NFL Draft Prospect Interview – E.J. Gaines, CB Missouri

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October 27, 2012; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive back E.J. Gaines (31) and Missouri Tigers offensive linesman Elvis Fisher (72) celebrate after winning against Kentucky Wildcats at Faurot Field. The Missouri Tigers defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 33-10. Mandatory Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

PS: You played basketball and ran track in high school.  Is football your first love or in a perfect world, would you be somewhere running the point or running the 100 meters?

EJ: (Laughs) Football is where my heart is.  I won’t lie.  A piece of my heart is still with track.  Anytime the Olympics come on, I’m in heaven. I love watching sprints and relays and jumping; those are what I did in high school.  I still love watching track, but football is where my heart is.

PS: What was your event in track?

EJ: I was a 200 guy.  I ran the 100 and a little bit of the 400, but my race was the 200.

PS: Life after football, after you get your bust in Canton and all that, what do you want to do?

EJ: I’ll end up being a coach.  Staying with what I love and what I know.  I don’t know if I want to coach high school, college or the NFL.  I just want coach DBs somewhere, be a corners coach.

PS: Is there anyone you model your game after in the NFL? Or someone you compare yourself?

EJ: The main player I like to kinda look at my game and watch them play and see how they do is Brent Grimes for theMiami Dolphins.  He gets after receivers.  He’s small like me but physical with the bigger receivers.  He goes inside, plays the slot a lot, plays the nickel.  Him and Brandon Flowers.

PS: You’ve gotten really good at getting those underneath interceptions.  How do you do it?

EJ: Man, I honestly couldn’t tell you.  I’d like to call it baiting.  The quarterback, you always know where the quarterback wants to go with the football, so baiting them into thinking that it’s open is the one thing that a corner, you know is tough to do, but if you can do it, you can grab a lot of interceptions that you shouldn’t grab.  Baiting the quarterback and knowing what they want to do with the football; a lot of film study goes into that.  I love watching football, love watching film.  So I get in there for 2, 3 hours a day, get in there and watch the quarterback and see what want they want to do.  Bait them a little bit and hopefully grab a pick.

PS: When did you think the NFL was not only realistic, but that you could be a pretty good player there?

EJ: I would say after my first season, my sophomore year that I started and I kinda had my breakout season.  I started

thinking more about the NFL, putting in the work that I needed to become more of a professional even before I got to the NFL.  So, just talking to a lot of the guys that have went and guys I know in the NFL, they’re telling me, you know, you’ve got what it takes and kinda putting it in my head, the confidence that I needed.

PS: To what do you attribute your hands?

EJ: Yea, I would say because I played offense in high school.  I played receiver, running back, return punts, returned kicks.  I kinda did it all in high school.  So, I had to have pretty good hands.

PS: How have you developed your mentality against the run?

EJ: Honestly, I would have to give that to my high school defensive coordinator.  I would go back and play safety a lot and he would tell me, man, you gotta get in the box and help out with the run.  After a while, I would just go in there, throw my body around.  After a while, I just loved doing it.  And it just switched over to college football.  After our first hitting practice, my coach tells me, man, you can bring it for someone who is 180lbs.  Yea, I definitely take pride in my tackling and being physical.

PS:  Are you more at home in zone because you can see everything in front of you or do you prefer to take one guy out of the play in man?

EJ: I would definitely like to play more man.  Zone, the more you can see, the more trouble it gets you into.  I would definitely take that man to man coverage any day.

Your eyes will get you in trouble, especially playing a position like corner.  All of the quarterback’s reads and him trying to lure you to sleep a little bit, stuff like that.  It’s better off if you are mano y mano, one on one on an island.

PS: Who is the best quarterback and receiver you’ve gone against in your career?

EJ: Best quarterback… I might say RG3 is the best quarterback I’ve gone up against.  The best receiver, probablyJustin Blackmon when he was at Oklahoma State.

PS: You had the opportunity to play both RG3 and Johnny Manziel but you said RG3 was the best you’ve played.  What stands out to you as the big difference between the two?

EJ: They’re real similar.  RG3 is just faster.  Johnny Manziel was quicker.  They’re both great quarterbacks.  RG3 just had a little bit stronger arm, so he would go down the field a lot more than Johnny would, but they’re both great quarterbacks.  Tough to game plan against either one.

PS: Do you prefer to go against bigger or smaller receivers?

EJ: I would take the bigger receiver any day of the week.  The quickness that you have over a big receiver means the world and then how physical I am as a physical corner, you throw that in with it.  There’s a lot you can do with a guy like that.  The smaller, shifty receivers definitely give me a harder time than the big boys do.

PS: Most fulfilling win of your career?

EJ: Me, personally.  I would probably say my last game as a Tiger.   Being a leader and a captain on that football and leading them to a season like that and also leading them to a bowl victory like that, man, there’s nothing better just to see the smile on your players faces, the young guys out there who have never been to a bowl game, smiling and just loving it.  So, that had to be my most fulfilling victory.

PS: What’s it mean to be a captain of that caliber of football team?

EJ: I think it says about a man’s character.  And how much faith and belief they have in their captain, because they do pick who the captains are; the four captains on that football team.  It just shows the trust they have in you to be able to lead them to the season like we had or lead them how many wins or a bowl game or championship or whatever you’re looking for.  I think it says a lot about a player’s character.

PS: With everything that Henry Josey went through with the injury, his recovery and coming back to help you guys win, how much were you able to learn from him and his perseverance?

EJ:  I came in with Henry as a freshman.  Just a great athlete, great player, great person.  Seeing something happen like that, it was hard to see.  That’s like my brother.  As soon as we got in there, we clicked.  But, after it happened, man, just how strong he is, I knew that he would bounce back from it.  Whenever he got back out there running for the first time, it was like Christmas for the whole football team, he got back out there and did that.  IT’s definitely a blessing that he still has this opportunity that a lot of people said he wouldn’t have.  I think that says a lot about his character.

PS: How angry was the team when Josey got into that cart in what seemed like 20 yards off of the field?

EJ: If you go back, you can see the sideline.  You can just see everybody’s ready to go.  They all wanted to go back and help him off the field at the same time.  It just shows, that’s family; the family atmosphere that Mizzou has.  It’s just crazy; you do something to one person, you do it to all of them.

PS: Is Shayne Ray going to be the best defensive end you’ve played with at Mizzou?

EJ: (Laughs) Man, you know I’ve played with a lot of guys.  Yea, Shayne Ray.  He has a motor that I’ve never seen before.  I mean I’ve played with the Aldon Smith’s, Kony Ealy’s, Michael Sam’s, Brad Madison’s, some of the best.  Smith’s been doing it in the NFL.  I think Shayne Ray is right up there with them.  Man, him and Marcus Golden who’s coming back for Missouri.  That’s just gonna be unfair for a lot of offensive tackles this next year and I can’t wait to watch them play.

PS: What is it about Missouri that every player on that defense has a great motor?

EJ: The first thing you learn as a defensive player for Coach (DaveSteckel at Missouri is you will have a great motor and it will go at all times.  So, you get out there and you just run for the first week and a half, two week of practice.  That’s all you do.  If you don’t run to the football, you’ll do it over.  You don’t run to the football, you’ll do it over.  You won’t play for Missouri if you don’t have a motor that will go at all times.  I think that’s one thing that Coach Steck does well.  He coaches great football players with great heart.

PS:  Is there an element to that that if you don’t hustle to the football, they have someone they can bring in who will?

EJ: Oh, definitely.  No doubt it about it and they’ll let you know it too.  They’ll let you know if you don’t run to the football, I will find someone, doesn’t matter if it is someone off the street.  They’ll come out here and run to the football.  Coach Steck lets you know and guys buy into it, which is why you see Missouri players running to the football.

PS: What is your biggest takeaway from your time with Coach Pinkel?

EJ: I would like to say he just builds boys into men.  He really does.  He makes you a man while you’re there.  He holds you accountable for everything that you do.  He kinda builds you into a leader.  We have so many leaders; not just captains, but leaders on the football team.  He holds you responsible for everything that you do, all of your actions.  He definitely builds you into a man and not just playing football, but everybody who leaves Mizzou and gets a 9-5 job.  They come back see Coach Pinkel and thank him for everything he helped them through.  I think that’s the main thing that most people don’t see is what he does for the football and the players.

– One of the things that shines through extremely clear in speaking to E.J. is how important his role of captain was to him, both in terms of a leadership standpoint and doing right by his teammates, ultimately getting them to enjoy the success they wanted for that team.  E.J. is an extremely bright, confident guy who seems to have very defined goals in what he wants to do going forward in the NFL and it could be difficult to stop him.  Good luck to E.J. as he chases his dreams in the NFL.  Here is my breakdown of E.J. Gaines and what I think he offers at the next level