oregon's program?
I guess some people decide to only look at the jerseys, or having Phil Knight as a great contributor to our program. They don't get see how hard we work on the field, how hard we practice, the work that we put in. That's why we're so successful. It's not the because of the jerseys we wear or any of that stuff. Our coaches really make us work. We go faster in practice then I think we do in games, we really just know how to compete during practice. I think that helps us be so successful, not jerseys, or the connection with Nike, or any of that stuff.
What's one thing you want NFL teams to know about you, that they might not be able to tell from just watching film?
That I am a good teammate on and off the field. That I'd be a great representative of their team. During my college career I was a team captain, my teammates voted me Most Outstanding. I think that shows they respected me on the field and off the field.
If you could catch passes from any QB, past or present, who would it be?
I think I would have to go with guys who are at the top of the game. Peyton Manning would definitely be one. Just the way he runs that offense out there, I think it would be really fun to play with a guy who's that great at playing the QB position.
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