NFL Draft Prospect Interview – Joel Bitonio, OT Nevada

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Feb 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Nevada Wolfpack offensive lineman Joel Bitonio speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

PS: Is there someone from Nevada you keep in contact with when it comes to this process?

JB: Yea, he was probably one of my best friends when we were here, he’s an offensive lineman, Christian Barker.  He signed with the Miami Dolphins out of college and he was the last cut in training camp.  Then the New England Patriots picked him up and he was on the 53 man all year with the Patriots.  So, he’s been through the process a little bit.

He’s an OLineman as well and I talk to him on a regular basis, you know.  I ask him like what are you taking from minicamp?  He was at the combine last year as well, so like how’s the combine?  What should you expect?  What do you in minicamp?  What’s the weight room like?  Pretty much everything.  He’s probably annoyed by all of the questions I ask him, but he’s helped me out a lot and he just tells me what to kind of expect a little bit in those aspects.  And he’s just a good dude.

PS: What’s it been like training with Jackie Slater, with Hudson Houck, and the amount of guys you’ve had around that have been able to help you?

JB: It’s been a good experience.  Every coach has their different theories on blocking, but as an offensive lineman, you want to have as many tools as your tool belt as Jackie Slater always says.  He always talks about his tool belt.  We want to be able to do different things.  If you’re only doing one thing and you’re losing that way, you have to have a backup plan.  You have to have something else.  So going through different coaches, you have more of an opportunity to win battles.

I had four OLine coaches here at Nevada when I was there, so I’ve kinda been through the process already.  Just learning as much as you can and trying to absorb as much as you can.  Jackie Slater played in the league for twenty years, which is unheard of, so just to be able to tag along and learn from him has been a great experience for me.

PS: How big was it when Coach (Chris) Ault decided to retire?

JB: It was pretty shocking, honestly, when I got the phone call.  You know, they told me he was going to retire and I was like, man, that’s weird; like I wasn’t expecting it at all, because he had shown no slow down or no idea to us players.  We didn’t know he was going to retire.  So when he told us that, it was kinda shocking and then it was like, okay, now who are we going to get?  And then we get this guy, Coach (Brian) Polian and just doing my research, he’s been at Stanford, Notre Dame, his father is one of the great GMs of all time in Buffalo and he has brothers in the NFL, in the NFL business and stuff.

You know, Coach Ault is an old school guy.  I love him to death.  He was a great coach, but he’s old school.  He’s gonna scream at you, you know.  He’s gonna tell you what he wants and If you don’t what he wants, there’s going to be problems.

And Coach Polian is a lot more of a player’s coach.  He screams his fair share too.  He’s a fiery guy as well, but he’s been at some of the higher end programs, so he is kind of a new school philosophy coach.  You know, he’s asking us, what do you think Joel?  What do you think about us eating this for game day or us doing this for game day, where Coach Ault was more like, this is what’s going to happen at Nevada and this is what we do.  Coach Polian made it more of a democracy I guess you could say.  He has some of the leaders, you know, put in their opinions.  I think both of them are great coaches.  I think Coach Polian is going to be a good coach down the line.  He’s young and this is his first head coaching job, but we only had about three seniors that contributed a lot of minutes last year, so they have 19 guys coming back.  I think they are going to be alright the next few years.

PS: What can people expect from a healthy Cody Fajardo?

JB: He’s honestly the man.  He’s a good leader, works his tail off, he’s athletic, he’s just been banged up the last couple years.  I think he’s weighing over 220 now and usually he weighs about 205 to 210.  So, he’s bulked up quite a bit, which is good for him to try to stay healthy a little bit.  But if he can stay healthy, we have everyone coming back on offense pretty much except me and a receiver and the whole defense is coming back.

I thought Cody was one of the best quarterbacks in the league even with (Derek) Carr, (David), Fales, and Brett Smith.  But now coming back, it’s him and Chuckie Keaton, I think who are the two lead dogs in the league at quarterback.  And if he can put together a year like he can, like he should, then I think Nevada’s contending for a conference championship.  I don’t know if a lot of people give him the preseason praise, but he’s as good as it gets at quarterback.  I don’t think he has quite as strong an arm as Kaep, but he throws the ball more accurately than Kaep did at this time in his career.  I mean, I know Kaep’s in the league and doing well, but yea.  I’m rooting for him.  He’s my quarterback for the last couple years.  He’s a good guy.  We’re pretty good friends.  Hopefully, he does well and gets his shot as well in the NFL.

PS: How good did you think Kaepernick was going to be when he went into the league?

JB: It’s hard to say, man.  So Kaep, unbelievable work ethic.  This guy, I was there for two years with him.  He worked his tail off.  He was in the weight room constantly.  I mean, he was on the field doing extra stuff.  He was doing pretty much as much training as he could get.

So, he always had that edge to him.  Like, you felt no matter where he was going to end up, he was going to work his butt off and try to be the best he can be.  Even when he got drafted high second round, pretty close to the first round, we were pretty surprised.  Like, we didn’t hear any of this.  When he got drafted by the (San Francisco 49ers) 9ers, my thought process was he’s in the perfect situation.

He has a great team around him.  So if he does get his opportunity, he’s gonna be able to flourish.  I think that’s help him tremendously.  He’s been in a good organization with great players around him, but he’s a competitor, man.  Has a strong arm, he’s an unbelievable athlete; you know, fast as can be, his strides are unbelievable.  He takes like 5 yards in one step it almost seems like.  And he was a good character guy to me.  He treated me well.  I wish him nothing but the best.  You know, unless I’m playing him on Sundays and hopefully we get the win.

– It is difficult to add more than what was already addressed in the interview.  Joel is extremely competitive and passionate in what he does, makes it pretty clear what he wants to do but does not take himself too seriously in the process.  Good luck to Joel as he goes forward and tries to pursue a career in the NFL.  Here is my breakdown of Joel Bitonio.