2009 NFL Draft Interview: Boston College Defensive Tackle B.J. Raji.

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Collin Streetman: How long have you been playing football, and were there any other sports you seriously considered playing?

B.J. Raji: I’ve been playing football since I was a freshman in high school.  I played basketball until sophomore year, and then I focused entirely on football.

 

Collin Streetman: In what ways have you changed your training and routine to prepare for the possibility of life in the NFL?

B.J. Raji: Ah, um, now I’ve been training for the Senior Bowl and Combine, that is, training that is geared to those events. I’ve been bench-pressing, running to get my cardio in, and trying getting my wind up.

 

Collin Streetman: What intangibles can you bring to an NFL team that might not show up on tape?

B.J. Raji:Leadership qualities, bringing everybody together under leadership, especially on the defense. It’s a unit, not one player. So, getting everyone to be a unit together. Being able to play efficiently.

 

Collin Streetman: Some players are workout warriors, some are film-junkies, and others spend their free time on the practice field. What’s you’re favorite aspect of game preparation?

B.J. Raji: Ah, I think going through the motions, man, repetitions keep you set for football, getting good muscle memory, having your body used to doing things the right way.

 

Collin Streetman: What is your favorite part of playing DT?

B.J. Raji: Ah, just being able to beat a guy one on one. Being in the backfield making plays on defense.

 

Collin Streetman: Did playing next to a guy the caliber of Ron Brace help you out at all?

B.J. Raji:It did tremendously help me out. Teams weren’t as focused on me. Every person had a crush the RB mentality, so teams kind of shied away from running as much at us. It kind of helped us in preparing for teams as well.

 

Collin Streetman: What are you keying in on as far as pre-snap reads go as a DT? What are you looking for while the QB is barking out signals?

B.J. Raji:I’m reading my keys, I’m checking my alignment, and looking at whatever guy is my key. I’m also looking at the guy in front of me.

 

Collin Streetman: Do you have a signature pass rush move, or do you rely on natural ability mainly?

B.J. Raji: Uh, I don’t really rely on certain pass rush moves, I believe the reason, the difference between defense linemen and offensive linemen is reaction time and athleticism. Because usually I rely on my ability, but obviously I’ve been working on the moves all week in practice. I think it depends on which linemen I’m facing which move I’ll use; you know what I’m saying?

 

Collin Streetman:  Versatility is crucial to making an NFL roster, some teams have you playing a 3-4 or a 4-3. Have you ever played any two-gap schemes, and what do you see yourself as, a NT or a DT?

B.J. Raji:I played a little two-gap, obviously not as much as I did 4-3. I see myself as an interior d-lineman that can play any position. I don’t really categorize myself other than a defensive lineman that can play any position.

 

Collin Streetman: Describe your in-game demeanor using one of the following, focused and calm, unhinged and explosive, or downright nasty.

B.J. Raji: Um, I’d have to say downright nasty.

 

Collin Streetman: What aspect of your game do you feel is strongest?           

B.J. Raji:My football awareness, football IQ, what ever you want to call it, is why I’m able to understand how teams are trying to block me. That leads to success on the football field.

 

Collin Streetman: What aspect of your game needs the most improvement?

B.J. Raji: Uh, my technique, I need to improve my technique, and learn to use my aggressiveness and explosiveness on every play. Knowing what kind of stance to use, and that’s it.

 

Collin Streetman: Do you have any game-day superstitions or routines you follow?   

B.J. Raji:My biggest routine is basically trying to be myself. It took me awhile to realize that. A lot of guys talk about putting on your game face. The kind of person I am off the field is how I am on game-day.

 

Collin Streetman: Walk me through the most memorable play of you collegiate career, and how it developed.

B.J. Raji: Um, whew, to be honest, I can’t really think of one right now. Actually, I take that back, I think. This past season, when we clinched the ACC Atlantic and went to the championship. That was probably one of the best feelings.

 

Collin Streetman: You responded well to your coach’s request to drop weight by losing 20 lbs, he rewarded you by forcing you to wear a 12 lb vest during practice. What did this teach you?

B.J. Raji:It just taught me that uh, there is a big difference in just 12 lbs, it can be the difference in getting to the QB or not making a play. That’s basically what it taught me.

 

Collin Streetman: Does health and nutrition play a large role in your life, and do you have a special diet you follow during the season or otherwise?

B.J. Raji: Um, obviously nutrition is your fuel, during the season I try to stick to eating high protein and low fat kinds of things. Keep in mind I do need carbs for energy, so I have to include that in my diet as well.

 

Collin Streetman: Could you describe to me your ideal coach and tell me what aspects of a coach’s style help you improve the most?

B.J. Raji: I don’t have necessarily an ideal coach, any guy can teach you football any way to get it across. If he’s got to yell to get it across, as long as he’s teaching I don’t have a problem with any style of coaching.

 

Collin Streetman: What does it take to be a Hall of Fame player at the NFL level in your opinion? What will it take for you to get there?           

B.J. Raji: Um, if you ask me that question in two years I’ll be able to answer it. The Hall of Fame isn’t even in my view right now. Ask me in a couple of years and I’ll tell you what I come up with.

 

Collin Streetman: Is there a DT you model your game after?

B.J. Raji: Um, I like Defensive linemen, I can’t say I model my game after anybody, I try to play the way I understand it and know how…

 

Collin Streetman: Do you have a favorite DT?

B.J. Raji:My favorite defensive tackle was Warren Sapp, and he retired. I really liked Tommie Harris a lot in college and in his first seasons with the bears.

 

Collin Streetman:  How would you describe your personality and character?    

B.J. Raji: I mean, I’m a pretty frank guy and people appreciate that. I don’t beat around the bush, but at the same time very respectful and things like that, I’m just a good guy to be around.

 

Collin Streetman: What is your number one goal in life?

B.J. Raji: Uh, to make sure my family is well off and successful.

 

Collin Streetman: What is you’re the one thing that if it occurred, you would feel your career was a success?

B.J. Raji: Naw, there is not one thing…

 

Collin Streetman: When things go wrong in life, where do you turn? 

B.J. Raji:My family, parents, my brother, and coaches that I know can help me.

 

Collin Streetman: Rank the following three in importance to successful NFL career, natural talent, work ethic, and character.

B.J. Raji:Uh, well, I haven’t played a down in the NFL, yet.  I’d say character, work ethic, and then natural talent.

 

Collin Streetman: Ok, now down to the really tough questions, the main (Interruption by B.J.)

B.J. Raji: Man, How many more we got like this, Man?!?

Collin Streetman: Just two more, man. I’m going to throw out the two main incidences and give you a chance to tell your side of the story.

Collin Streetman: In 2006, you punched a Central Michigan player on the field. What happened to elicit such a response, and why should teams ignore that incident? 

B.J. Raji: Ah, the Michigan player, you know, it was a heat of the moment kind of thing. To make a long story short, the guy slammed me to the ground and kind of twisted me to the side, so I got up and took a swing at him.

 

Collin Streetman: The second issue many teams have is with the year of missed eligibility due to signing up for two summer classes instead of three. I know at the time this was a complete shock to you, but, looking back, do you feel that this was your responsibility, or was it simply do to the misinformation provided to you at the time of scheduling.

B.J. Raji: Um, it was a combination of both actually; I didn’t finish up like I needed to in the classroom. But, with that being said, I did get myself back on track, but at the end I just came up short. So, there has to be something said about that as well.

 

Collin Streetman: Ok, we'll end it there, BJ. Thanks for you time and I wish you all the best.

 

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